AC Milan have begun this season quite nicely. Domestically, they sit at second in the Serie A table with 19 points from seven matches. They’ve won six matches (including versus Lazio and Atalanta) and have drawn one match away to Juventus. In the Champions League, they’ve lost both matches. On the surface level that looks to be an issue, but it’s also Milan’s first Champions League appearance since 2014. They put up a very valiant effort in a 2-3 loss to Liverpool at Anfield. Milan also lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid in a match hindered by decisions that led Milan to submit an official complaint on the referee.
With that being said, this Rossoneri squad is mostly led by youngsters. In the most common line-up used, eight players are aged 24 and younger. Mike Maignan, the goalkeeper, is 26-years-old, a very young age for established goalkeepers. Simon Kjaer and Ante Rebic, aged 32 and 28 respectively, are the other two used players.
AC Milan Youngsters Are Stepping Up
Defence and Midfield
As previously stated, Maignan is 26. He came in to replace starlet Gianluigi Donnarumma, and has done so with flying colours. Donnarumma constantly held Milan in games or stopped opposing comebacks, and Maignan is doing the same. The Frenchman also has a knack for outstanding long passes. Considering his age of 26, he may have another decade at the elite level in him.
Other youngsters in the defence include Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez, and Davide Calabria. Tomori is the early front runner for Milan’s player of the season. He also just earned a call-up to the England National Team. The 23-year-old, formerly of Chelsea, has established himself as a leader in the team. Hernandez is proving to be one of the top left-backs in the world at just 23-years-old and also got called up for the France National Team. Lastly, Calabria plays as Milan’s captain on the pitch when Alessio Romagnoli is on the bench. They form one of the top units in Italy alongside the veteran Kjaer.
The typical starting midfield includes Sandro Tonali and Franck Kessie. Tonali is in extremely hot form, shining as Milan’s top midfielder. He also earned an Italy National Team call-up. He already has two goals in Serie A from a holding midfield position. Kessie started off the season with an injury but has been slowly improving since. For the last couple of seasons, he’s been a rock in the midfield.
Milan’s midfield also has the 23-year-old Ismael Bennacer. He’s easily interchangeable with one of Tonali and Kessie, and also one of the most talented players in the team.
Attack Kept Afloat Even With Veteran Injuries
Three players play behind a lone striker in manager Stefano Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 formation. In Milan’s case, these three players have been Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, and Alexis Saelemaekers.
22-year-old Leao is experiencing a breakout season on the left-wing. He has three goals in Serie A and one in the Champions League. Leao’s been known to play with pace and flare before, but he transformed his game with toughness and impeccable passing and positioning this season. Leao now features for the Portugal National Team.
Diaz was tasked with filling Hakan Calhanoglu’s boots and has done so amazingly. The Spaniard has three goals and an assist in Serie A, and a goal and assist in the Champions League. He’s also a determined match-winner, as seen in Milan’s match versus Spezia a couple of weeks ago.
Lastly, there is Saelemaekers on the right-wing. He’s often underappreciated and his statistics don’t show up in the stats sheet, but he’s always committed to doing his job well.
These three continue to shine week in and week out. They’re also doing so with attacking leader Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured for quite some time. In addition, Olivier Giroud’s name continues to appear in injury reports. No task is too small for this attacking trio, and they’ll only improve once the veterans return.
Daniel Maldini, the son of Paolo Maldini, also receives a shout-out for his performances this season. He’s been thrown into matches due to injuries upfront. With that being the case, Maldini takes on the challenge. He even scored his first Serie A goal ever versus Spezia. Maldini is just 19-years-old and is already gaining experience with the AC Milan first team.
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