A lot has changed at AC Milan over the summer, and Stefano Pioli will lead his troops to Bologna on Monday hoping to prove that they are serious title candidates.
MilanNews recall how Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s farewell after the final game of the season was followed by those of Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara as well as the sale of Sandro Tonali and the departure of Brahim Diaz.
However, the new-look management of CEO Giorgio Furlani and chief scout Geoffrey Moncada gave Pioli no less than eight signings with that money: Marco Sportiello, Luka Romero, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic, Noah Okafor, Samuel Chukwueze, Tijjani Reijnders and Yunus Musah.
Milan did their business quickly and effectively so Pioli had as much time to help them gel as possible. He also changed to a new formation, leaning on the 4-3-3 to get the most out of a new crop of box-to-box midfielders.
The one-on-one strength of Rafael Leao on the left plus the choice of Christian Pulisic or Samuel Chukwueze on the right also should make the Rossoneri stronger on the flanks.
The starter at the base of the midfield was Rade Krunic throughout the preseason, a new role for the Bosnian in which he demonstrated some difficulty in positioning.
A small novelty is the position of the full-backs: if Theo Hernandez has a lot of freedom and variety of movement, the right-back (whether it’s Davide Calabria, Alessandro Florenzi or Pierre Kalulu) often tucks inside to help in the build-up and transition phases.
The defensive department in general remain on trial. Except in games against lesser opponents, Milan conceded goals in every game mainly due to obvious errors, so that must be fixed.
The line-up for Bologna seems obvious. It will be the 4-3-3 with Loftus-Cheek, Reijnders and Pulisic immediately on the field. There won’t be any big absences, except for Ismael Bennacer and the disqualified Musah.
Pulisic should get the nod over Chukwueze on the right who is ready to come off the bench and have his say. The only doubt concerns the right-back role: Calabria has recovered, but in the last few games Pioli has tried Kalulu there.