AC Milan: 10 Reasons This Season Could Be Worst in Recent Memory for Rossoneri
Rossoneri fans should not relax too much, though, as there is still cause for concern that this year could be the worst season in recent memory.
Serie A appears to be as competitive as ever and Milan must improve drastically from Saturday's display if they are to cement a place in the top three and qualify for next season's Champions League.
Milan were rather fortunate on Saturday to defeat Bologna, who dominated for large spells and should have taken the lead, when the score was at 1-1, on several occasions.
Tiberio Guarente flashed a shot fractions wide of the post with time and space from just outside of the 6-yard box, while Robert Acquafresca was inches away from converting an Archimede Morleo cross from point-blank range.
Here are 10 reasons Milan should be concerned about this season.
Allegri Undermined by Adriano Galliani
Adriano Galliani appears to have damaged his relationship with manager Massimiliano Allegri.
Tensions were high after Milan lost 5-1 in a preseason friendly against Real Madrid in New York, with the Milan supremo pinning the blame on the manager, stating that he would "not tolerate these figures."
Allegri must have felt a little aggrieved, though, after the Rossoneri had just lost several key players, either sold or retired.
It is not a secret then that Galliani and the Milan board expect Allegri to maintain the very high standards that the club hold, despite a lack of investment in the squad.
Should Allegri not be able to deliver, then his position will be looked at.
Star Players Depart
AC Milan possessed two of the best players in the world last season in each of their respective positions.
Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva and Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic both joined Paris Saint-Germain for a combined fee of €65 million.
When you lose two players who were so integral to the side, it is impossible to not be weakened once they depart.
Replacements Not Good Enough
AC Milan have attempted to replace Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with multiple purchases in an attempt to maintain the level of the side from last season.
Defensive reinforcements included Francesco Acerbi from Chievo and Cristian Zapata on loan from Villarreal. In the attack, Bojan Krkic was signed from Roma and Giampaolo Pazzini was signed from rivals Inter.
Frankly, these players are not even good enough combined to replace the world-class talents such as Silva and Ibrahimovic and Milan are kidding themselves if they believe the contrary.
The Rossoneri needed to improve upon last season, after finishing second in the league, but have instead regressed in terms of the quality that the squad possesses.
Atmosphere in the Squad Not Good
The squad does not appear to be in a good mood, which was evident after the opening-day defeat to Sampdoria.
Frustration boiled over as the minutes passed without scoring against the newly-promoted side at the San Siro.
Perhaps this was an isolated incident, but it seems that the Milan camp is not as it should be and that the atmosphere is not good enough for the side to be able to triumph in the face of adversity.
Home Support at a Record Low
AC Milan's support appears to be dwindling after the Rossoneri were forced to refund season tickets after the fans vented their anger that the club used false advertisement by using Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, before the pair were sold to Paris Saint-Germain.
Furthermore, the season ticket sales that were released recently show that they have sold less than 20,000, a record low in the Silvio Berlusconi era, having only sold under 30,000 season tickets twice since the former Prime Minister bought the club in 1986.
Milan's rivals are improving at the same rate that they are deteriorating.
Juventus, despite Antonio Conte receiving a 10-month suspension, have improved remarkably, capturing Udinese pair Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla to add depth the the midfield, as well as signing Sebastain Giovinco to add some creativity in attack.
Inter have bought prudently given they are in a similarly precarious financial situation to that of their city rivals. Proven Serie A players such as Matias Silvestre, Rodrigo Palacio, Gaby Mudingayi, Antonio Cassano and Walter Gargano have joined alongside Alvaro Pereira and Philippe Coutinho, who returns from his successful loan at Espanyol.
Napoli, despite losing Ezequiel Lavezzi, welcome back the mercurial talent of Lorenzo Insigne and have Goran Pandev on a permanent basis too, but keeping hold of Edinson Cavani may prove to be the most crucial piece of business that the Partenopei achieved this summer.
Roma have undergone a major overhaul, including the very experienced manager Zdenek Zeman, who replaces Luis Enrique. The Giallorossi have revamped their style and added a plethora of talented players to further strengthen the side in their pursuit of a top-three finish.
Fiorentina look remarkably stronger too, signing 18 first-team players and maintaining the services of star player Stevan Jovetic.
Therefore, it now appears tougher than ever for the Rossoneri to maintain their position at the top of Serie A.
Only Top 3 Qualify for Champions League
Udinese proved that qualifying from the playoff round in the Champions League is not a formality, as they lost to Braga on penalties.
Given Italian clubs' poor performances in Europe over recent years, the league has lost one of its Champions League places and now only has three qualification spots available.
This could be problematic for Milan, who finished second last season, as sides like Inter, Roma and Napoli will prioritise the league, without Champions League football, in order to claim that elusive spot in the Top Three.
Juventus appear a certainty to finish above the Rossoneri, meaning that only two of that aforementioned trio would need to finish above Milan to prevent them from qualifying for next year's competition.
Champions League Draw Will Mean Future Distraction
AC Milan seemed to have been handed a relatively easy route to the knockout phase of the Champions League.
The Rossoneri will face Zenit Saint Petersburg, Anderlecht and Malaga in group C, which will surely be a formality, despite the side regressing from last season.
This might not be such a good thing, though, as Milan surely don't possess enough quality to seriously challenge in this competition.
A knockout match upon qualification from the group phase will only prove to be a distraction as others solely concentrate on the league.
The prestige of reaching the last 16 and being knocked out would not be any consolation if Milan finish fourth in the league.
Formation Does Not Suit the Players' Characteristics
While Milan have been severely weakened from last season, they still maintain some excellent players.
Namely Kevin-Prince Boateng, but Massimiliano Allegri fails to utilise him in the correct manner. The Ghanaian is used as an attacking midfielder, which is fine, but when the team is set up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, it puts an unrealistic amount of expectation on him to create.
Boateng is not a natural trequartista, nor will he ever be, but Allegri insists on lumping this creative burden on him with the diamond 4-4-2 formation.
Milan possess quick, tricky forwards who would operate well in wide areas if a 4-3-3 formation was used. Such a formation would also allow Boateng to arrive into the penalty area without being marked as tightly.
It feels at the moment as if Milan are somewhat methodical in their approach, without the grace that the side historically displays on the pitch.
If Allegri is stubborn enough not to be able to alter his tactics from time to time, then Milan will be struggling this season.
Lack of Investment to Come in January
Milan fans should not be expecting any significant investment in the January transfer market.
Silvio Berlusconi's holding company, Fininvest, is suffering from the financial crisis and only last year was ordered to pay €560 million in damages to a rival media group.
With such a financial stranglehold on the club and the challenge to meet UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) guidelines, the Rossoneri will continue to struggle to compete in Serie A—let alone Europe.