AC Milan go into the World Cup break two points behind where they were after 15 Serie A games last season, but eight points behind Napoli in the table at present.
Calciomercato.com compares the seven-week break to the lockdown in spring 2020, a period in which Stefano Pioli used those endless weeks to reflect on his football ideas, to get to know his players better and the team immediately benefited from it, coming back with a recognisable style that quite literally took the league by storm.
What we saw in the second half of that 2019-20 season was a completely different Milan. Now, the Rossoneri have a month and a half off – at least those not at the World Cup – and Pioli will once again have time to reflect and get to know the newcomers better.
Pioli knows that there are some things that didn’t work out so far this season, and some details that need to be sorted out in order to frighten Napoli. As mentioned, Milan are only two points worse off this season and have a better defensive record (15 goals conceded compared to 18 last season).
It doesn’t help that Napoli are having an almost historically good season, but Milan must focus on themselves and the first problem to solve is certainly in attack, with only 19 goals scored (4 less than last year) and a team that seemed particularly short of ideas in the last few games such as the 0-0 draw against Cremonese.
Another issue is the management of new signings, whose contribution was almost nil in this first part of the season. Dest and De Ketelaere will go to the World Cup, while Thiaw, Vranckx, Adli and Origi will stay at Milanello and Pioli will be able to spend precious time with them, without the pressure of games, to get them fully up to speed.
During the break Pioli will be able to count on four fundamental returns: Mike Maignan will be back in goal, captain Davide Calabria will be back, Alexis Saelemaekers can provide a useful option on the right wing and finally the leader of the squad Zlatan Ibrahimovic is burning with desire to get back.
More concrete game ideas, contributions from new signings and the recovery of injured players: this simply must be the recipe to start slicing through the gap to Spalletti’s men.