What exactly went wrong? A question that definitely resonates with the fans and hopefully the management.
It’s a very valid question when you consider that up until six months ago everyone involved in the club was celebrating and thinking about the huge achievement of lifting the Scudetto. However, those individuals involved – from the players to the management and, remarkably, Pioli – seem the furthest thing from the team that lifted the League Cup.
So, the next question is, where does Milan go from here? A comprehensive answer was needed, focusing on the change in mentality that appears to have occurred in every aspect of the club. Sometimes there are stats like assists per defensive action and metrics that the modern expert doesn’t like, but rather notes and opinions are needed.
The shift in mentality eventually saw Milan’s winning team lose the main strength it had, compared to other teams in the league. Namely, faith, heart and will to win.
Current league look
Compared to last season, Milan isn’t much worse, especially considering we weren’t officially in the middle of the season (because of the World Cup). However, there are differences — significant differences — in the face of that that make it much worse than it was last season.
Firstly, there is the competition, given that the team ahead of Milan in the standings is Napoli and they have nine points ahead. Not only that, but they show no signs of slowing down, with minimal injuries and test after test pass.
Then looking at the teams chasing the Rossoneri, there is Juventus and Inter with only one point difference, then Roma and Atalanta are only four points behind. It seems that Inter and Juventus breathing down the necks of Milan are even more alarming when looking at how weak the two teams were at the beginning of the season, especially Juventus, which indicated that they were in need of other equipment.
So, with these differences in mind and even with the cup half in mind, although Milan are no worse technically than last season, it is very clear that in fact they are.
Looking at the form, every team around Milan in the top six had a better series of matches, if not in terms of points accumulated, then certainly in terms of performance, with Milan’s last objectively good game back in October against Monza.
These are almost non-negotiable facts that Milan are a much worse team in almost every respect. So the next question is: where and when do Pioli and the players take the much-needed turn in form?
Putting the doom and gloom aside for now, let’s quickly take stock. Apart from some major omissions in the 0 transfer market namely the loss of two key starters in Kessie and Romagnoli with no decent starting quality replacements – the remaining squad is more than capable of producing more convincing offers than they are currently being produced.
This is even more true when considering that for most of last season Pioli didn’t even have his preferred starting line-up at his disposal and often had to ‘do’ with what he had. This leads to mentality showing up or not being there entirely, as it seems to be the one thing this team is sorely lacking.
As mentioned at the beginning, this was Milan’s greatest weapon and biggest advantage in comparison to other teams and eventually saw the club reach the peak and the league title.
Now, in regards to the current Champions League campaign, the jury is still out on whether the problem of apparent mentality will damage his hopes this season, but it doesn’t look good at the moment. This is an area that aside from poor overall performances and an inherent lack of focus, the club, players and Pioli have improved over their title-winning season.
Milan are set to play their first match in the knockout stage of the Champions League since the 2013-14 season, against Tottenham Hotspur. This side was successful as Milan managed to progress from the groups fairly convincingly in the end, despite two poor matches against Chelsea.
It remains to be seen if the recent difficulties and dip in form will spill over into Europe or if the team is already back in shape ahead of the first leg in mid-February, but it has to be put forward that a high-stakes game could be what the team needs to be fully motivated.
However, just two days ago against Inter, the players and Pioli pulled off one of the most glamorous and listless performances of his spell as they lost 3-0 to city rivals in Saudi Arabia, thus seeing another cup chance fade into thin air. .
Focusing on Pioli directly, the chants of “Pioli’s on fire” seem to have died down in keeping with the managers’ “magic touch”. Prior to this current rut, the head coach was always able to motivate and get the best out of what he had regardless of the outcome at least in terms of effort and cardio.
Both in the post-lockdown period, the season in which Milan finished runners-up and of course the campaign to win the Scudetto, Pioli showed that he was able to reconcile injury woes with a lack of squad depth that sometimes led him to drive square pegs into round holes, rotating effectively and making a style of play paired with intensity. The things that distinguish the team.
Unfortunately, those intangibles don’t seem to exist anymore, and the concern is whether this mentality that currently surrounds the club will continue in the Champions League.
Go ahead next season
Where will this team leave next year? The minerals of the team that lifted the Scudetto are still there, and the key players who played a pivotal role in the team’s success will still be in Milan next season (provided Leao is renewed), so all is not lost.
If Pioli can get the team to focus again and bounce back from difficulties as he did in the past, and the team is able to stop ridiculous mistakes that cost important points, then needless to say next season it won’t be. success.
The problem is that it is not really clear where the team will finish, in what condition, in what position in the table and, most importantly, in what state of mind. The need to finish in the top four cannot be emphasized enough. Whether or not you subscribe to the view that Milan should defend the title, the top four and continued Champions League football is a prerequisite for project stability.
Paolo Maldini himself basically said so after the Scudetto success at the end of May Winning the scudetto was a plus And that this is a squad that still needs two or three important additions to make progress in the Champions League.
The way European football economics works now means that the bottom line is continued football in the Champions League. It is the only guaranteed way the club can develop, as Maldini has stated several times, no matter where in the Scudetto it might fall. Arguably, finishing fifth with one point can be more damaging than finishing second with one point.
Closing statement of hope: There is more football to be played this season than has been played. Pioli and the players have made a step forward in the current European journey, and the current difficult period can be overcome. Definitely beating Lazio in Rome would be an excellent step towards restoring the belief that made this fearless young core do what we thought was impossible.