AC Milan have had a positive start to the season, winning 10 of their first 13 games. Their most recent triumph came against Roma. Although they were handed their first loss last night, there are many reasons to be optimistic.
For more than a year, the team has seen some massive improvement in performance despite missing some of its key players, and it’s all because of one guy, Stefano Pioli.
Stefano Pioli fairly recently celebrated his 100th game in charge of the Italian giants (vs. Bologna) Seven games into the 2019/20 season, Pioli was brought in as a surprise replacement for Marco Giampaolo. Since then, he has led Milan to 5th and 2nd place finishes in the league, guiding the Rossoneri to their first Champions League qualification in seven years.
For the 100 games, he amassed 56 wins, 25 draws, and 19 losses. He has an average of 1.93 points per game and a 58 per cent victory record in that span. In his first 100 games, Milan scored 202 goals, conceding 126. Club football resumed this weekend after the international break and you can check out the best football odds at Vwin, the leading Vietnamese bookmaker, covering leagues from all around the world.
Pioli is currently the Rossoneri’s second-longest-serving manager in the last decade, after only Massimiliano Allegri (178 games).
To be clear, Pioli was not the club’s first choice two years ago. He was out of work after resigning from Fiorentina, while Milan recruited Marco Giampaolo to replace the departing Gennaro Gattuso. Giampaolo and the new-look board, which included Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban, signed players who are still with the club today.
Franck Kessie, Theo Hernandez, Ismael Bennacer, and Ante Rebic all joined San Siro, but Giampaolo’s footballing philosophy was failing on the field. Milan cut a deal with UEFA and thus withdrew from Europa League (amid FFP), but even a renewed focus in Serie A was ineffective.
The Rossoneri were 13th in the standings after four defeats in their first seven games. Pioli was requested to take over until the end of the 2019-20 season after Giampaolo was fired. Pioli struggled earlier, losing three of his first five games, but his distinct approach to the game began to show signs of progress.
The former Lazio coach used a 4-3-3 system against Lecce in his first game in charge. Franck Kessie, Lucas Biglia and Lucas Paqueta former the midfield, while Hernandez ran riot down the left-hand side. In December and January, they climbed to eighth place with five victories and two draws from seven games.
Loan signings Simon Kjaer and Alexis Saelemaekers had some time to adjust, but they quickly established themselves as crucial players for Pioli. However, it was the return of a former legend who gave the ultimate response. Fears about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s age were wildly overblown when he was brought back on a free transfer. As Pioli shifted to a 4-2-3-1 formation, he became the main focus of the attack, with Rebic and Rafael Leao being used more on the left-wing.
Milan were undefeated in the last twelve games of the season, including victories over Juventus, Roma, and Lazio. That form saw the side finish sixth and secure a spot in the Europa League qualification round. The productivity of their new players, in particular, gave fans renewed hope.
After becoming a regular in January, Ibrahimovic scored 11 goals and added five assists, while Rebic was the leading scorer with 15 goals in all competitions. Calhanoglu’s personal 20 goal involvements (11 goals, nine assists) in various competitions was also a positive, especially as Pioli was largely expected to stay. And from there on, the positive journey was a fact.