The 2019/20 season for AC Milan was, in a word, tumultuous. Through this strange year, there were some highs, but there were some lows. Today is about the players who had a successful season, or partial season. The players listed below, in my opinion, had a strong season and have player templates to back up their success. I am including a link (click the word link) to my last article which explained the templates you are about to see below.
There may be some exclusions that could shock, there may be some obvious players here as well. So no more dilly-dallying, here are some opinions.
The light of my life.
So, Bennacer is a funny player who I particularly love in a midfield duo. He is a central midfielder but he performs the tasks of an attacking midfielder and a defensive midfielder. He is not, however, a box-to-box midfielder in the classical sense. His tendency is to aid in ball progression, whether it is through his ability to dribble or pass. In attack, he helps recycle possession. He does not become a support player in both phases of the game like someone in the mold of Geoffery Kondogbia. The best player to compare him to is Dani Parejo and his role at Valencia CF (yeah a lot of Valencia references here, but they have one of the best constructed 4-4-2’s on the planet). Bennacer’s ability to progress the ball forward is almost unparalleled. He excels at forward passing and dribbling. These two skills in unison scream a future star in the role he currently posses. Bennacer is also versatile. He could easily excel in a three-man midfield as well. His passing and dribbling skills would let him function with a more defensive central midfielder and a more attacking midfielder alongside.
Bennacer is my player of the season. His introduction to the squad completely changed the future of the Milan midfield. I would try to hold onto him as much as possible. His upside is high and the current skill speaks for itself.
It feels like a lifetime ago when I was calling for him to become a starter. His introduction at left attacking midfield gave Milan another support attacker in the box and another player to press. His expected goal per 90 percentile is elite. Rebić’s non-penalty goals per 90 rank him as second on the planet behind Jadon Sancho. Pretty strong company. Rebić burst into the starting lineup at the beginning of 2020. At season pause, Rebić leads the team in Serie A goals with six. He has made the left-wing his position to lose and should continue to start if the season restarts.
Rebić functions well in a 4-4-2 base formation because he presses high and inverts aggressively. He is not a classic support winger but his movement off of Zlatan Ibrahimović has led to dangerous chances and created goals. Some of his finishes have been slightly lucky, but sometimes fortune favors the bold. Hopefully, Milan purchases him. I believe that he is worth about thirty million euros. I hope Milan pays for him.
The old man still has it. Ibrahimović showed up at mid-season and, along with Rebić, completely changed the Milan attack. His presence gave Milan a more dependable striker that helped link the forward unit and the midfield. Ibrahimović’s ability to hold play and allow runners, mainly Rebić, to find space between opposition players led to Milan’s offensive burst in the new year. His ability to come back to Europe after going to America, because of an injury, was and still is impressive. His three goals in seven games are a good return and he had an assist to go along.
The future of Ibrahimović is most likely short, but I am glad we had one more experience with him in the red and black. If he decides to go into retirement, then replacing him will be a tough task.
In most 4-4-2 systems, one of the wingers plays as more of a true winger. Castillejo does that and does it well. His xA per 90 ranks below Christopher Nkunku, Serge Gnabry, Ángel di María, Douglas Costa, and Riyad Mahrez in the top five European leagues. That is a strong list of wingers and attacking midfielders to be in the same realm in terms of creation. Castillejo is a fantastic crosser and controls the right-wing in attack well. He, along with Rebić, presses aggressively and is key to the new Milan pressing system.
The expected goal total and actual goal totals are low, but if he is able to produce that many expected assists, then it is something I can live with. When Castillejo does shoot, it is typically fairly dangerous. This means to me that he will start converting more of his chances. However, the chance creation from him has been impressive this season. He is certainly a capable starter for Milan.
These four players stood out to me all season. If you have been following me throughout the year, then you may have noticed that I talk about these players a lot, and in a positive way. Rebić, Bennacer, and Castillejo all have promise as players who will either grow more or are already producing at a strong level. If I could run Milan’s transfers, I would make a strong push to hold onto these four. Ibrahimović’s age is of concern, and obviously he may decide that he wants to stop playing, but when he has played this season, he has been great.
As always, I am happy to talk about anything I just wrote and defend it on my twitter (link up top). These templates can be used for a lot of things and I have plans for them in the future. If you want to throw an idea into the ring you can always send me a message.
I have fond memories of watching all four of these players in action this season, hopefully, we get to see them again soon.