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AC Milan: Europe’s Forgotten Giants Awaken

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There’s not a single person on the planet that doesn’t know who AC Milan is. Their red and black stripes are so synonymous with history, success, and legendary players but have fallen off-par with their Italian colleagues.

Once regular winners of the UEFA Champions League and Serie A, AC Milan have fallen down the pecking order to their rivals both domestically and in Europe. This season however has seen a resurgence in the Rossoneri and are in a three-way tie for the title with Inter and Juventus.

The last time AC Milan won a title was in the 2009/2010 season, their 18th overall and would be the only trophy this prestigious club adds to their list of honors for 11 years, and counting. The return of superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has boosted the club’s hopes of making an emphatic return to the Champions League, but also a push for a first Serie A title in 11 years.

The Comeback

Stefano Pioli was appointed AC Milan head coach following another disappointing season in October 2019. A former player himself, Pioli set his sights on stabilizing an inconsistent AC Milan team and utilizing their talented young players to their best. Following consecutive 5th and 6th place finishes, Champions League just eluded the Rossoneri and it was evident, they had to dig deep into their pockets.

Pioli assembled a young squad with the added experience of a few veterans, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and former champions league winner Mario Mandžukić. The mixture of youth and experience has worked well for the club and they were rewarded on the field with a great run with 17 wins and 5 draws from 26 games played.

Their previous season saw them win 19, draw 9 and lose 10 from their 38 matches, so this season is already on par to be better. With Juventus in rebuilding following the arrival of Andrea Pirlo as team manager, AC Milan has a chance to leapfrog the team that’s simply been so dominant over the past 10 years. Inter Milan is the team to beat at the moment and with 12 matches left in Serie A, the league is facing its most intense title race for a long time.

The Tactics

Pioli usually utilizes a 4-2-3-1 formation and switches to a 3-5-2 to make use of wing-backs to add to their attacking play. Many managers take inspiration from other managers, legends of the past and add their own flavor to create a unique taste that’s synonymous with their own name, few managers take inspiration from other sports. Pioli’s love for basketball gives him a unique strategic element

At AC Milan, Pioli used an archaic WM formation, also known as 3-2-2-3. The WM describes how players position themselves on the pitch, although interchangeably throughout the match. Usually presented as 4-3-3, AC Milan’s formation features talented left full-back Theo Hernandez in an advanced position whilst the right full-back Davide Calabria is utilized in a more limited defensive role.

To add another dimension to their attacking tactics, is the center of the park where two pairs of holding and attacking midfielders form a square to support each other offensively and defensively, moving away from the famed triangle partnership of the great Barcelona and Ajax sides.

The imminent arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in January 2020 saw Pioli switch Milan’s formation to a 4-2-3-1 to accommodate for the veteran from Sweden, who has proven that he is still as prolific a goal scorer as any. This role allows Zlatan to play upfront without any defensive duties other than to press and alternates between a pressing forward and a complete number 9.

Hakan Çalhanoğlu, an incredibly talented attacking midfielder is utilized as the number 10 and displays an array of sublime playmaking skills behind the striker. Mario Mandzukic’s arrival allows for rotation and the midfield of the park sees impressive young players coming to the fold to make an impressive effort all around.

The Future

Barring any late slip-ups, AC Milan is on course to finish in that coveted Champions League position and with it, enjoy the stature and financial benefits that come with it. This would be an incredible feat considering the financial powers of their rivals Juventus, Roma, Napoli, and Inter.

A Champions League return will allow AC Milan to invest in their squad and help elevate their status as regular title challengers and bring back their presence into the Champions League, a tournament they’ve won more times than any other team except Real Madrid.

As in any league, each year keeps getting tougher and tougher to maintain high standards and challenge rivals both domestically and globally, and AC Milan is no different. Despite the incredible turn-around at the club, their owners have to invest in the squad to bring in experience but also big-name players to gain prestige and help elevate the squad into a title-winning team.

AC Milan isn’t usually a team that buys big-name talents but rather a team that buys young prospects and develops them into world-beaters, and they’ll be on the market scouting across Europe for its most talented youngsters. The future is bright for the red and black’s but they should be wary of falling into the same traps that they have prior, and not forget that their rivals will only keep getting better.

Do you want to see A.C Milan back in the Champions League? comment below on your favorite player from the squad!

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A martial arts enthusiasts as well as practitioner of traditional chinese martial arts. I'm an avid mma fan and love writing. I also love football and have great insight into behavior and psychology of athletes.

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