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AC Milan rebuild after disappointing season – Can they challenge Inter in 2024/25?

AC Milan rebuild after disappointing season - Can they challenge Inter in 2024/25?

Ahead of the 2023/24 season, AC Milan had one of the most remarkable transfer windows.

They bolstered the squad with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic, Samuel Chukwueze, Yunus Musah, Noah Okafor, Tijjani Reijnders and more.

Fans eager to watch their beloved heroes copped tickets to witness the team dazzle.

They can still buy AC Milan tickets for the 2024/25 season at as the Rossoneri prepare to enter a new era.

Summer spending spree fails to deliver Scudetto

Last season, the Rossoneri were out to improve on their fourth-placed finish from the year before. Serie A pundits pegged the club as one of the favourites for the Scudetto, and rightly so. 

Milan started the season brightly, claiming three wins on the spin against AS Roma, Bologna, and Torino.

However, they received a 5-1 humbling from archrivals Inter Milan that reiterated that the Rossoneri were only the second-best team in the country.

Inter absolutely mauled Milan, outclassing them from the first minute to the last. The Nerazzurri were better tactically and ran rings around Stefano Pioli’s side. 

Despite the mullering, Milan kept pace with Inter, recording victories over Hellas Verona, Cagliari, Lazio, and Genoa. But the wheels of their title pursuit began to fall off in October/November following a string of poor results.

Milan struggled for form and consistency, losing to Juventus and Udinese and drawing Napoli and Lecce. 

Inter took advantage of the slip-up and put some distance between themselves and Milan, opening up a gap that the Rossoneri never managed to close.

Inter ultimately clinched their 20th Scudetto, beating Milan to the title by 19 points. 

Inter’s dominance was emphatic as they handed Milan a 3-0 drubbing in the Supercoppa Italiana final. Again, Milan were no match for Simone Inzaghi’s well-oiled machinery.

Around the same time, Atalanta sent Milan packing in the Coppa Italia quarter-final. 

Milan’s Champions League campaign was not much better as they finished third in their group, falling to the Europa League, where Serie A rivals AS Roma booted them out in the quarter-final.

Milan’s lavish summer spending spree in 2023 promised a Scudetto challenge, but the season ended in bitter disappointment.  

Multiple defeats to Inter, particularly the 5-1 thrashing, exposed a gulf in quality and squad cohesion that the summer influx couldn’t bridge. 

Pioli out, Fonseca in

Milan decided to part ways with Pioli after five years as it became clear that the club needed a change. 

Serie A is renowned for tactically astute managers, and Pioli, for all his man-management skills, struggled on that front.

When Milan took on lesser opponents, they overpowered and steamrolled them on the way to the win, but they struggled against tactical teams.

Pioli and Milan were tactically undone by Inter across three matches last season. His tactics were inadequate, bordering on inept.

Inzaghi exposed Milan across those matches – a painful watch for Rossoneri fans.

Juventus and Atlanta also thwarted Milan’s on-paper superiority by tactically outmanoeuvring them. 

Milan decided to try something new and hired Paulo Fonseca from Lille. The unremarkable Portuguese manager is an odd choice that irked many Milan fans. 

Antonio Conte was available, and Thiago Motta caught the eye with his unique approach at Bologna, so it was shocking to see Milan’s options cut down to Julen Lopetegui and Fonseca – two truly underwhelming coaches.

Fonseca stabilised Lille after some wayward seasons, but it wasn’t enough to convince Milan fans. They questioned the club’s ambition – supporters want to compete for the title and believe Fonseca does not move the needle or bring them closer to toppling Inter.

One thing Fonseca brings is continuity. The former Shakhtar Donetsk boss will likely keep utilising Pioli’s famed 4-2-3-1 formation, making it easier for the players to adapt to his demands. 

He will now turn to the recruitment team to fill the crucial gaping holes in the team ahead of the 2024/25 season if Milan are to contend with Inter and deliver on the promise of their talented squad. 

Key areas for reinforcement

One crucial area Milan must reinforce is defensive midfield. It has been an issue for years, and the club must finally address it to balance the centre.

The Rossoneri need a ball-winning midfielder to fulfil the duties Nigel De Jong and Mark van Bommel did with aplomb those years. 

Reijnders, Yacine Adli, Ismael Bennacer, Musah, and Loftus-Cheek are all fantastic midfielders in their own rights, but they must be complemented by defensive-minded cover.

It has been a problem for seasons now, with the club lacking someone to break up attacks and help stop opposition transitions.

Milan have already shelled out so much on midfielders and will be wise to find a loan option for the position. 

Chelsea have two defensive midfielders that may not get into the first team next season, Lesley Ugochukwu and Andrey Santos.

Based on the business between the two clubs over the past few seasons, Milan could provide them with a landing spot.

Milan also need to be in the market for a new centre-forward, with Olivier Giroud leaving the club after three years.

The seven-time Champions League winners are reportedly chasing Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee but face competition from Manchester United and Arsenal for his signature.

Another position in dire need of reinforcement is the right-back area. Davide Calabria has held down the fort for a few years, but it is painfully clear the club needs to upgrade.

Calabria is average defensively and doesn’t offer much offensively. The club must add a new right-back to the roster.

Milan’s choices in the market continue to underwhelm. The club has been linked with a swoop for Tottenham Hotspur right-back Emerson Royal.

The Brazil international is a clunky and tactically undisciplined operator who struggles with concentration for 90 minutes.

The better choice for the club would be a move for Lille man Thiago Santos.

He is a young and excellent right-back with bags of potential, and it also helps that the manager knows him from his time in France.

Realistic targets for the 2024/25 season

Milan can be a force next season if Fonseca addresses the tactical deficiencies and plugs pivotal gaps.

The Scudetto race next season will be a fiercely contested affair. Inter remain formidable, and Napoli will be spurred by new head coach and four-time Serie A winner Conte. Motta at Juventus is also a potentially dangerous combination.

However, Milan, with a more balanced and tactically astute unit, can challenge them.

The key will be consistency against their rivals, particularly in head-to-head clashes. A top-two finish, with a genuine title tilt, is a realistic expectation.

The Coppa Italia is Milan’s best chance at a title, but the Rossoneri have not won the trophy since 2003. Milan will be desperate to turn that abysmal record around.

Reaching the Champions League knockout stages is a minimum requirement. A quarter-final appearance is achievable with some luck and a favourable draw. 

Suppose Milan can plug the defensive midfield and right-back holes with the right players while adding a proven goalscorer, fans can expect a more competitive and tactically sound display across all competitions in 2024/25.

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