10 Reasons AC Milan Should Be Taken Seriously This Season
Milan have had to take a back seat this summer.
The Rossoneri have watched on as Juventus and Napoli have spent lavishly—in terms of transfer fees and wages—which has brought a sense of fear that the gap between them and Italy's top two clubs last season is only getting bigger.
Expectations are never quelled at Milan, even in seasons of transition, which is an example of how illustrious the club is—always demanding success, a habit that has made them the world's most decorated club.
Here are 10 reasons Milan still mean business this season and why Massimiliano Allegri will secretly know that the pressure is as high as ever.
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Massimiliano Allegri worked under severe pressure last year, constantly having to answer questions surrounding his own future and whether the club were on the verge of dispensing with his services.
Allegri was destined to leave at one point, but without a viable alternative, Adriano Galliani decided to retain the former Cagliari tactician until the end of the season.
It seems that Allegri has survived the summer on the same basis, but that does offer Milan an advantage heading into the coming season.
Continuity is vital for any successful unit, which means Milan will have a squad fully honed to his methods after three season at the helm.
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It was a sensational signing last January, and it is one that will provide Milan with hope moving forward.
Mario Balotelli was almost stolen from Manchester City given the modest transfer fee for a player of his calibre.
Super Mario will spear head the team this year and will be hoping to build on his prolific form in the second half of last season.
Scoring 12 goals in 13 games secured him an unlikely place in the top three, and similar form will surely do at least the same this season.
Excellent Backup in Attack
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Giampaolo Pazzini offers Milan a commodity few other club in Europe, let alone Italy, can count on.
That is excellent backup in attack, with the ability to step in for Milan's number one striker, Mario Balotelli, and fill his boots adequately for the time being—whether that is due to injury or squad rotation.
Pazzo scored some crucial goals last season whenever he was called upon, scoring consistently despite intermittent starts.
A strike ratio of one goal per two matches is a fantastic return given the circumstances, and this helped produce 15 goals in 30 games.
It will allow Massimiliano Allegri to put pressure on Balotelli to continue to deliver, as well as the supporting cast players like Stephan El Shaarawy, as Pazzini could easily find himself stepping in to start matches when called upon.
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Massimiliano Allegri will be able to switch things up a little this season, partly due to the pressure from above, who have demanded that he use a more attractive style.
This should actually help Milan though, forcing Allegri to provide adequate entertainment over the season, which will lead him to try to overwhelm the weaker teams with added firepower in attack.
This should hopefully allow Milan to finish off weaker opponents quicker and allow them to rest in the remaining stages of matches.
Allegri is still capable utilising a more rigid 4-3-3, as opposed to a 4-4-2 diamond that he will experiment with this year.
The 4-3-3 will surely be used in the bigger games, and Adriano Galliani and Co. will surely not be dissatisfied with the manager if these tactics help deliver results against their direct competitors.
It is all about balance, in essence, which Allegri will gladly deliver.
Stability at the Back
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Last season, Milan struggled for stability at the back, leading to a shaky defence that often conceded needless goals that could have been eradicated with greater understanding among the players.
This season, Milan should have this problem addressed, with Cristian Zapata making his loan move from Villarreal permanent (per Sky Sports), who will partner Philippe Mexes once more.
While not the most outstanding defensive partnership, another season to build together will do Milan a world of good and sure up that defence.
Added Creativity in the Midfield
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Massimiliano Allegri would often start Sulley Muntari and Mathieu Flamini, which gave Milan a certain bluntness in the middle of the park, without the guile to unlock defences that sat deep and absorbed pressure.
Poli enjoys quickening the tempo somewhat, injecting more fizz into his passes, which will give the Rossoneri a boost.
World Class Potential That Will Continue to Progress
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Milan have world class potential running through their squad, even in this tough time.
Stephan El Shaarawy is one of the most exciting young players in Europe, and he possesses outstanding ability to win matches for the Diavoli.
With a great year under his belt, El Shaarawy can only go from strength to strength, especially now that he will be partnered consistently with his Italian national team colleague Mario Balotelli.
If El Shaarawy can replicate his form from the first part of last season over the entire season, Milan will then possess two world class attackers, which is highly encouraging.
Pace Throughout the Team
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Milan have pace running through their entire team, which will give them a boost against teams with great intensity, both in Serie A and the Champions League.
The Rossoneri have some of the quickest players in the league in Ignazio Abate and Stephan El Shaarawy, so Allegri will know that utilising their pace will be key to the side's success.
With passers such as Riccardo Montolivo and Andrea Poli in the midfield, who are able to released those aforementioned speedsters at the right time, Milan will be able to shift through the gears to shock their opponents.
Experience Maintained in the Squad
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Milan will be well equipped to challenge on three fronts again this year, despite losing even more experience—most notably in the form of Massimo Ambrosini, who departed for Fiorentina (per Sky Sports).
There is plenty of experience left to guide the squad, with almost every player able to boast plenty of international caps and titles in their careers.
Importantly, the manager, too, is entering the middle of his managerial career, after a decade as a head coach.
In Milan's probable starting lineup, Christian Abbiati, Philippe Mexes, Ignazio Abate, Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel De Jong are seasoned professionals who know what it takes to raise the level of the group to keep up with Juventus and Napoli.
Return of Nigel De Jong
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Nigel De Jong missed almost the entire season last year, a major blow to the Milan.
The Dutchman will be back this season and be able to take over the mantle from Massimo Ambrosini as the team's enforcer.
De Jong's presence will raise Riccardo Montolivo's performances, protecting the Italian maestro whenever he is dispossessed and thus preventing Milan from being caught on counter-attacks.
With De Jong's return, Massimiliano Allegri can explore greater options; including a double-pivot formation and as a lone-holder to release Montolivo a bit further forward.
It will also help Milan to hold opponents looking to attack down the wide areas, especially if Allegri looks to field a diamond formation, as De Jong can shuffle across to the flank to push the opposition back towards their own goal.