Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Before the winter break the sun was shining on the red and black half of the San Siro. Milan were somewhat surprisingly competing for a Champions League spot under Montella and L'Aeroplannino managed to guide his Milan side to a shock Supercoppa victory over Juventus on penalties. Pasalic's winning penalty gave the Rossoneri their first trophy in five years and there was a real feel good factor at Milanello going into the winter break. However many predicted that Montella's Milan would not sustain a fight for the Champions League places and these critics have proven to be right. Milan currently sit eighth place in Serie A on 37 points albeit with a game in hand. With European places slipping further and further away each week Milan are going to have to improve their form drastically over the next week.
In Milan's four Serie A games in 2017 they have won only one which was a unconvincing 1-0 win at home to Cagliari thanks to a late Bacca goal. Milan were then lucky to scrape a point against Torino as had Ljalic converted his penalty to make it 3-0 the game would have been over. However despite the comeback against Torino, Montella's side have lost their last two matches by a score of 2-1 against both Napoli and Udinese. The Rossoneri have most definitely struggled for form since their Supercoppa win against Juventus and look to be faltering under Montella. One key factor in their slump in form has been their extremely poor performances in the first half of most of these matches. This is something that Montella has talked about in his interviews and he has expressed a desire for his players to perform for the full ninety minutes rather than just the second half. The Rossoneri conceded within the first half an hour in each match against Torino, Napoli and Udinese. Milan's seemingly lackadaisical approach to the start of games is something that needs to be addressed quickly. Despite Milan showing signs of spirited comebacks they are simply giving themselves too much to do by shooting themselves in the foot in the first half.
Milan's defense has also been struggling with injuries and form since the winter break. Apart from Paletta who has been rock solid all season the rest of Milan's defenders have looked shaky at times, even Romangnoli who had a dismal game against Torino before topping it off with a red card. Donnarumma and Locatelli have also came under some criticism in recent games and it seems Milan's young team is going through a learning curve. Montella will not be worried too much by this however as with a team as young as Milan's mistakes were expected to be made. These youngsters’ mistakes will benefit this Milan side over the coming years as they will learn and grow.
However, Milan can't really afford to make any more mistakes this season. With two games over the next week against Sampdoria on Sunday and Bologna on Wednesday picking up six points is a necessity for the Rossoneri's European ambitions. Achieving these six points will not be easy as Milan are facing an injury crisis particularly in defense with De Sciglio, Antonelli and Calabria all out injured although Calabria is believed to be close to full fitness. Montella will also be without Bonaventura for the rest of the season, which is a massive blow for Milan. New signings Gerard Deulofeu and Lucas Ocampos will have to try fill the huge void left by Bonaventura. Montella is expected to shake things up this Sunday against Sampdoria with Sosa rumored to be replacing Locatelli as the Regista. Vangioni will probably play at left back and Deulofeu looks to have beaten Ocampos to the left wing spot freed by Bonaventura's injury. Although the squad is thin Montella needs to reinvent his side and return the Rossoneri to winning ways. Montella's side need to bounce back quickly because if they don’t pick up wins against Samp or Bologna it looks like playing in Europe will have to be postponed for yet another season...