“The Best Is Yet to Come” – Reviewing Pioli First Year With Milan

Consistency has been the modern downfall of Milan and Long gone seem their days of European and domestic dominance, but with Stefano Pioli celebrating a successful first year in the job, things look a bit more comfortable.

Stability seems to be forming at Milan for the first time in a long time. Pioli, unlike his predecessors, looks like he actually has a future spanning more than 18 months in the Milan dugout, and more importantly, he seems to have a plan.

Most before him had either been sacked a year on from their appointment or were at least on the cusp of. But the Milan we see today is one with potential. A young team built with the right blend of experience, playing football, should be played in Rossoneri colors.

In truth, though, Pioli’s Milan tenure started as many expected it would – the former Fiorentina boss managed just one win in his opening six games in charge, with a record-setting 5-0 defeat at Atalanta capping what was a tormentuous 2019 for Milan.

Right around the corner in 2020 though was a different challenge for Pioli. As he dragged the club towards the end of what would’ve been an underwhelming campaign, the world was shut down, and Milan’s season brought to a temporary halt.

The break-in football gave the Milan officials some more food for thought. Pioli’s side lost at home to 10-man Genoa in their final game before fixtures were suspended, pulling Genoa out of the drop zone and leaving themselves in 7th, a full 37 points behind eventual champions Juventus.

It was likely a somber time for Pioli and made even more so by the fueling rumors of Ralf Rangnick’s imminent appointment. Throughout the most part of 2020, the German manager was being lined-up for the Milan job for the upcoming 2020-21 season and in July, the news was confirmed.

After missing on the Manchester United job, the ex-RB Leipzig boss was finally announced as Milan’s coach. He would take over from Pioli after he saw out Milan’s restarting fixtures but, a little over two weeks after the announcement, the move was off.

Pioli was given the green-light to remain in charge. His side restarted the Serie A season stronger than any other; in the nine games leading up to the news of Rangnick’s appointment being called off, Milan won seven, drew the other two, and scored 27 goals.

Milan emerged from the ashes of lock-down like a completely new outfit. Fast and looking sharp, motivated and playing in a system that was efficient and entertaining to watch – the “Milan of old” was starting to shine through once again.

And of course, their momentum didn’t stop there. Milan remained unbeaten for the remainder of the 2019-20 season and snatched a 5th-place finish, landing just 11 points behind 2nd-placed Napoli and 22 behind Juventus.

Since then, Pioli has not only been able to bring in the next batch of Milan youngsters, headed by one of Italy’s most exciting prospects in Sandro Tonali, but he’s been able to continue, and even better his side’s form on the field.

Including last summer’s friendlies, Milan have won their last 12 fixtures in all competitions, going unbeaten in 23 with a 3-0 win at home to Spezia last time out. The win saw Milan briefly claim the top spot in Serie A with a perfect record so far – three wins from three, and three clean sheets.

For the first time in a long time, we’re looking at Milan as genuine title contenders. The Serie A has experienced a lot of change up and down the structure of late, but with the bulk of the top clubs in Italy seemingly settling on managers and plans for the future, it’s leaving the Scudetto race open for those who can put plan-to-action the fastest.

Atalanta currently lead the pack with Milan, Inter, and Napoli trail shortly behind, whilst Juve, Lazio, and Roma have started relatively slow. Milan though, with a handful of Europa League qualifiers to contend with as well, have come bursting into the new season, and with a newfound belief.

On the whole, Pioli’s first year-to-date couldn’t have gone better. Given the names before him, Pioli certainly came into this job as an underdog, but wading through the stresses of 2020 and performing so well as to force a club U-turn in the managerial depot, Pioli’s work at Milan is not going unnoticed, and there’s a sense that the best is yet to come.