Many teams have found it difficult since the restart to find their best form and consistency after approximately three months of inactivity but after a disappointing defeat to Genoa on their home return, AC Milan are undoubtedly the form team of the moment in Serie A right now.
The Rossoneri have gone on to achieve four wins from their next five matches in great fashion with some very notable scalps against teams higher than them in the league standings. Big three points against Roma, Lazio and Juventus have reignited Milan’s hopes for a European spot next season.
Stefano Pioli’s time at the club may be numbered but it looks like he’s found the right formula at the 18-time Serie A champions, culminating in the come from behind win over the current league leaders. At the heart of it all, Hakan Calhanoglu is adamant that the belief is seeping back into the team.
“It feels very good [to beat Juventus]. We played against Juventus who are a very strong team. After the 2-0, we never gave up and we tried to do something on the pitch. We created a lot of chances. After the penalty that Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] scored, the confidence came back to us. It’s an amazing feeling, we are so happy and the atmosphere is so incredible now.
“We also played well in the Coppa Italia against them but it was difficult with one less player. With 10, you have to run more and defend more. That game was in our mind during the league match and it showed in the way we played.
“This is what we missed in the past because against the big teams, we didn’t win too much. Now we’ve beaten Roma, Lazio and now Juventus with Napoli next,” said Calhanoglu in a special interview with Southeast Asia media earlier in the week.
Calhanoglu has a special bond with Pioli who told him from day one that he understood what the Turkish international can do and is using him in his preferred position as the number 10, which has given the former Bayer Leverkusen player all the confidence he needs.
Signed by the Italian club in the summer of 2017, it hasn’t always been a rosy ride for Calhanoglu in the three seasons that he has been there thus far. Suspended in the initial months of his arrival, he also had to deal with the changes in head coach from Vincenzo Montella to Gennaro Gattuso to Marco Giampaolo to Pioli.
With five goals and three assists in the league thus far, Calhanoglu is finally able to show just why Milan pushed the boat out to secure his signature for a reported €23.30M fee and gave him the coveted number 10 shirt worn in the past by Ruud Gullit, Zvonimir Boban and Clarence Seedorf.
“I’m three years here but since I’ve been here, things are always changing. I’ve already trained with four coaches and new directors, the stability is not like it was before in Milan. Everybody tries to do the best for Milan but something is missing. As players we can only look at what we can do on the pitch. I’m hopeful that we can bring Milan back to what it was before.
“Let’s not forget that I didn’t play for six months when I first arrived at Milan. It was very difficult for me to come back. I was in a bad condition physically. Arriving at a big club like Milan, people are expectant of me because they know me from Leverkusen.
“The first year I didn’t show it like I wanted. The second year I was playing better day by day and when Gattuso arrived, he gave me big energy and pushed me a lot. Physically I was very good with him. Sometimes he let me play in my role but tactically he was not like Pioli, he’s more defensive style. With Pioli we play aggressive and always offensive, that is better for me. So my best year as the people say, is this year. That is true.”
Seven more matches remain for the 2019/20 season, seven more matches for Calhanoglu and Milan to attempt to reproduce that second half performance against Juventus in a full 90 minutes match. If they are able to do that, then Milan could find themselves taking that first step to perhaps a title charge in the 2020/21 season.
You can catch Hakan Calhanoglu and AC Milan in action via:
13 July: Napoli vs Milan on FOX Sports 2 (Astro CH 836 (SD) / 816 (HD), unifi TV CH 707)
16 July: Milan vs Parma on FOX Sports (Astro CH 835 (SD) / 815 (HD), unifi TV CH 706)
19 July: Milan vs Bologna on FOX Sports 2 (Astro CH 836 (SD) / 816 (HD), unifi TV CH 707)
22 July: Sassuolo vs Milan on FOX Sports (Astro CH 835 (SD) / 815 (HD), unifi TV CH 706)