AC Milan: Full Report Card for Every Position Entering Serie a Season
Milan look to turn the page after two depressing seasons in Serie A in which expectations weren't met and European contention ceased to exist.
The summer has seen plenty of change for the Rossoneri, between Mario Balotelli's reported exit to Liverpool, as per Simon Jones of the Daily Mail, to another coaching change and plenty of more free transfers.
This transitional period will take a while to fully get underway, so it's going to be another grueling test of patience for Milanisti.
Here is a positional breakdown and report for Milan going into the new season.
Before Diego Lopez's arrival, the goalkeeper situation at Milan looked dire.
Even though his first friendly match for Milan against Valencia was a nightmare, expect Lopez to bounce back and show that he's a top-class keeper capable of changing the outcome of a game for the better.
Lopez famously beat out Iker Casillas for the starting position at Real Madrid in La Liga, with Casillas playing in the Cup and Champions League.
Lopez finally brings much-needed stability to an area that has been very problematic for the Rossoneri in recent seasons.
As it stands, Christian Abbiati will take up the primary back-up position between the posts, with the shaky Michael Agazzi as the third-string goalkeeper.
Another weakness of the club in recent seasons, the full-back positions have now been upgraded as Kevin Constant was sold to Turkish side Trabzonspor, with Pablo Armero coming on loan from Udinese.
The Colombian full-back will try to win the starting left-back position, as the usual pair of Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio could be fighting for the spot on the right.
One would think that De Sciglio has to be an automatic starter, as the youngster is one of Milan's brightest hopes going forward.
Armero is an upgrade over Constant, as he has Olympic pace and a decent ability to get forward and join the attack. His weaknesses tend to be on the defensive end and his final delivery of the ball when he's crossing it into the area.
The centre of Milan's defense looks to be another revolving door of mediocrity. It'll be difficult for Pippo Inzaghi to pick the best pair between more than five defenders vying for a starting spot.
Between Philippe Mexes, Alex, Cristian Zapata, Daniele Bonera, Adil Rami and Co., expect plenty of shifting between the centre-backs as Inzaghi looks to find the duo that works best.
Unfortunately, this means that chemistry will be sorely lacking, and if the summer friendlies are anything to go by, clean sheets will come at a premium.
Hopefully, knowing that there's a goalkeeper like Lopez protecting the sticks will mean that the defenders can play more freely and perhaps take a few more risks. A good goalkeeper should be able to rub off on the back line.
Milan's midfield is another question mark.
As soon as Riccardo Montolivo returns from his injury which occurred in Italy's friendly against Ireland only weeks before the World Cup, he'll be the focal point in the midfield, carrying the burden of supplying creativity.
Aside from Montolivo, Nigel de Jong and Sulley Muntari will do the dirty work, tracking back and retrieving balls. If this trio isn't healthy, Inzaghi will have the option of inserting young, deep-lying playmaker Bryan Cristante or the versatile, hard-working Andrea Poli.
De Jong will have a very important role in Inzaghi's 4-3-3, as he'll be the one in front of the defense that will need to make sure they aren't left exposed.
Milan's biggest strength lies on the attacking wings.
With the up-and-coming superstar Stephan El Shaarawy back from injury, the promising M'Baye Niang, Jeremy Menez and the possibility of a new signing, the wings in Inzaghi's 4-3-3 are covered.
Inzaghi would be wise to build around El Shaarawy. The attacker, affectionately known as Il Faraone, scored 14 goals in three months two seasons ago, before losing form and going through a string of injuries which kept him out virtually all of last season.
Menez is another polarizing figure that Adriano Galliani added to the mix. World class on his day, the biggest drawback of Menez is his worrying inconsistency and lack of work rate.
The curiosity remains regarding Niang. The teenage striker was loaned out to Montpellier last season, but off-field issues got the better of him as he was reprimanded several times.
With Balotelli being sold to Liverpool, the only real No. 9 on the team is Giampaolo Pazzini.
Consider this section to be incomplete as a new marquee signing is expected to give Milan depth upfront.
Pazzini could see an increased role either way. The striker netted 15 times two seasons ago coming in mainly as a substitute, and he has proven to be a fairly prolific goalscorer in Serie A when he's given a chance and can stay fit.
Now, it remains to be seen what Milan do with the money coming in from Balotelli's transfer.
New head coach Inzaghi is still an unknown entity in Serie A.
After a successful but brief coaching career with Milan's youth team, the ex-Rossoneri legend will look to invigorate a side that has suffered their worst period since the early 1980s, when the club was relegated to the Serie B.
Inzaghi changed the tactics from Clarence Seedorf's unbalanced 4-2-3-1 formation to a more conventional 4-3-3 which gives the midfield another high-energy man to help the defense.
Milan's pre-season has been horrendous so far, with the only win coming against Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara.
The other matches have resulted in four losses, with the Rossoneri outscored 12-2.
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