AC Milan's Scudetto Chase Tactical Shifts and Gaps Amid Transfer Surge
AC Milan has been the standout active participant in the Serie A transfer window, displaying a strong desire to recapture the Scudetto title. Despite their recent efforts, there is an evident need for further strategic investments in critical areas.
In the not-so-distant past, under the guidance of Stefano Pioli, AC Milan clinched the league championship. However, their performance took a dip last season, culminating in a fourth-place finish, a significant 20 points adrift from the triumphant Napoli. Milan secured a spot in the Champions League, though it came with a twist, a points deduction for Juventus due to financial mismanagement.
Remarkably, Milan propelled themselves into the Champions League semi-finals last season, outclassing Napoli in the quarter-finals and making their way to this stage for the first time since 2007. Their promising run was, however, halted by city rivals Inter in the end.
As the curtain drew on the previous season, the horizon for Milan appeared gloomy. Paolo Maldini, the esteemed Technical Director, was relieved of his duties, and the iconic Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired. Although Ibrahimovic's on-field presence was limited to just four matches last season, his leadership was irreplaceable and influential within the squad.
Subsequently, Milan faced another setback with the departure of key midfielder Sandro Tonali, who was transferred to Newcastle United for a hefty 64 million euros ($69.9 million).
Undergoing a notable transformation, Pioli highlighted the necessity for change within the team dynamics. He emphasized the challenge of proving the team's mettle even in the absence of Ibrahimovic.
A substantial financial outlay of 110 million euros ($120 million) was committed by Milan to fortify their squad. This investment led to the acquisition of eight promising players, reshaping the team's composition.
The influx of new talent also seems to usher in a tactical evolution. Pioli, who predominantly employed a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent times, seems inclined towards adopting a 4-3-3 formation for the upcoming challenges.
The midfield welcomes the addition of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a robust presence from Chelsea, who is poised to partner with the recently acquired Tijjani Reijnders. Notably, Reijnders, hailing from the Netherlands, showcased his prowess by netting seven goals in 54 appearances for AZ Alkmaar during the previous season.
Yunus Musah, a 20-year-old American talent, brings versatility to the midfield. Having gained substantial experience in La Liga with Valencia, Musah is set to adapt to the rigors of Serie A.
Rafael Leao's standout performances over the past four seasons have often emanated from the left flank. With the introduction of Samuel Chukwueze, an exciting Nigerian winger, Milan's attacking threats seem balanced on both flanks. Chukwueze, celebrated for his dynamism, recorded an impressive tally of 37 goals in 207 games over five seasons at Valencia.
Christian Pulisic, secured from Chelsea, further amplifies Milan's offensive arsenal. His versatility allows him to excel on either wing, offering Pioli an array of attacking options. Pulisic seeks a fresh start after a relatively disappointing tenure in the Premier League.
While Pioli's forward line has gained considerable reinforcement, there remains a conspicuous gap for a proven secondary striker to support Olivier Giroud, who is on the brink of turning 37 in September. The inclusion of Noah Okafor, a 23-year-old Swiss forward with a knack for finding the net, adds depth to the attacking roster. However, patience may be required for Okafor to settle into the team. In addition, Milan's interest in Chelsea's Armando Borja has surfaced as a potential solution.
Notwithstanding their strides in attack, Milan's defensive core remains relatively untouched. The team's goals conceded increased from 31 during their championship-winning season to 43 last term. This indicates an urgent need to bolster the backline. Pursuit of a central defender and a proficient striker remains high on Milan's agenda as they approach the transfer window closure on September 1.
Although Milan might not begin the season as the outright favorites, a successful campaign could reinvigorate faith in Pioli's managerial prowess. On the flip side, a lackluster performance might spell the end of Pioli's tenure. The manager finds himself in a critical position, needing to swiftly rally his team in the face of a challenging start to the season.
Milan's campaign commences with an away fixture against Bologna, followed by encounters with both AS Roma and Inter in the opening four games, setting the tone for what promises to be an intriguing Serie A season.