More than a month into Clarence Seedorf's reign as manager of AC Milan, it is now a good time to assess the progress made by the Rossoneri under the Dutchman's guidance.
Languishing in 11th place after the disastrous loss to Sassuolo in Modena in early January, Milan decided enough was enough and swiftly disposed of previous manager Massimilliano Allegri.
His first match in charge was the underwhelming victory over Hellas Verona, thanks in large part to a late Mario Balotelli penalty. Regardless of the manner in which it was achieved, it was three points, only the fifth win in 20 matches for the side in Italy.
Back-to-back wins against Bologna and Sampdoria, however, have restored a positive mood around the club. The 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last midweek also represented progress, not regression. For the first time in seemingly months, Milan have built some momentum.
During the final months of Allegri's run as manager, Milan did not win back-to-back matches once, yet they have done so twice under Seedorf. The victories have not been by large margins, yet they are victories nonetheless.
The more pertinent question revolves around the impact Seedorf's new 4-2-3-1 attacking formation has had on particular players. While the team started slowly under Seedorf, signs are beginning to show that this change in mentality has had directly positive effects on key players on the roster.
In particular, Adil Rami and Adel Taarabt have been in inspired form in recent weeks. Rami has bagged two goals, yet it is his defensive stability and aerial prowess that have been more important for Milan.
Meanwhile, Taarabt arrived under considerable scrutiny, given his reputation as a selfish player. However, he has been a surprise, offering imagination and a willingness to track back defensively.
The hope remains that Balotelli returns healthy from his minor shoulder injury suffered against Atletico and can consistently deliver world-class performances as the lone frontman. Pazzini is certainly an able backup as well.
One other player who should benefit greatly is Stephan El Shaarawy. He has endured a nightmare season, suffering setback after setback, yet his ability to provide width and flair as a winger or support striker is certainly something that can be supported in this new system.
Milan now lie five points behind Inter, occupiers of the fifth and final European spot in Serie A. With 13 matches to play in the league, five points is certainly a gap that can be closed, especially for a club as talented individually as Milan.
Even so, issues remain. The defensive line is highly inconsistent, and finding a strong center-back to pair with Rami is an absolute necessity in the summer transfer window. Given the resources Seedorf has at present, however, he has done an admirable job bringing Milan back to the brink of relevance.
Where he goes from here remains anyone's guess, but the early signs have been very encouraging.
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