Although Samu Castillejo hasn’t been the most decisive of players for Milan this season, the Spaniard has played a pivotal role in our improved form since the start of 2020.
He’s managed just two goals and four assists in 22 games, but what he has done brilliantly is provide us with energy, tenacity and an excellent work ethic off the ball to play an important part in our resurgence.
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His defensive effort and commitment sets the tone and tempo for the rest of the side at times, and while the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu and Ante Rebic have stepped up in front of goal since the restart, Castillejo was a vital part of that attacking trident behind the frontman with his presence on the right flank.
With that in mind, it was a blow to lose him to injury earlier this month, with the 25-year-old now missing the last five league games.
Fortunately for Milan and Stefano Pioli though, he has been able to bring in Alexis Saelemaekers who has done a brilliant job filling in on the right flank to help us continue our superb form.
A surprising, but welcome solution for Pioli
After arriving in January, it was a slow process for the Belgian to break into the side and show his worth as at times it looked as though he may well simply be a useful squad player and nothing more.
However, from his positive impact off the bench against Roma to his growing influence on the side having started in the games that followed, Saelemaekers is proving to be an important addition to the squad.
Things got even better at the weekend as he broke the deadlock to set us on our way in the 5-1 win over Bologna as he registered his first goal for the club, and if he can continue to make a decisive impact in the final third to go with everything else that he offers the team, he could be absolutely crucial in the next few games to conclude the campaign.
That’s another area in which he is seemingly improving too. His work-rate and energy is one thing in terms of being fundamental in our push to play with a high press and put pressure on the opposition, but having previously looked too nervous and panicked on the ball, he is starting to settle and show more composure in possession too.
Naturally, with the great performances and results for the team as a whole, his confidence and belief will be growing, and you can arguably see that in his displays over the past few weeks as he has improved and developed his game.
So from the disappointment of seeing Castillejo ruled out with injury and the potential blow to the rest of the team that would subsequently have resulted in, Milan and Pioli have found their solution and Saelemaekers is proving to be a potentially important part of the squad moving forward too.