It hasn’t exactly been too thrilling a season for AC Milan so far. The club finds itself in a rather familiar position. But as the new international break comes on, the Rossoneri have more positives than negatives to think about.

The recent 1-0 defeat to Juventus was a disappointing result. A late Paulo Dybala goal sealed their fate in what was a very close game in Turin. But it was hardly a depressing performance for a club that has seen negativity spiral about too often in the last few months.

There were huge signs of optimism for Milan fans- like it was in their encouraging defeat to Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio. That too was a 2-1 defeat and Joaquin Correa’s winner came very late in the game. But it was a performance that Stefano Pioli could have taken many advantages from.

The recent period was seen as the toughest of the season by many. Milan had Roma, Lazio and Juventus snuck in four games and had a game against tricky SPAL right in the middle. And these potential 12 points yielded only three because of defeats to the three big sides. But there is much more to it than what lies on the face.

They came into this ‘scary’ spell following a rather disappointing 2-2 draw at home to newly-promoted Lecce. That game had seen Pioli’s men lost concentration in the Italian’s first game in charge at the San Siro.

They had looked promising going forward, but Andrea Conti’s poor performance saw the away side score twice in the second half. One of those was a stoppage-time screamer by Marco Calderoni. Just about everyone saw this as a sign of things to come for Milan.

The game away to Roma was littered with individual errors, even though Theo Hernandez scored. Errors by Franck Kessie and Davide Calabria had led to both the Giallorossi goals. In that game, Gianluigi Donnarumma made as many as three goal-saving stops.

From that game onwards, things have turned around. After the defeat to Juve, Pioli spoke positively in defeat (via FootballItalia):

“I see improvements every day, I saw them in recent matches, as we were by no means inferior to Lazio or Juventus. We must understand that at this level, every single ball can be decisive. We haven’t had as many points as we expected, nor as many as we probably deserved lately, but the performances have been there.”

Ismael Bennacer’s performances have probably been the biggest positive. Pioli dropped Lucas Biglia after the Roma game, allowing the Algerian to get a regular run into the team.

Against SPAL, the AFCON 2019 Player of the Year completed as many as three tackles. He completed the highest number of dribbles in the game- 6. He also played the second-highest number of passes.

Bennacer also impressed against Lazio and Juve. But Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu have seen a bit of a resurgence.

Suso scored the free-kick winner against SPAL. While Calhanoglu did well against the Biancocelesti. He completed two dribbles, winning two tackles while playing on the left of a 4-3-3. The Turk also played two key passes in the game.

Conti, who took criticism under Marco Giampaolo against Lecce, impressed at Juve. The former Atalanta man was Milan’s best player, winning two tackles and making three interceptions.

Other obvious positive is Theo Hernandez. The former Real Madrid man has constantly looked to get into the final third by dribbling it forward. He has already scored thrice- as many as Krzysztof Piatek.

More than anything, the players have found their system. They know what shape they’re playing in- unlike how things were with Giampaolo. When the Serie A comes back in two weeks, there will be more smiles than frowns.

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Kaustubh Pandey

European Football Writer. Featured on Calciomercato, FootballItalia, GetGermanFootballNews, GetFrenchFootballNews, Manchester Evening News, TheseFootballTimes, The Times, Manchester United and more.
Kaustubh Pandey