Brought to replace Nemanja Matic at the heart of Chelsea midfield line, former AS Monaco star player Tiemoue Bakayoko ended up having a disastrous season at Stamford Bridge last year.
He would hardly put a foot right on the pitch despite being backed by N’Golo Kante and three centre-backs behind him and failed to make any improvement whatsoever even when Antonio Conte switched his tactics to put an extra man in the midfield at Chelsea.
The 24-year-old French international was sent on a season-long loan at AC Milan at the beginning of the 2018/19 season and, after a slow period of adaptation, the Paris-born defensive midfielder seems to be finally proving his true worth.
A New Beginning
Last twelve months were extremely difficult for Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The Frenchman became a laughing stock at Chelsea following a series of inept performances with the Blues and he certainly hoped for a change in fortunes at AC Milan.
Bakayoko was encountered by a fierce Italian public and unforgiving fans who would use your weekness against you. Whistled and booed on many occasions at the beginning of his life in Italy, Bakayoko is refusing to back down.
“I don’t like it (the whistles) but I understand. I hope they (the fans) applaud me soon. I have done some good things but I’m only at the beginning. I hope to help the team reach top 4 in the league”, Bakayoko told Italian media.
Bakayoko’s influence at the beginning of the season was limited to mere cameos which would be described as disastrous by none other than Gennaro Gattuso. The AC Milan boss changed his tune of late, however, as he went on to publicly praise the 24-year-old who is doing a wonderful job in deputizing Lucas Biglia.
Best AC Milan Have Got…at the Moment!
Things seems to turning for the Frenchman who is – according to numbers presented by La Gazzetta dello Sport – AC Milan’s best player in last three matches.
During his last three appearances for Rossoneri, Bakayoko made seven tackles, completed six dribbles and won 26 duels – eight areal ones. On top of it all, Bakayoko holds a record for the most balls recovered by any AC Milan players – 24 – over the past three games.
“Tactically and physically he was devastating. He seemed like a giant. Also, technically he didn’t make many mistakes”, Gennaro Gattuso was full of praise for his midfielder after the 3-2 win over Genoa towards the end of October.
Not only does Bakayoko produce fine displays on the pitch, he seems more mentally stable. The transition from AS Monaco to Chelsea was clearly more than he could take at the given moment and the Frenchman is slowly returning to his best self.
Blues supporters will not be as forgiving to Bakayoko despite his evident improvement but the idea of him returning to Chelsea is not entire dead in the water.
Some time away from London – to reflect on his mistakes and gain confidence – could be just what he needs to replicate his AS Monaco form and once again be a devastating box-to-box midfielder.
Maurizio Sarri has recently spoken about his concerns at having so many attack-minded midfielders and could turn to Bakayoko to fill in the void next season and in the future.
Chelsea spent £40 million on the French midfielder and will know better than to give up on him that easily, especially with a new manager in charge, whose style is a lot closer to the one Bakayoko thrived in at Monaco.
Bakayoko works best inside a 4-4-2 formation but can be of great value in a 4-3-3 system if he keeps up the current work rate and commitment to helping the team. With his new role evolving, Bakayoko needs to change too and that’s exactly what he seems to be doing at AC Milan.
Changing for the better, of course.
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