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A.C. Milan: Finding a way back

When Chinese juggernaut YongHong Li ended Silvio Berlusconi's 31 year stint at the helm, Milan fans were treated to a huge influx of cash and promises of a return to times gone by when the Rossoneri were killing it at the European circuit. A complete squad makeover and 6 disappointing months later, the Italian giants find themselves languishing in 7th place having sacked Vicenzo Montella who was tasked with guiding the club back to the upper echelons of Italian Calcio.

Now in the hands of club legend Gennaro Gattuso, finishing in Champions League spots seems to be the much more reasonable target for this campaign. However, league form seems to tell an entirely different story altogether. Their goal difference of -1 is testament to the fact that the huge investment has been a no show and the subsequent strengthening of their rivals could mean another season of absence in Europe.

Where did it all go wrong?

Milan went on a major spending spree this summer — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey
Milan went on a major spending spree this summer — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey

Milan's splurge in the transfer window left pundits evaluating their contention for the league title as the Chinese owners went on a rampaging splurge in the transfer market. They outbid serious competition to bring marquee signings like Andre Silva, Hakan Calhanoglu, Mateo Mussachio and many others to the San Siro.

1. No Pace at all

The front line of Suso, Andre Silva, Nikola Kalinic and Calhanoglu screams quality yet the Red and Blacks have found goals hard to come by. While the Spaniard has been a shining light in the otherwise dismal attacking output, Silva and Calhanoglu have looked a shadow of their former self.

The lack of speed in their wide men or on the counter has hurt Milan deeply, rendering their languid play useless in-front of the miserly Serie A defenses. A side full of slick playmakers, Gattuso has an impossible task to coax out goals when much of their play is static.

2. System

the formation Milan started their campaign with — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey
the formation Milan started their campaign with — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey

In all honesty, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu aren't wingers and Fabio Borini does not have the quality required to make a difference. Putting all three of them in a system which requires pacy wide men to get behind defences, Milan were bound to fail considering no purchases were made for a team crying out for wingers.

Eventually changed to the 3-5-2 formation — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey
Eventually changed to the 3-5-2 formation — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey

Vicenzo Montella switched to a 3-5-2 system for a short while to make use of his creative players across the center of the park. While it mitigated their defensive concerns, attacking impetus was still absconding, made no better by Kalinic and Silva flogging their lines in-front of goal.

3. Leanardo Bonucci

His signing was supposed to be the statement of intent in Milan's 200 million splurge, yet a dramatic upturn in form has seen the iconic defender struggle to adapt to life at the San Siro. His arrival was met with surprise and delight in equal proportions as Rossoneri fans erupted in disbelief of having captured a gem from the hands of their rivals Juventus.

However the fall from grace for one of the best defenders in the world has been steep. So much so that Pierpaolo Marino stated that the club regrets spending a fortune for his signature. Once scouted by the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City, Bonucci may well be the biggest disappointment of 2017.

Recovery

Gennaro Gattuso has been brutally honest in his assessment of his team, stating that he expects more from his players going into their crunch clash against Lazio. Suso, Romagnoli and Donnarumma have saved their face on a number of occasions and are players Milan have to hold on to this summer by all means.

A winger on either side would definitely elevate this side with Lucas Moura and Federico Chiesa having linked in the past. The Brazilian is surplus to requirements at PSG and Chiesa might be the most talented Italian since Lorenzo Insigne's debut in Serie A. Both would not cost a fortune and could easily be tempted towards a move. Another alternative might be Gerard Deulofeu who has found it hard to get minutes at the Nou Camp.

All three have seering pace and can hurt opponents on the counter, something Milan have lacked for a long long time now. Yet the form of Leonardo Bonucci might be the most important concern for fans with their captain elect failing to materialize into the leader many expected him to be.

The Future

A fluid 3-4-3 will get the best out of Gattuso's team — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey
A fluid 3-4-3 will get the best out of Gattuso's team — by Aishwarya Raj Pandey

The combination of Kessie and Calhanoglu is the perfect mix of power and skill in the middle. Flanked by excellent crossers in the form and Rodriguez and Conti would allow Silva to feed on deliveries in the wing and subsequently free players like Moura and Chiesa to cut in and overload opponents penalty area.

The defensive line is the strongest aspect of this side and with a bit of luck and Bonucci's return to his classy stature might just be the turning point for Milan in 2018.