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Coral profile the problems at big-spending AC Milan

| 30.10.2017

The Serie A giants are struggling

Having failed to finish in Serie A’s top five since 2013, the fact that AC Milan currently sit 11th shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.

Except this is supposed to be Milan’s big comeback year.

A Chinese consortium completed their takeover of the San Siro outfit in April, and transfer funds were duly handed over for the summer.

Milan promptly spent £175m in the off-season, and were largely expected to be on the up this term.

But it hasn’t worked out like that and head coach Vincenzo Montella is under pressure having seen his side fail to win their last four games.

The players

Despite spending nearly £200m, Milan’s summer transfer business was hit and miss.

Defensive acquisitions were smart. Leonardo Bonucci arrived for £40m, while full-back Andre Conti was signed for £22m from Atalanta.

But after helping Milan win their opening two games of the season, the quick and powerful Conti suffered a cruciate ligament injury and has been absent ever since.

It’s no coincidence that Milan have won just two of their seven games without the 22-year-old.

Montella has since swapped from a 4-3-3 to a 3-1-4-2 in order to make up for the absence of Conti’s energy down the right flank.

But it’s forced several other players out of position, and despite Bonucci’s class in the middle of defence, it is taking time to come together.

Second-rate strikers

But while Milan were smart – if unlucky – in their defensive signings, their striker strategy has made little sense.

Nikola Kalinic arrived from Fiorentina. Despite impressing during two seasons in Florence, few would argue that the Croatian is of the calibre required for the Rossoneri to return to their glory days.

Fabio Borini’s loan move from Sunderland falls into the same bracket.

Simply put, neither men are the top-line striker Milan crave. They’re not in the same class as former AC legends Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi or Zlatan Ibrahimbovic.

The exception could be Andre Silva. The 21-year-old arrived for £38m from Porto after a sterling 21-goal season in Portugal.

Perhaps Montella and Milan are trying to ease the Portuguese international into the club, but he’s been left on the bench for five Serie A games already this season.

Given their form so far, that’s an unusual move.

Midfield overhaul

And in midfield Milan have pinned their hopes on Franck Kessie.

The 20-year-old was highly sought after last season during a fantastic campaign for Atalanta.

But at his age, he still has much to learn and has been handed a huge task in trying to guide the San Siro outfit to the top so early in his career.

Kessie has been paired up in the middle with Lucas Biglia. The Argentine is another summer arrival at £15m.

With four years as a regular at Lazio and 51 Argentina caps, Biglia has pedigree. But it’s asking a lot for him and Kessie to settle in together without a few problems along the way.

Milan’s hopes were also pinned on the creative talents of Hakan Calhanoglu. The 23-year-old Turkey international formed a reputation for himself during three seasons with Bayer Leverkusen.

But three months into the new season, and the attacking midfielder appears to be struggling in his new environment. Calhanoglu has yet to score a league goal for his new side, while supplying just one assist.

Again, like Borini and Kalinic, it’s looking unlikely that the Turkish midfielder wasn’t a terribly shrewd acquisition.

The manager

Montella clearly needs time to gel his new-look side. But equally, some of their signings have been a level below the quality required – and expected – at the San Siro.

And if Milan are to recapture those glory days in Italy and on the continent, perhaps they need to look at the manager too.

The Italian produced impressive spells at Roma and Fiorentina, but they contrast with poor records  at Catania and Sampdoria.

Montella won just six of 27 fixtures with the latter, before being handed the Rossoneri job.

Time will tell if Milan can ever recapture those heady days of European Cup glory, but so far it appears they still have plenty of work to do.

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Richard Marsh