Why Pioli now faces critical phase in Milan’s season with key factors to consider

It’s been a common trend through Stefano Pioli’s tenure thus far that Milan have displayed several positives as the standard of our performances has improved.

From the players appearing more comfortable in clearer and defined roles to a direction and identity to our play with more intensity and the game being played at a higher tempo, there has been an improvement on the pitch but unfortunately it hasn’t resulted in an upturn in form.

SEE MORE: Five key talking points as Milan held by Napoli amid delight for Bonaventura

Pioli has now overseen one win, two draws and three defeats since replacing Marco Giampaolo, although he has had to face Roma, Lazio and Juventus in that run of fixtures which can’t have been easy for the Italian tactician given the circumstances and issues he was confronting when accepting the Milan job.

In turn, there is perhaps a little leeway that can be afforded to him, but over the course of the next three weeks, Pioli and Milan must now put together a string of wins and start to climb the Serie A table before a top-four finish becomes even more unlikely.

Parma, Bologna and Sassuolo await between December 1 and December 15, before a difficult trip to Bergamo to face Atalanta prior to the winter break.

Ahead of the weekend, we sit down in 12th place in the standings and 11 points adrift of fourth spot, which is surprisingly being occupied by Cagliari currently.

If Milan are to have any hope and belief of cutting that gap, nine points must be the target over the next three games as despite our struggles and deficiencies so far this season, on paper they are all still winnable games if we’re able to put in our best possible performances.

Hakan Calhanoglu and Ismael Bennacer return from suspension on Sunday while Suso will hope to be in contention after a late pull out ahead of the Napoli game with illness. With that in mind, the pieces may well be falling into place for Pioli to have an almost full squad at his disposal just in time for the festive period.

Not only would having a positive December lift spirits across the club including for the supporters who have equally been through a lot this season already, but it could give us the ideal momentum heading into the January transfer window if reinforcements are set to arrive.

It would potentially make us a more appealing destination if Champions League football is within our reach for next season, giving the incentive for perhaps more experienced and established individuals to be convinced that they could help us bridge that gap and secure a seat at Europe’s top table next year.

In turn, it’s important for Pioli, the squad, the fans and the club hierarchy with their plans moving forward. Milan now have a possible platform to build on in the coming weeks, and it will hopefully prove to be the catalyst which helps us turn our campaign around and throw us right back into the mix for the top four.