Serie A is heating up once again following weeks of disappointment in the Champions League, once again Zlatan proves that he is timeless and a legend of the game as he gave AC Milan victory over his former manager Jose Mourinho’s Roma to stay on par with Napoli at the summit.
AC Milan are looking steady under current management and for now, the future is once again bright for the red and black. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still a vital member of the squad as he seems to be taking them by the scruff of the necks and guiding them towards Italian Serie A glory. It’s been a long time since fans of Milan found reason to celebrate, especially watching their rivals win leagues and attain financial dominance playing in the Champions League, Milan seems to have found the spring to their step.
Although their current Champions League return is somewhat of a blunder, their home form paints a different picture. Still unbeaten in Serie A, Milan have played some beautiful attacking football at times and aims to continue the pressure on Napoli at the summit, as the two clubs look to pull away from the rest. AC Milan takes the points, but the headlines belong to one man only, Zlatan.
Zlatan scored his 400th goal and 150th in the Italian Serie A, which took AC Milan joint-top with Napoli. Evergreen and still at the top of his game, Zlatan proves that he can still play at the highest level. With 31 trophies Zlatan is currently the most decorated footballer active and aims to add more to his resume with AC Milan, a club he holds dear to him.
In Zlatan, Milan not only gets a proven goal threat but a leader, a motivator, and an inspiration to the young talent at their disposal. Zlatan has helped change the mindset of the fallen Italian giants and self-belief is ever-growing at the Rossoneri. Manager Stefano Pioli has changed the entire set-up of Milan, a year on from his appointment that wasn’t well-received with fans, how has Pioli steered Milan back to title contention?
Pioli’s Revolution in Milan
Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer are instrumental in midfield for Pioli, with Zlatan and co. wrapping up the goals, the midfield pivot is cleaning up behind them and Pioli has found the perfect trio for his well-balanced midfield. Industrious, toothless, and hard-working are just some adjectives used to describe them as displayed in their excellent win at Napoli a few weeks ago. At 23 Franck Kessie is proving to be one of Europe’s elite midfielders and embodies the new mentality of “win at all costs” that Pioli brings.
The aforementioned midfield combo of Kessie and Bennacer form the spine, allowing Hakan Calhanoglu to free-roam in the No. 10 role. Zlatan plays alongside him with Alexis Saelemaekers, with either Rade Krunic or Ante Rebic. Rafael Leao has also impressed on the left, grabbing three goals and three assists across all competitions.
The defense for Milan needs some improvement as they’ve shipped 10 goals through, but there is little room for chopping and changing. Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria are one of Europe’s best full-back pairings currently; Simon Kjaer and Alessio Romagnoli have formed a stable partnership at center-back, and Mike Maignan has been an incredible replacement for PSG bound Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Rumors were floating around that AC Milan executives were preparing a contract extension for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and whilst this is exciting news for fans, MIlan will need to consider a more long-term solution for their goals, considering Zlatan’s age. Current landscape requires teams to dive in the transfer market especially with the financial power of Juventus, Inter and Napoli, all rivals for the summit of Italian football.
Should Milan win the league, or finish in the top 3, they’d be guaranteed another season in the coveted Uefa Champions League which brings in an incredible amount of revenue, and if they’re able to consistently provide Champions League football at the San Siro, Milan’s fortunes could improve significantly. The one issue is to understand that they have an opportunity right now, and should they miss it, their rivals could pull ahead of them once more.
Juventus were able to do so for over 10 years, and even now their financial superiority towers over the rest of the teams despite their poor run of form. There is a glimmer of hope though and the rope is there for others to grab and make the league exciting once again.
The Arrival of Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud was one of the best strikers in the Premier League for the better part of 10 years, yet still didn’t get the recognition he deserved. Currently Giroud has 4 goals in 7 appearances for the Rossonerri, Giroud is still a consistent threat, but he too is 35 years old. The arrivals of veteran players to Milan in key areas are a result of poor financial standing and is something that Milan executives will be looking to improve, considering the climate of the modern game. Milan have a good structure in place, with young, experienced players like Simon Kjaer, Alessio Romagnoli and Franck Kessie contributing to a solid spine and pyramid to work around.
The future of the club is looking bright and the prospects to rejoin Europe’s elite is more alive than ever before. The arrival of Ivan Gazidis from Arsenal in 2018 was met with some hesitation but he has improved the structure and vision of the club significantly. Unfortunately Gazidis was diagnosed with throat cancer recently but is expected to make a full recovery. Together with Pioli, the pair stand united in their vision and goal to return AC Milan back to the summit of world football, where they were once considered the greatest club in the world.
To gain dominance in world football isn’t just about the money, take a look at PSG and Manchester City, both clubs attained local dominance but were unable to conquer Europe on multiple occasions. Together with money, their needs to be a perfect group of players, manger and executives that are aligned in one goal. AC Milan seem to be heading in that direction, a mirrored vision of Liverpool Football club with Michael Edwards.
Milan have a crucial Champions League tie against FC Porto and a draw or loss will all but end their campaign for this year. They can still salvage a Europa league place should they beat Porto and Atletico in their next match but for now, most of their hopes lie within the Serie A.
Let us know in the comments where do you think AC Milan will finish at the end of the season.
Be sure to follow @FootballOTH for updates, news, and the latest world football scores. Follow me on Twitter @zaheeradam or follow my Facebook Page @ZaheerAdamOTH for exclusive interaction, articles, and the latest news on world Football
Main image credits: Embed from Getty Images