2015-16: A Year Of Optimism

With the arrivals of Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca, Milan have two crucial pieces for the attack they were missing last season. With the likes of Fernando Torres and Giampaolo Pazzini, an attacking threat was almost non-existent. Most of the time, it was Jérémy Menez bailing out then Milan coach, Filippo Inzaghi, from losing two points or sometimes even all three points. Adriano and Bacca are two proven goal-scorers through their time in Ukraine and Spain respectively. According to WhoScored.com, the Brazilian scored 9 goals and earned one assist for Shakhtar Donetsk last season in Europe’s most illustrious club competition, the UEFA Champions League. Meanwhile, Carlos Bacca scored 20 goals while servicing on six occasions for Sevilla in La Liga last season. He also scored 7 goals and earned 3 assists in the UEFA Europa League, via WhoScored.com, contributing a huge part in helping his former club win the competition for a second straight season in a row. Bacca and Luiz Adriano are already starting to develop an understanding with each other too as seen in Milan’s pre-season campaign.

Both will play crucial roles for the Rossoneri this season, but another very important piece to the attack is Keisuke Honda. Milan’s number 10 will need to have a big season if the club hopes to finish in the top three spots in Serie A. During his two seasons for Milan thus far, Honda has been forced to play out on the wing making it even more difficult for him to settle into the team having to play in a position he is not familiar with. This season, the Japanese international will be playing as the central attacking midfielder behind the strikers in Mihajlovic’s 4-3-1-2 formation or the trequartista as it’s called in Italy. Siniša Mihajlović seemed to be testing Honda with a tryout in Milan’s Coppa Italia opener against Perugia where he impressed with a goal and an extraordinary assist for Adriano’s first official Milan goal. In my opinion, Honda will be the key man for Milan this season based on his role alone. He’s the bridge between the midfield and the attack. Therefore, he must be able to stay consistent this season. If Honda’s performance against Perugia in the Coppa Italia is anything to go by, there are few doubting Honda will succeed this season especially since he passed Mihajlovic’s test against Perugia with flying colors.

Another area Milan improved in is the defense by adding two young central-defenders into the mix. The likes of Rodrigo Ely and Alessio Romagnoli have been nothing short of impressive in Milan’s pre-season. Ely has been outstanding for the club since returning in July from Serie B club Avellino. Mihajlovic personally requested the former Gremio youth product be brought back back to the Rossoneri and it has paid off extremely well thus far. Romagnoli has been just as impressive where one day later after he joined from A.S Roma, he made a goal-line clearance against Inter in the Trofeo TIM on his Milan debut. If this is anything to go by, supporters will be very excited to see more of the young Italian playing in central defense for Milan. Both Ely and Romangoli were finally played together in Milan’s Coppa Italia opener against Perugia from the opening whistle where they have been receiving rave reviews and most Milanisti, including myself, believe both should be penciled in as the starting center back pairing for this season. If these two can form an understanding with each other, Milan will have their central defense sorted for the next decade. There’s no reason they can’t turn out to be fantastic defenders for the present and future.

Finally, there’s, in my opinion, Milan’s most important summer move yet, which was hiring Siniša Mihajlović as the new manager. If there’s any reason for optimism this season, then Mihajlovic is a huge catalyst for it. From last season, there have already been major improvements both on the pitch and off it. The way Milan now are able to move the ball around with confidence and even the off the ball movements are a crucial step forward from the last few seasons where they were non-existent. The team play for Luiz Adriano’s goal in the Coppa Italia match against Perugia alone was something we didn’t once witness under Inzaghi last season. The movement and the passing to set up the goal was refreshing to see. What Mihajlovic has been saying in press conferences has been on point as well. He told reporters after the match against Perugia, via Football Italia:

“I didn’t like the attitude. After the sending off we didn’t try to get a goal. We did keep possession, but it was a kind of possession I didn’t like. We must always play to our maximum, always trying to score goals and we didn’t do that. You could see our organisation, you could see our character, you could see our pressing, there were a lot of good things. But there are many things that still need to improve.”

This is the right attitude we need from our coach right now. Someone who will settle for nothing but the best. The ex-Serbia boss expects nothing but the best from his team every time they go out on the pitch. If they do not perform, then they won’t get to play. This philosophy is refreshing and something that will make Milan much improved from seasons’ past. I think Mihajlovic has done a fantastic job with Milan so far and there’s still plenty of work to be done, but all the signs of improvement are advertised. I feel very optimistic about this season for Milan and I think many other Milanisti should as well. Most of the pieces to the puzzle are there, but it will take some time now to unlock this puzzle’s full potential and with Mihajlovic captaining the ship, there are little doubts he will do just that.

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