With the January transfer window now open for business, it has unsurprisingly led to vast speculation suggesting comings and goings at AC Milan.
This season has not gone to plan thus far, and that fact is painfully reflected in the Rossoneri’s current standing in Serie A. However, given the level of spending last summer, a busy January surely isn’t in the cards.
Question marks have been raised over the players, coaches and hierarchy. Bringing in 11 new faces in the last window hasn’t had the desired effect through the opening half of the campaign.
Despite so many signings and significant money being spent, there are still glaring issues in this Milan squad that ideally will be addressed this month, and this is what the Italian giants need.
A Franck Kessie alternative
The 21-year-old has played 29 times already this season, featuring for a full 90 minutes in all but one Serie A game. That is a staggering amount of football for any player.
In turn, that has arguably led to the inconsistency in his game as he hasn’t always managed to play at the high standard that he has set for himself, and Milan need a midfielder capable of stepping into the side and replicating what Kessie offers.
Gennaro Gattuso simply doesn’t have another tenacious, gritty and powerful midfield star like the Ivorian, as his physicality and coverage of the pitch has been crucial to this point. To avoid seeing him burn out this season an alternative is needed, while long term it’s an absolute necessity.
Left-winger, short-term fix or not
Milan seemingly do have a solution within the squad already, as Gattuso could play Giacomo Bonaventura out wide on the left and have Hakan Calhanoglu on the left of the midfield three.
Hopefully, we’ll see that in the coming weeks. However, there is still a glaring absence of a winger with pace, movement and an eye for goal to stretch defences and pose a different threat to the likes of the more technical individuals such as Suso to offer Milan a different dynamic going forward.
Gerard Deulofeu was crucial last season in a six-month loan spell from January onward, and even if it were a similar deal this time round, it would be an important addition. The Spaniard is struggling for playing time at Barcelona, but with Vincenzo Montella now gone, a return would seem unlikely.
Get rid of fringe players
The obvious duo who fall into this category are Gabriel Paletta and Gustavo Gomez, as between them they’ve played a total of just 100 minutes of football with one appearance apiece all season.
Milan have a whole host of options at the back, especially after signing Leonardo Bonucci and Mateo Musacchio this past summer, and so they wouldn’t be making a mistake in offloading this pair and getting them off the wage bill.
In an ideal world, Nikola Kalinic would follow but that seems unlikely, given how heavily he’s featured for Gattuso, while Jose Mauri seems surplus to requirements.
Veterans such as Luca Antonelli, Ignazio Abate and Riccardo Montolivo will need to be phased out eventually, but they still have an important role to play in this squad, it seems, and so it’s highly improbable that they’ll be going anywhere in the next three weeks.
Don’t sell any key summer signings
After Yonghong Li’s takeover last year, which was subsequently followed by a spending spree in the summer, Milan had a project and a strategy in place which they believed would get them back to the top of the tree in Italy.
That plan is going to have to be postponed as they’ve encountered more troubles than they would have predicted. In turn, there could be a temptation to cash in on some of the stars who have disappointed after arriving at the start of the season.
From a financial perspective, it could be forced upon them. Having likely budgeted for a return to the Champions League sooner rather than later, that absence of revenue will have to be made up elsewhere, and what easier way than player sales.
However, they must not sell key young players with lots yet to prove. Perhaps one of the most concerning reports last month was that Calhanoglu and Andre Silva could be offloaded, but that would be a big mistake.
There is a genuine belief that there is still so much more to come from those two in particular, while things can only improve for Lucas Biglia after an underwhelming first few months. Bonucci and Musacchio have had their troubles too, but if Milan want to make progress and benefit from a sense of stability, then major changes aren’t what is needed if they can be avoided.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.