Finding Calhanoglu: Playmaker’s return to form crucial for AC Milan

This season hasn’t gone to plan for Hakan Calhanoglu thus far, and AC Milan desperately need him to rediscover his form from the second half of last year.

As noted by ESPN, the Rossoneri will spend €24m in total on the 24-year-old, as he was signed as part of our ambitious long-term plan to steadily become a more pivotal figure as he continues to develop and improve.

SEE MORE: Three key failings as AC Milan crash out of Europa League

After a less than impressive start to life in the side having initially been forced to sit out due to his UEFA ban, Calhanoglu showcased his quality from January onwards as he ended the campaign with eight goals and 13 assists in 45 appearances.

While there was of course still room for improvement, the Turkish international had done enough to change opinion and many were starting to believe that he could indeed be capable of living up to the expectations and demands of wearing the prestigious No.10 shirt.

However, this season has been bitterly disappointing thus far. He’s managed just one goal and eight assists in 18 appearances in all competitions, with the goal and six of those assists coming in the Europa League.

On an individual level, it’s frustrating seeing him struggle to reach the level that he displayed last year. In the bigger picture, his influence is crucial to offering balance to the side as well as taking the creative burden off Suso’s shoulders and making us a more dynamic and potent attacking outfit.

His positional change arguably isn’t helping. Having adapted and adjusted to playing on the left wing in a 4-3-3 last season, he’s been asked to play wide left in a midfield four in a 4-4-2 system on several occasions this year.

It simply isn’t a role that suits him. Calhanoglu’s strengths lie in his vision, passing range and shots from distance, as well as his weight of pass and ability to pick out the perfect ball to provide for his teammates.

With all that in mind, it surely should scream out to Gennaro Gattuso that the Turkish playmaker would be most effective in a more central, creative role.

Having signed Samu Castillejo this past summer, Gattuso has a natural winger at his disposal to offer balance with Suso on the opposite flank.

Coupled with the injury nightmare that Giacomo Bonaventura is going through once again, it’s baffling that Calhanoglu hasn’t yet been used once either on the left of a midfield three or as a trequartista.

Lucas Paqueta’s arrival in January means that it’s unlikely we’ll see it much in the second half of this season as the Brazilian will likely be deployed in that midfield three, and so it’s hoped that his arrival perhaps helps bring the best out of Calhanoglu too in giving him another option to feed off in the final third.

Admittedly, with his talent and quality in mind, as seen in his goal against Dudelange below, Calhanoglu is a personal favourite. However, he’s not producing consistently enough, and Gattuso isn’t helping him.

It’s time to shift him inside and play through the middle, and then hopefully we’ll see the real version reappear to offer Milan a much-needed helping hand in their bid to qualify for the Champions League.

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