After a superb run of form and bringing back optimism to fans around the world, Milan will have to start from scratch in September as the slate is cleaned for a new season.
The positives of this past campaign can certainly be taken forward and built on, and particularly the way in which we performed after the restart will give us great confidence and belief moving forward.
That said, it also comes with its own challenges too and the pressure will be on Stefano Pioli, the players and the management to get things right this summer to ensure that we continue that same trajectory and we don’t fail to build on the progress made in recent months.
In order to do that, they will have to overcome certain key challenges over the next month heading into the start of a new campaign…
No complacency, still long way to go
Aside from his influence on the team and results on the pitch, Pioli has been so impressive with his humility, deep technical knowledge as his assessments and criticisms are always spot on, and given he never loses sight of where Milan should be.
He has consistently stressed that while our resurgence has been impressive, it was necessary. Further, we’re still well short of the objectives that we should be aspiring to achieve, and that message has to continue to get through to the players in the new season.
Last season is in the books. We can build on the positives and learn from the negatives, but that has now gone and it’s all about what the team does moving forward with Pioli as the figurehead. He must continue to develop, evolve and improve his squad to ensure we kick on as we’re still short of competing at the very top level as ultimately we still finished 17 points adrift of Juventus.
Adding the right pieces to raise competitiveness
While there is still much more to get out of this current squad with several key individuals maturing into their best versions still as they enter their mid-to-late 20s, we can also improve with new faces.
Giacomo Bonaventura and Lucas Biglia are set to become free agents as their respective contracts will expire, while there are crucial areas within the squad which we can upgrade and bring in more quality to make us more competitive.
Milan have to be smart about it though and spend wisely. It’s about quality over quantity, and most importantly of all, we must bring in pieces that fit the style, culture and identity of this squad that Pioli is building. It’s not even necessarily about big names, but we need more of the likes of Ismael Bennacer and Theo Hernandez who have come in and helped develop our distinct style of play.
Getting players to next level
Another impressive aspect of the job that Pioli has done at Milan has been his ability to improve the players at his disposal. There is no doubt that the likes of Franck Kessie, Hakan Calhanoglu and Ante Rebic have come a long way under his stewardship.
As noted above though, these players are still approaching what should be the peak years of their respective careers, and so it’s important that they don’t just settle for the level that they’re at, but work tirelessly to go to the next one and become even more influential for us.
Further, Rafael Leao is still a talent that needs to be fully unlocked, while Matteo Gabbia, Leo Duarte, Rade Krunic, Lucas Paqueta and others still have more to offer, assuming that they all remain ahead of next season.
While our excellent form to end the season was a joy to watch, it starts all over again in September and there is still a lot of work to be done to get us back into the mix with the likes of Juventus and Inter and avoid facing another battle just to simply qualify for the Champions League which should be the minimum expectation for us.