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Five lessons to be learned from AC Milan’s campaign

We highlight the defining moments of the club this season with a look to the future...

AC Milan v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

1. Gattuso is the right man for the job

It is an understatement to suggest that there were feelings of uncertainty among fans when the decision was announced to appoint Gennaro Gattuso head coach of AC Milan towards the end of 2017. The disappointing spells by former club greats Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi were still in the minds of rossoneri fans. However, the results have proved otherwise, as Gattuso has steered Milan back into European contention on the back of 13 games undefeated in 2018 in all competitions and with big wins over Lazio, Roma and Inter (in Coppa Italia). He has provided one of the key ingredients to them that has been missing in recent seasons – belief and a never say die attitude – something the he epitomised consistently over his illustrious career. While there have been some slipups (notably twice against Benevento!), he has instilled a desire and willingness in his players to fight every minute of every game. Next season can not come soon enough.

2. Milan is built around the next generation of young Italian stars

AC Milan v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

One of the pleasing aspects about the team this season is the number of quality young Italian players Milan have on their list. Cutrone, Romagnoli, Calabria, Locatelli and Donnarumma are the foundation of this team that will hopefully take Milan back to the top of Serie A and Europe over the next few years. Add to this newcomers such as Andrea Conti as well as emerging talents Emmanuele Torrasi and Matteo Gabbia and Milan have a lot to look forward to. Without putting excess pressure on this team, the core Italian focus is reminiscent of the 2007 Champions League-winning team consisting of Maldini, Nesta, Inzaghi, Pirlo and Gattuso.

3. Key additions are needed

For all the positives of Milan’s season, the one major deficiency has been in front of goal. Prized recruits such as Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva have found it difficult to score and have had seasons they would rather forget. Patrick Cutrone was our leading scorer in Serie A with 10 goals (19th overall behind Mauro Icardi and Ciro Immobile on 29) and while this was a fantastic achievement for someone so young and in his first full season, it is a far cry from what we have come to expect from recent Milan teams that have been blessed with the likes of Inzaghi, Shevchenko and Ibrahimovic. It is no surprise therefore that the club have identified the signing of a high-quality striker in the summer to fill this key void in the team.

4. Financial security is essential

The financial future of the club has been a long drawn out and well documented saga. It seems that the great hope of the Chinese takeover from Silvio Berlusconi may now be treading on thin ice, thanks to a significant debt to the hedge fund Elliot Management group. This, in addition to the impending penalties being handed down by UEFA on account of this financial instability and the potential loss of European football pose a massive threat to the future of the club.

AC Milan Press Conference Photo by Studio Buzzi/AC Milan via Getty Images

Despite continual reassurances from the club’s hierarchy, the players, coaching staff and fans have all felt the tension associated with the club’s position during the course of the season and this must be addressed once and for all before season 2018/19 so that Milan can concentrate on football matters.

5. Big game experience is needed

Since Gattuso took over the reigns in late 2017, Milan have had somewhat of a resurgence in Serie A, albeit still finishing in 6th position and well behind Juve, Napoli and Inter. However, probably one of the biggest learnings from this season has been how to deal with the exposure to big games such as the Europa League Round of 16 tie against Arsenal and the Coppa Italia final against Juventus. It was pretty clear to many observers that Milan have a long way to go to compete at the highest level, not just on a technical level but on a mental level. The mentality of this team has grown during the season, and continued exposure to these sorts of games and conditions are needed to ensure the team matures into one that again can dominate Italy and Europe. The continued guidance and leadership of a proven champion in Leonardo Bonucci with the experience and guile of the likes of Lucas Biglia will be imperative to Milan performing well on the big occasion next season.