Thursday March 10 2016
What's Mihajlovic ever done for Milan?

Edoardo Dalmonte argues that under-fire Milan Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has done more than just bring results - he's built a team for the future, and it looks like being a bright one.

A typical refrain heard from many Milan fans this season is that the squad isn't good enough. Early on, it wasn't strong enough to compete for the Scudetto, despite Silvio Berlusconi's usual bombast and the spending of around €85 million on the likes of Carlos Bacca and Alessio Romagnoli.

More recently, many Rossoneri fans weren't buying that Mihajlovic's men could suddenly lead the charge for Europe, despite a 12-game unbeaten streak and rivals Roma, Inter and Fiorentina all either running out of steam or facing an identity crisis.

And who could blame them? The Diavolo lined up the likes of Mattia De Sciglio, Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Zapata and Suso as they lost two of their first three league games, triggering an early panic and somehow justifying Silvio Berlusconi's repeated public criticism of his coach.

Even at the best of times, the bench has lacked depth, with Mihajlovic struggling to find second-half matchwinners with Jeremy Menez and Mario Balotelli still out of shape and Luiz Adriano with one foot in China.

Even worse, last weekend's defeat to Sassuolo heralded the unwelcome return of the San Siro coaching carousel, with numerous reports indicating that Berlusconi was going to sack Mihajlovic and replace him with Eusebio Di Francesco.

The Serbian, so the logic goes, isn't the right man to develop Milan, and to help the club return to its former European glory.

However, to paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, there is just a small problem with the Arcore line of thinking: it's nonsense.

Beyond the absurdity of expecting improvement with the sacking of a fourth coach in three seasons, it is hard to look at Mihajlovic's Milanese CV and be unimpressed, or argue he doesn't deserve more time. It is not a coincidence that fans have been more critical of the squad, and have generally been more favourable towards their gaffer.

Even more strikingly, the Serbian has done exactly what a flashy, exciting coach like Di Francesco is being expected to do at a big club. Namely, he has left his mark on the team, created an (arguably workable) blueprint for the future, and turned underperforming players into serviceable, even good ones.

It doesn't end there: even the fanbase's criticism of the squad is starting to lose credibility. It is genuinely difficult to look at this Milan team and not identify a sequence of success stories: nobody believed Miha when he replaced Diego Lopez with an unknown 16-year-old. Gigi Donnarumma is now the find of the season in goal. Just behind (or, if we’re being literal, ahead) is Alessio Romagnoli, who has gone from overpriced punt to future of the club.

Luca Antonelli has been very good, whilst formerly error-prone players like Ignazio Abate, Alex and Cristian Zapata have been turned into solid foils, or at the very least are no longer blatant chinks in Milan's armour. From conceding 50 goals last time round, it's hard to see the Diavolo concede 20 goals in 10 games and match that total.

Juraj Kucka has been a dynamo in midfield, whilst Riccardo Montolivo's absence against Sassuolo contradicts the fans who think that his contribution to the team is minimal.

Carlos Bacca has been brilliant in attack, whilst Mihajlovic has helped M'Baye Niang become a big fish in big ponds, too. Even the injury-plagued Jeremy Menez looks to be returning to form, if his brace against Alessandria is any indication.

Heck, Mihajlovic has even helped the flawless Giacomo Bonaventura take another step towards stardom (his average Gazzetta mark leaping from a great 6.11 to a monstrous 6.42) and has turned an underperforming malcontent in Keisuke Honda into an undroppable fixture on the right wing.

It is genuinely difficult to see what the very promising Di Francesco could have done better, at least in terms of results or squad-building. If anything, his attacking brand of football would have required another revolution, which Milan – a team being tailed by Financial Fair Play - definitely can't afford.

As it stands, this team is good enough to compete for the Champions League next season, if not this year (they're nine points short of third-placed Roma). Isn't that good enough, especially with the Rossoneri's rebuild being a long-term project? With plans for redeveloping the Portello falling through and no progress on the San Siro front, why not keep a manager who looks set to guarantee an even keel and hopefully make the most of Serie A's inherent instability to earn regular European qualification?

From Napoli’s spendthrift Aurelio De Laurentiis and the unpopular Della Valles at Fiorentina to American-owned Roma or Inter (of course), is it so ridiculous to expect these teams to shoot themselves in the foot?

If only Milan can stop themselves from being Milan, they can just wait for their opponents to slip up and build some foundations for the future.

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Have your say...

"Bologna,Empoli,Chievo play much better" lol... cmon.
on the 15th March, 2016 at 10:05am
I also dont credit Miha with Honda.Honda is a solid player even when playing out of position and it was only logical that he'd improve given a consistent run in the lineup.
on the 13th March, 2016 at 5:23pm
I wouldnt call this season a success nor a disaster.Defense has improved,great youngsters have come through,we have a chance to win the cup.Miha did well but his criticism is warranted simply because the team has no style or structure.Milan look clueless in possession and their play is disjointed.That's down to the coach and that's why the likes of Donadoni,Di Francesco,Sarri are held in higher regard.
on the 13th March, 2016 at 5:12pm
I give Miha huge credit for defensive improvement and the emergence Donarumma and Romagnoli.However,Miha has disappointed otherwise.Milan barely create chances,rarely put together a series of good passes,have trouble transitioning from defense to attack.Sassuolo,Bologna,Empoli,Chievo dont have better squads but play much better.The reason Milan is ahead of them is Bacca.Miha did well but I dont think he's the man to carry the team forward.I like the idea of Lippi and Brocchi working together
on the 13th March, 2016 at 4:32pm
I agree with the analysis. Miha was a tough cookie as a player and he would like his men to follow suit. He has been given a couple of good new entries, some old timers and a bunch of demotivated players, ranging from mediocre to passable. On that basis, Burlesqoni told him to gain access to the European competitions. You try...
on the 12th March, 2016 at 5:40pm
Comparing sampdoria with Milan says it all! How much did he win with Samp?? League? Cup? Europe? None! At samp he turned a failing team in to a fasionable failing team at a time when Serie A wasnt competitive- not that it is now but some of the teams are coming of age so it has made it alittle more competitive. If Mila stuck it out at samp they would be in exactly the same situation. Mila is weak. He got sent off last week to save face, the bottom line is Milan are not good enough. Simple
on the 11th March, 2016 at 6:46pm
Whats he done? Nothing. Makes out he is this man of strength yet he is weak. He jumps about on the sidelines banging on about players giving 100% for 95mins or they dont play. Then he starts Balotelli!
Montolivo and kucka are beyond words. Kucka runs about with no class, quality or anything. He is useless. Yet week in and out he is there running around like a 5 year old chasing a ball!!! Get rid of all of 'em including Mila and get a proper manager!
on the 11th March, 2016 at 6:37pm
One things for sure, he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy.
on the 11th March, 2016 at 5:45pm

I agree with you however I'd say so far Bacca have been above average so far, no?

But def need a solid midfielder. Jack is excellent and monti is sublime one game, and below average next.

Tricky. Stick to mina tho
on the 10th March, 2016 at 10:20pm
At Sampdoria Miha was great and look at it now under Montella, need I say more folks......keep Miha and get another powerhouse of a mid or 2 and an above average striker or 2, and Milan will be back let me tell you.
on the 10th March, 2016 at 9:04pm
I don't know if Miha is the right man to lead Milan into the future, but he did very well in building a good base for success. The constant criticism is going to force Miha to quit once the season ends. EDF will undoubtedly start a new revolution and try to build the team in his own image. My biggest concern is that as time goes on this Milan side is turning into their ugly cousins with each season being their new year zero.
on the 10th March, 2016 at 9:03pm
I agree that Mila has done some good for Milan. To state however that a tean's success is dependent on other team's failures imply's that the team is not good enough to win on it own merits. CL driven teams aren't built that way at least not successful winning ones.
on the 10th March, 2016 at 4:47pm
Great article. It's hard to coach a team when the owner is constantly dictating formations and lineups. His continual threat to fire the coach doesn't help either. Di Francesco is a good coach, but let Miha finish the work he started. I'm still upset by the firing of Allegri.
on the 10th March, 2016 at 3:10pm

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