Things started off so positively for AC Milan. After an unprecedented summer of spending that saw the shocking acquisition of none other than Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, the general atmosphere around the Stadio San Siro was a positive one.
After a bad period in which the club had failed to qualify for Europe, Milan were back in it. Whilst it wasn’t the Champions League, beggars can’t be choosers, and the Europa League has shown in recent times that it’s not a bad place to start off. Just ask Manchester United, who last season conquered it and now is back in the Champions League. Certainly, many big clubs are now going to use that as a blueprint as a way to potentially use it as a backdoor into just getting into the Champions League, but as a way to add some cash into their coffers and of course, some silverware to their trophy cabinets.
Plus, it’s the one title Milan have never won and could help restore some sense of pride for a club who were desperately tying to cling to glories that had long passed them by. It’s been ten years since the Rossoneri last lifted their last Champions League title, and whilst they are the second-most decorated club in that competition behind Real Madrid, it’s going to be a very long time until they even get near a final. Juventus are currently the no. 1 side in Italy, and the way they crumbled in the second half to eventually lose 4-1 certainly does not bode well for Serie A, so, at the moment, the Europa League is realistically the continental title that Milan ought to be focusing on.
After finishing sixth, Milan had to slog through some qualifying rounds to book their spot in the group stage. No problem. They easily made mincemeat of their inferior opponents, sweeping them aside with little fuss to deservedly get to the proper tournament, and on matchday one, cruised to a very comfortable 5-1 win over Austria Wien. The Diavolo are viewed as early contenders to go far in the Europa League, with some even seeing them as favorites to win it next year, along with Arsenal, and it’s been pretty smooth sailing thus far.
Domestically, however, they already hit a major stumble. Their first major test was against Lazio, and they failed that miserably. Outplayed and outclassed, Milan were four goals down in less than an hour as Ciro Immobile ran riot, and many of the problems they had from seasons prior began to rear their ugly head once again. That’s despite spending massive sums this summer. That’s despite securing the signing of Bonucci from Juventus and midfield options like youngster Franck Kessie from Atalanta. Against Udinese, Nikola Kalinic’s brace was enough to secure a 2-1 win, but only just barely.
Cracks had begun to appear, and Milan needed two penalties to break down a stubborn SPAL side who were desperately attempting to park the bus to hold out for a draw.
Then came Sampdoria and things really went awry. Disturbingly, the Rossoneri only mustered one shot on goal, if that. And they were given quite a fright in their most recent Europa League fixture against Croatian outfit Rijeka in a match that they should have easily put to bed.
Not surprisingly, with Carlo Ancelotti now out of a job after being sacked by Bayern, Vincenzo Montella’s job is now under even more threat. Reportedly, he now has two games – Roma and Inter – to really turn things around. Not easy teams for a beleaguered manager, as both the Giallorossi and the Nerazzurri have been in strong form, but such is the lack of the draw.
Issues have started to arise for Milan, but it doesn’t seem that those same problems really ever went away. Rather it appears like Milan were never truly tested. After all, their opposition were largely inferior to them in the Europa League, giving supporters the impression that all had suddenly picked up and everything was peachy. That was not the case. Things suddenly don’t improve overnight. It’s a gradual and painful process. Milan didn’t suddenly go into decline, it was a slow and painful process, and thus, their improvement will be one and the same.
Patience, then, is in order, and there will be plenty of ups and downs this term for the club. That’s not to say that the bright start Milan had should be discounted and dismissed. It’s certainly encouraging, especially after the dark seasons fans had to put up with, but they will obviously going to have to strap their seat-belts as it looks set to be a long and bumpy ride this season.
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