The Truthometer that is social media would seem to indicate that all is lost, that Milan are as bad off or worse than last year. This because they followed up one of their best unbeaten streaks in years with a loss and two draws. But social media is all talk, and if you’re so busy talking, you may have missed what has changed at Milan this year. Or has it? Is Milan better than last year?
|If Abate has a goal and an assist, we've definitely improved this year|
This answer is very easy for me: yes. A resounding yes. Starting with Mihajlovic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Inzaghi. And Seedorf never even got a chance to show what he could do. But Mihajlovic, despite being undermined by Berlusconi at every turn, has restored discipline and a work ethic and a mentality that we haven’t seen in years. Like even when Allegri won the scudetto. I mean, he doesn’t even have a fraction of the talent Allegri had his first year, and yet there are no more problems being leaked of fights or players being late or anything like that. Despite the lack of quality in some of the players, they fight hard in every match, which didn’t even happen at the beginning of this season. And the mentality is visible in their body language as they take the pitch, as well as the trust they have in each other throughout the match.
Those improvements are evident even when they stumble or get off to a slow start, like they did vs. Lazio. But once they conceded, they reacted, and fought to the final whistle, improving as the match went on instead of collapsing like they had previously. That was almost the theme of nearly every match last year, even in games we eventually managed to win. But now we react, which to me is massive.
|Donnarumma and a 3-0 win over Inter... absolutely improved with those 2 things alone|
Mihajlovic is also giving so much more time to our youth players, particularly Romagnoli and Donnarumma, something none of his recent predecessors would have ever done. Romagnoli has 25 starts in the league and Donnarumma has 22. That was unthinkable until this year. We also have a relatively consistent starting eleven, whereas previous coaches seemed less decisive about who should start each time, who was the best at each position, which impacted the ability of the players to play together as a team.
Despite still conceding some goals on set pieces, we have vastly improved there, and have actually scored more from our own set pieces, too. Plus, there is our pass completion. Even from the beginning of the season, that has improved so much. Whereas it seemed the only way we could get the ball forward last year was for Montolivo to hoof a long ball forward and hope it would reach a Milan player, this year, they have vastly improved at short, more forward passes, able to actually move the ball forward on the ground. That has helped us keep possession better and create more chances, too. And while there is still plenty of room for improvement, it is so much better this year.
|"I miss Essien and Muntari" said no one this year ever|
Consider that last year at this point, we still had Muntari, Essien, Bonera, Zaccardo, and more not only on our bench, but too often in our starting lineup. Just for having dumped so many players who had overstayed their welcome and their talents alone, this squad is improved. (For a complete list of last summer’s transfers, read this.) But we also added some actual quality in our squad, players who have made a difference, and some who will hopefully be allowed to stay and make a difference for many years to come. That hope that comes along with quality youth players getting playing time over washed up, overpaid players is a massive improvement for me.
Also consider that this week last season, Milan were in ninth place on the table in a less competitive season. And they never climbed the table after that, either, finishing in tenth place. Now we are in 6th place and in the Coppa Italia final, with eight games left to play But statistics don’t tell the whole story. If you set aside the hapless rhetoric of social media and try really hard to remember how hopeless and despondent we were last year and look really hard in the mirror now, I dare you to honestly say that there is less hope now than last year.
|One of these people has worked tirelessly to bring change to Milan this year (hint: it's the one in the vest)|
No, we’re not going to make Champions League, management has done their part to ensure that. Ironic the other day that Galliani was moaning about Montolivo being our only playmaker, when all of us could have predicted at the beginning of the year that his omission of purchasing a quality player at that very position would cost us our Champions League hopes. But we are still better than last year. Despite not meeting the unrealistic expectations of a couple of old men in management and a bunch of moaning or apathetic fans on Twitter, isn’t improvement worth celebrating?
This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Stockholm Syndrome”