AC Milan went into the weekend of the season’s first Derby della Madonnina on Sunday oddly placed seven points clear of their city rivals Inter and sitting joint top of Serie A alongside Napoli.
A chaotically balanced affair at the Stadio San Siro saw the spoils shared between the Milanese cousins, allowing Stefano Pioli‘s side to stay at the top of the table into the season’s third international break and, more importantly, to keep the Italian champions at arm’s length.
Given the Rossoneri were 2020/21’s winter champions but ended the season finishing second some way adrift of Inter, it may come across as dismissive to describe their current position as odd or unexpected. But, had the problems they’ve had to face been known before the season began, few would have predicted Milan to be sitting at Serie A’s summit and still unbeaten having played Inter, Juventus, Atalanta, Roma, and Lazio already.
Milan have gone away to both Roma and Atalanta and won, while they’ve beaten Lazio with relative ease at home. Against Juventus and Inter they managed to draw, meaning that nobody has taken anything from them yet.
Now, Milan sit on 32 points after 12 rounds of Serie A for the first time since three points have been awarded for a win – 1994/95.
Pioli keeps finding solutions to problems at Milan
What’s most impressive about Milan’s form this season is that they’ve managed to do it without Stefano Pioli ever having his first-choice XI to call upon. At any given point this term, Milan have been without at least one key player.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic played just 30 minutes of the first seven rounds of fixtures, and on his return in Round 8 Mike Maignan had just started his injury absence. Olivier Giroud missed three rounds as well – two of those coinciding with Ibrahimovic.
Theo Hernandez missed out in tough wins over Hellas Verona, Bologna, and the draw against Inter; Simon Kjaer was absent as they beat Venezia and Spezia; Davide Calabria missed the draw with Juventus and the win over Venezia; while Brahim Diaz missed the wins against Verona, Bologna, and Torino.
One way or another, Pioli has found a way to keep Milan winning – or at least not losing – even if they haven’t always been entirely convincing.
The trip to Bologna at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara was a particularly fortunate three points, and was perhaps the only time this season that the Milan boss has looked lost for ideas against the Rossoblu’s nine men. But, when all was said and done, they left Emilia-Romagna with three points in the bag.
Following the disappointment of last season, Milan and their fans will be the first to exercise caution when talking about the Serie A table. But their relentless unbeaten streak suggests that they might just have learned lessons from their shortcomings in 2020/21, and with a seven-point cushion to boast over Inter, it might be time for them – their fans at least – to start dreaming about how this season could end.
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