The year of 2021 will mark an important but also an unwanted anniversary for AC Milan: it will be ten years since they last became Serie A champions.
Recent years have seen them not just fail to be in title contention but not even qualify for the Champions League. The transfer window must see Milan strengthen their squad if they are to become title challengers again.
After 36 games they were sixth, 15 points behind the top four and 23 adrift of champions Juventus, who won the league for the ninth year in a row. The glory days of domestic and European titles are distant memories, and not since 2013 have they finished in the top four; it’s going to take a massive effort to achieve that next season.
Milan lost seven of their first 12 league games this season, and Marco Giampaolo was replaced by Stefano Pioli after just 111 days. He has turned their season around, and they are unbeaten in their last ten fixtures. A form guide for the previous 15 games has them in third place. They have beaten Juventus and Lazio, so there are signs of improvement, but more must be done.
Ralf Rangnick and AC Milan have decided to break their agreement. Rangnick will stay @ RB Leipzig, Stefano Pioli is going to extend his contract until June 2022 as Milan manager. 🔴⚫️ @SkySport #Milan #ACMilan
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 21, 2020
Since that title triumph in 2011, Juventus have been crowned champions in every season. They will be going for a tenth straight Serie A title next year. If Milan are to become title contenders, a lot of work is needed.
A glance at the latest Serie A odds by SBR will show you that few expect them to be challenging Juventus next season. Milan just cannot compete with Juventus in the transfer market. The champions can go out and sign Cristiano Ronaldo, Aaron Ramsey, Matthijs de Ligt and Paulo Dybala when they already had a stronger squad than Milan. How can Milan match that?
More goals needed
How can they attempt to achieve improvement? Milan have scored 56 goals in 36 league games, and that’s a total that has to be increased next season. Of the teams above them, all have at least 70 league goals with Atalanta just two away from a century. It’s a long-term problem with Milan as not since the 2012-13 season have they reached the 60-goal mark.
Only Ante Rebic has managed to reach double figures for league goals this season with a grand total of 11. He didn’t score any until January and only once has he scored twice in a match. The Croatian is on a two-year loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, but he’s not a player who will get you 20 goals a season. His overall total of 12 league and cup goals equals his best season, and that was seven years ago.
Their next highest scorer is Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has hit seven since joining the club earlier this season. That’s compared to the 56 he scored in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. He’s 38 years old now and just how long he can keep playing at the top level isn’t known, although he does feature in the new Milan kit launch.
G O D of the game pic.twitter.com/UqHlOtMAGa
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) August 1, 2020
The simple fact is that Milan need to sign a couple more players who can supply them with a consistent amount of goals. Not since Carlos Bacca in 2015-16 have they had a player score 20 goals in a season. Those days have to return if they want to challenge for the 2020-21 title.
They spent just over £20m on signing Rafael Leão from Lille, but he’s only scored five goals. Can Milan hope his second season in Italy will be more productive? With 28 goals scored in their last ten league games, there are signs of recovery, but a top striker must be on their summer shopping list.
They could target a couple of Serie A players who have scored more than their current squad and aren’t superstars. Francesco Caputo of Sassuolo (who scored in their recent 2-1 loss to Milan) or Marco Mancosu who has done well at struggling Lecce could help them.
Defensive improvements needed
Some better defenders would help their cause too. Yes, Milan have been scoring more goals in recent months, but it’s a case of having to. Milan have gone six league games without a clean sheet. They may not win the title anytime soon, but anyone betting on the ‘both teams to score’ market will do well if choosing Milan matches.
Firming up the back line is going to be a key target for Milan. If they can increase their scoring rate and not concede as many, then that gap at the top can be closed but winning the title still looks a long way off.