As we look at the Serie A table at the midway point of the 2015/2016 season, the Rossoneri sit in 6th and ne place behind the final Europa League spot.
Overall, not bad for a tumultuous season that has seen coach Sinisa Mihajlovic hang on to his job by whiskers at times. Injuries to some key performers has been a slight factor for Milan but in all fairness, the club should be a few spots higher on the table.
The season started like a roller coaster with a loss at Fiorentina, followed by an unconvincing win at Empoli and an unlucky strike in the Derby della Madonnina. 2 wins followed this stretch up and then a shock defeat at Genoa. This is when Milan began experimenting with formation changes and never really had a solid starting 11. The 4-0 drubbing at home at the hands of Napoli is when Mihajlovic began feeling the heat. Inconsistent performances by his team, tactical changes week in and week out as well as head scratching management of games at times left the fans and the management with many questions about their 3rd head coach in as many years.
After the Napoli embarrassment and the subsequent soul searching that must have happened by every member of the club, the team ripped off a run of 5 straight games with a loss until they were defeated 1-0 away to Juventus. This was followed up with a shredding of Sampdoria 4-1, a game which showed the potential of Milan if all things could click for more than 90 minutes consistently. The next 2 games were back to the head scratching ways as the club drew with two bottom feeding teams and dropped 4 crucial points in the process.
Last game against Frosinone was a summary of how the club has been all season. A shaky start that was punished due to poor defending by the central back duo of Alessio Romagnoli and Alex, followed by 3 straight goals for Milan. Then a soft header inside the penalty area pulled Frosinone to within 1 goal of tying, until the standout player of the season so far, Jack Bonaventura put the away side up for good with a beautiful goal in the dying moments.
What do us fans think of the way Milan has performed so far this season? The optimists will tell you that we should be much higher in the table at the moment and they would have a point. The dropped points could be argued to reach at the very least 7 points. That would put us in the Top 3 of the league at the moment and quite frankly, that’s where we should be. The pessimists will tell you that this Milan doesn’t have what it takes to compete for Champions League spots and to be honest, they would be wrong.
It is not a secret that the Serie A is the weakest top European league at the moment. The financial situation and club management by the entire league is the reason why big players do not come anymore. Currently, Milan has a squad that should be able to compete for at least a top 3 finish. Scudetto might be a bit out of reach, unless we can strengthen a few areas in January and rip off some wins to start the 2nd half of the season. Judging by the comments of Adriano Galliani that no big names will come unless big names leave, then we are pretty much out of luck.
The most pressing need is a quality center back to pair with Romagnoli. Alex is doing ok, but his lack of speed is being exposed time and again by the opposition. A truly creative central midfielder would also be very beneficial as the club at the moment has too many box-to-box midfielders who offer almost nothing in attack with the exception of Andrea Bertolacci and to a degree Riccardo Montolivo. When Jeremy Menez returns, he will boost the attacking options along with Mario Balotelli but this is our strongest unit anyway. The emergence of Niang has been a revelation and the fans are hoping that he continues his fine form.
The youth project looks to be rejuvenated to a certain extent by Mihajlovic. Gianluigi Donnarumma is now the starter, Mattia De Sciglio is playing more consistently, Jose Mauri has gotten some playing time and shined and M’baye Niang is starting. In addition to that, Davide Calabria has gotten playing time and it is only a matter of time before he dethrones Abate. Livieri as well has been called up.
Overall, the season has not been the disaster that many had anticipated and I think Mihajlovic deserves a lot of credit for the type of routine and discipline he is instilling in the squad. This style will pay dividends towards the end of the season. I would go out on a limb and say that this squad will finish top 5 for sure and top 3 if we can become more consistent. Hopefully the boys have a great holiday season and come back ready to fight from January 6th!
Article by Abdelrahman Kurdieh