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Season Preview 2017-18


With one of the most incredible transfer markets ever, this season there is finally something to really talk about. It’s been so long since there was anything exciting enough to preview, I have to confess that this is very refreshing. Certainly, it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen, but there are also plenty of things to look forward to… finally.

Milan are back... or at least well on their way

Arrivals and Departures
The part that everyone, even other teams in other leagues, is talking about, is our mercato. Having brought in a red carpet list of players including Mateo Musacchio, Franck Kessie, André Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Hakan Calhanoglu, Andrea Conti, Lucas Biglia, and Leonardo Bonucci was quite the feat. A feat not entirely marred or eclipsed by also bringing in Antonio Donnarumma and Fabio Borini. And there are still a couple of weeks left in the mercato. Having signed ten new players and renewing Gigio Donnarumma, it’s almost like a completely different starting eleven. Add to it players like Bonaventura and Suso, coming off of injuries, and the exciting young Cutrone, and this team is completely improved from last year's squad. 

Most notable departures include De Sciglio, Kucka, Honda, Lapadula, Poli, and Bertolacci, as well as the loans that ended for Deulofeu, Pasalic, Mati Ferndandez, and the epic Ocampos. It's hard to miss many of them, though, with the quality that they have been replaced with. And considering that this new management have actually managed to get money for many of their departures, it feels more like we improved by losing those players. Keep in mind that Bacca, Paletta, and Jose Sosa have all been transfer-listed, so that list could increase in the next couple of weeks.

Also notable is the changing of the captain’s armband from the notorious never-should-have-been-captain to the world class Leo Bonucci, aka the man who punches armed robbers to protect his family. It is widely believed that he will provide the leadership desperately needed since Galliani threw Ambrosini and Abbiati under the bus. Oh, and speaking of Abbiati, as our new team manager, he has been both visible and vocal on behalf of the team. I can’t even imagine teammates trying to snap towels at each other under his strict but fatherly leadership.

Brute force, brute skills, brute impact

Europa League
I am still not confident this competition is necessary or even healthy for this team, despite so many amazing signings. We have yet to put on a truly confident display in our preseason games, and we haven’t even qualified for the group stages yet. Playing in the Europa League will make our players more exhausted and we will wind up with more injuries. For example, Biglia apparently got injured just trying to get his bonds sorted out for the next round (I may have made part of that up.) But if this team can gel quickly, gain confidence as a team, and fight the exhaustion and injuries that travel and playing extra games causes, then I suppose we could possibly make it to the Europa League final. And this is the one European trophy Milan have never won, so that would be amazing. But other than that, it might be wise to go out of the competition early on and focus on Serie A instead.

Serie A Schedule
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the league schedule smiles upon Milan. A nice balance of fixtures, starting with some teams that might challenge us a little less, and working our way up to the bigger teams. Of course weeks seven and eight are Inter and Roma back to back, and that will be brutal. Additionally, should we qualify for the group stage of the Europa League, it will be interesting to see how those fixtures align with the league schedule. But from our current vantage point, we got a good draw.

Labelled by the Curva as the "signings of the season"

Tactics
For the second half of last season, Montella stopped talking about possession and really put his attacking ideas to work. He stuck primarily with the 4-3-3 formation, barring a couple of games at the end, when he lined up a 3-5-2. With the arrival of Bonucci, he hinted at lining up a 3-5-2 again. But I honestly hope he doesn’t. I agreed with David on a recent podcast that we lack the depth on the wings to sustain this formation long term, amongst other reasons. Other than that, Kessie, who was overwhelmingly voted your favorite signing, will provide a level of steel in the midfield we haven’t had in years, along with some exceptional skill. Our crossing and set pieces are likely to go from woeful to breathtaking with the addition of Calhanoglu and Rodriguez, which immediately gives us all new threats tactically. The level of quality alone gives Montella so many new options, and is already giving fans a reason to return to the stadium.

Coach
Montella fast became the weakest link, or at least the most questionable link, when the summer’s brilliant signings were made. Is he up for the task? What will he do with so much talent? Is he capable of more than a single-dimensional tactical idea? Can he manage three competitions… and succeed? It’s way too soon to tell, but after what he did with the team last year, the man deserves the opportunity for sure. With the primary goal of returning to Champions League qualification for the following year, he needs to achieve top four in the league. While our team has been strengthened in talent, so many changes can actually weaken all of that mental strength he was able to muster last year. One has to believe, though that a coach of his level will not fall flat on his face, even if there are concerns that he may not be “the one” to return Milan to full glory.

He'll need to find the balance between substance and flash, mentality and physicality

Opposition
Juventus have been the team to beat for six seasons now. But the loss of Bonucci to a direct rival (that’s us! Hahaha!) is massive, as well as losing a number of other key players. Their mercato has been okay, but rebranding with a stupid logo does not inspire a lot of confidence in their ability to win a seventh straight Scudetto. Which leads us to Napoli, a team that has a core of very strong players, and a coach that football lovers are in love with in Sarri. Many believe they will challenge for the Scudetto, but not if De Laurentiis has anything to do with it. He’ll hop on a scooter and ride off into the sunset before he lets his team actually win something.

Roma have had an interesting mercato. If by “interesting” you mean “sell all the players.” While they got themselves a fantastic coach in Di Francesco, I am not convinced that their young and largely unknown reinforcements will equal a Scudetto this year. The team that only wins when they wiretap have chosen an interesting coach in Spaletti. He brings his “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” mentality to a club that is often the poor little ringbearer that dropped the ring. Their mercato started out weak, but they are trying to reinforce well now, and could make a run for fourth place… if Moratti jumps back in and pulls some strings… er… wires.

Despite us having raided Atalanta of two of their young jewels in Kessie and Conti, they are still a dark horse to run for a Champions League spot. However while also competing in Europa League matches, they may not be a match for clubs that have more expensive players.

Predicted by many to be the coach thrown in the air with a Scudetto win this year, but will he manage it?

It’s impossible to know just what to expect this season, but universally everyone knows that this season is going to be so much better than recent seasons. Better ownership and management, much better players with better attitudes, much better quality of play, and much better support from fans. Oh, and don't forget the three most amazing kits ever. On paper, we could take a top four spot in the league. And some people believe that on paper we could win the Europa League, too. But I think we should work on qualifying for the group stage first. Wherever we end up, this season is absolutely going to be better. And better is good enough for me.


This post inspired by the music of Public Image Ltd.’s “Rise”


Our next match is Europa League Playoff Round
AC Milan vs. KF Shkëndija
Thursday, August 17 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)


Our first match of the Serie A season is
Crotone vs. Milan
Sunday, August 20 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

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