Five Milan players who must build on progression and back it up next season

Pioli Milan

After our superb run to end last season, the focus is now on how Milan follow that up and take that into the new campaign next month as we have something solid to build on.

Aside from the results, the performances were superb. In a settled and better suited 4-2-3-1 system, players stepped up individually and we looked a proper team with an identity and style of play as a collective.

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Nine wins and three draws along with 35 goals scored were evidence that things clicked, but that campaign is now in the past with Stefano Pioli and the players now having to look ahead and ensure that we continue to improve and don’t throw away the good work done through June and July.

While there are other important factors to consider, namely signings and guarding against complacency, one of the more important aspects is that we continue to get more out of players who have shown real signs of progression this year but must now kick on again.

Theo Hernandez

The 22-year-old was excellent last year, chipping in with seven goals and five assists in 36 appearances as he added a brilliant new dynamic to our attacking play down the left flank.

Importantly, he also improved defensively in the second half of the campaign as he had previously been caught out on a number of occasions and had emerged as a weak point in our backline.

Next season is a big test for him to show that he can produce consistently and to firmly put himself in the conversation regarding the best left-backs in the game. Milan need more of the same in attack, but also more improvement in the defensive phase to become a well-rounded player.

Ismael Bennacer

The engine in our midfield. Bennacer was top-class last season as although it took a little while for him to settle and establish himself as a vital part of our line-up, he hasn’t looked back as he has progressively gotten better and better.

There are still certain areas of his game where he needs to improve such as cutting out sloppy mistakes and bookings as well as perhaps offering more of a threat in the final third where possible, but ultimately it’s going to be a challenge in itself to show the same level of consistency, steeliness and reliability that he offered us this past year.

Still only 22 years of age, he’s nowhere near the finished article and it’s hoped that he can take another step up this coming season to really cement his place in the heart of our plans moving forward.

Franck Kessie

Particularly after the restart, Kessie was huge for us. His good form started prior to the lockdown, and the switch in his position and role in our preferred 4-2-3-1 system has been a major turning point for him.

It was obvious that he was playing with more confidence and belief in his own ability having understood perfectly what was being asked of him by Pioli. While he was always excellent in providing us with energy and tenacity from a defensive perspective, he started to show great intelligence and composure in possession too.

He now has to match that next season and become even more influential if he can, as his partnership with Bennacer in the heart of the midfield is going to set the tone and tempo for the entire team as we continue to evolve.

Hakan Calhanoglu

The Turkish playmaker ended the season with 11 goals and nine assists in 38 appearances. Only Lionel Messi was involved in more league goals after the return of football across Europe’s top five leagues.

It’s been all too inconsistent from Calhanoglu since he arrived in 2017, and he still has a point to prove in terms of being our leading figure in the final third and pulling the strings across an entire campaign.

Now 26, this is the time where he should be coming into the peak years of his career, and if we are to pick up from where we left off last season, it will be important he continues to be an influential presence in our attack and doesn’t slip into his previous ways.

Ante Rebic

The decision to snap up Rebic and send Andre Silva in the opposite direction in an exchange of loans looked like it was going to be a disastrous one heading into January.

The Croatian international hadn’t scored or provided an assist and he looked completely bereft of confidence in everything he tried. Then came the turning point against Udinese, and he didn’t look back as he eventually finished with 12 goals and four assists in 30 outings.

Similarly to his teammates above though, he has to show that it wasn’t just a purple patch and he can produce that kind of consistency and form in front of goal all over again next season. If he can, he will be vital if providing us with the firepower needed to compete on multiple fronts.