Witnessing a seven-time Champions League winner sleep for the last six Serie A seasons has been nothing but tragic for one of Calcio’s titans. With half of the Italian media describing this crisis as a period of mediocrity, some believe, including former coaching legend Arrigo Sacchi, that Marco Giampaolo’s footballing philosophy will steer this Milan side back on the path to prosperity.
The 1-0 loss to Benfica and the stalemate against Serie C side Cesena in pre-season might not have shown positive signs. However, the game against Manchester United – where Milan lost on penalties – indicated that the Rossoneri’s attack has the potential to be as lethal as any of the other top Serie A sides.
Realistically, many will be aware that Milan won’t be a Scudetto challenger this season. But after opting to drop out of the Europa League to wipe the FFP slate clean, the San Siro side can turn their full attention to the domestic side of things – hoping to achieve the main objective in securing a Champions League spot.
With eyeing a top-four finish, the 18-time Serie A winners also have a decent future project in the works. Boasting a young Italian core, an attack-minded Coach and one of the world’s most prolific strikers, these key factors can help guide Milan to brighter success this season.
Ever since Gennaro Gattuso took over as Milan Coach back in 2017, the Rossoneri slightly improved from their mediocre finishes between 2014 and 2016. But Gattuso’s grinta could only guide Milan to as high as fifth in Serie A, with the primary objective being a top-four finish each season. Now the Lombardy club finally boasts a tactician rather than a man-manager, a Coach who was able to make an entertaining Sampdoria side punch above its weight with limited resources.
But the Rossoneri fans remain divided on their new manager – alluding to the fact that their rivals Inter boast Antonio Conte, Juve have Maurizio Sarri, and Napoli can count on Milan legend Carlo Ancelotti.
It has always been the expectation for Milan to have a decorated and experienced manager on the sidelines. At least, it was until Silvio Berlusconi decided to go through the back-catalogue of former players who had recently retired. Giampaolo may not boast the most decorated CV, but his tactical awareness and style of football will give this successful and proud club a clear identity on the pitch.
Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 formation will be a better fit for most of the players in comparison to the 4-3-3 Gattuso utilised last season. The 52-year-old’s coaching philosophy focuses on playing aesthetic football – a one-touch passing system and building the attack from the backline. In some of the pre-season fixtures, it was evident that Milan will now tend to press high up the pitch to instantly dispossess their opponents. This attractive brand of Calcio will benefit players such as Krzysztof Piatek, Lucas Paqueta and new signing Theo Hernandez.
This model could also be a positive change for Suso. With the Italian tactician renowned for rejuvenating strikers Massimo Maccarone and Fabio Quagliarella in the past, the Swiss-born Coach will now look to do the same with Suso. We have already seen Giampaolo trial Suso as a trequartista (a playmaker sitting behind the strikers) in these recent pre-season friendlies, which has brought more creativity and goalscoring opportunities out of the 25-year-old Spaniard. If Suso can perform more consistently, then the attacking midfielder is set up for a productive campaign.
Milan may not have signed the big names during this transfer market, but they have quietly made some savvy acquisitions. The additions of Ismael Bennacer, Theo Hernandez, Rade Krunic, Rafael Leao and Leo Duarte are all young and promising reinforcements. These are the type of footballers who can thrive under an attacking style of football and complement the team’s main star Piatek.
Like Maurizio Sarri with Juventus, Giampaolo’s philosophy will require some time before it comes into full effect. But with no European competition commitments this season, this will give the Rossoneri players more time to work on passing combination and other team cohesion.
Milan have so far been judged harshly in their pre-season, so let’s see what Giampaolo and this revamped Rossoneri can produce in their season opener with Udinese this weekend. At least the San Siro side now has an authentic tactician at the helm, not just a former club legend taking the team on an emotional rollercoaster ride.