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Milan's underperforming midfielder is poised for a bounce-back season

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Despite a mediocre debut season with the Rossoneri, Andrea Bertolacci is poised to bounce back in 2016/2017.

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Andrea Bertolacci was unquestionably one of the biggest disappointments for the Rossoneri last season in a campaign that was full of them. Bertolacci was brought over last summer from Roma for a fee of €20 million, and his signing generated a fair bit of hype and expectation from the supporters and media alike. Bertolacci was exactly the kind of player fans had been screaming for Milan to sign - a young, quality, creative midfielder; and the fact that he was beginning to receive regular call ups to the Azzurri was an added bonus. In addition, his pricetag made him one of Milan's biggest investments in the last 5 years, and with this sizeable transfer fee came expectations from fans who thought they were getting their next star midfielder.

In the end, Bertolacci was unable to meet expectations and was a lightning rod for criticism. Last season he was a complete shell of his former self as his form was night and day from that of his Genoa days. Instead of his direct lung busting runs at defenders, impressive dribbling, and quick and accurate passing, Bertolacci looked hesitant, passive, lethargic, and absent minded while donning the rossonero jersey. After his awful debut season,it appears as though many are ready to write him off as a flop right away. However these critics should doubt Bertolacci's ability at their own peril, as there are many reasons to believe that the midfielder will bounce-back in 2016/2017.

For starters, Bertolacci was ravaged by injuries throughout last season. Having suffered a grand total of 4 significant injuries which kept him on the treatment table for no less than 67 days and forced him to miss 12 games. Not only are those injury statistics terrible as presented, but the timing of those injuries was inopportune to say the least.

Bertolacci's first injury was a tear in his abductor muscle that he suffered on September 3rd which ultimately kept him out for just under three weeks. Getting injured right at the beginning of the season had to be a big blow to a player who only recently arrived at the club and was probably still getting used to his new surroundings. Bertolacci returned, but only for a short while, as he suffered another muscular injury on October 21st. He would then suffer a setback during his recovery, just before he was set to come off of the injury list and did not return to action until December 9th. Andrea essentially missed the first half of his debut season with his new team, and his inability to hit the ground running likely played a significant part in his subpar season.

Health is not the only reason Andrea Bertolacci is set to bounce-back in 2016/2017. On the surface Bertolacci seemed like a less than ideal fit for a Sinisa Mihajlovic team, and looked ill-suited to playing in a two man midfield. Sinisa Mihajlovic demands grit and ferocity from his midfielders; (except from Montolivo who's apparently undroppable no matter who the manager is) these two traits are far from synonymous with Andrea Bertolacci. On the flip side, new manager Vincenzo Montella values skill, passing and dynamism in the midfield, and all three of those feature in Bertolacci's arsenal.

In addition, Bertolacci was often deployed besides Riccardo Montolivo in Mihajlovic's 4-4-2, and it doesn't take the tactical mind of Carlo Ancelotti to understand why that was a complete calamity. Both provide next to no defensive cover, and Montolivo is certainly not the man to stay back and cover for Bertolacci when the Italian is pushing the ball up field and linking up with his attackers. Bertolacci is a much better fit as a mezzala in a three man midfield, and Montella has already confirmed his plan is to play with three men in the middle of the park.  This managerial change should help Bertolacci immensely.

Despite Bertolacci's subpar first season fans should not lose faith in him just yet. One year ago he was considered one of the best young midfielders on the peninsula, and one injury plagued season where he was utilized incorrectly should not drastically change that characterization. Bertolacci should certainly not be absolved of all blame for his poor season, and it is his responsibility to go out and perform in 2016/2017, but it appears as though he is now in a much better situation to succeed.