AC Milan’s 2024 form and triumph over struggling Napoli helps Stefano Pioli: Will he stay with the Rossoneri?

AC Milan have found some impressive form in 2024 and they may soon be up to second in Serie A, so should Stefano Pioli be thinking further ahead than just 2023/24?

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It took about 24 hours from the final whistle of AC Milan vs Napoli to realise the real effect of the Rossoneri’s tight win over the Partenopei.

Juventus gave Serie A Matchday 24 an unexpected turn by falling to a 1-0 home defeat against Udinese allowing the Rossoneri to climb to just one point from second place, a scenario that many would consider unrealistic at the very least just a few weeks ago, when the Bianconeri seemed the only team bound to get even close to Inter.

The reduced gap to the Old Lady probably came as a fair reward for a team whose record in the last month and a half has been, as coach Stefano Pioli proudly remarked in a post-match interview, very similar to Serie A leaders Inter‘s. Milan were thrown even more of a bone by Juventus then drawing with Hellas Verona on Matchday 25, meaning they can go second with a win against Monza.

And while Milan‘s display against a toothless Walter Mazzarri side was not probably as eye-catching as their recent victories over Frosinone and AS Roma, at least in terms of quality and chance creation, the pitch gave both the fans and the coach more than one reason to be pleased.

AC Milan rediscover defensive solidity and back-up recent progress

First and foremost, Milan managed to keep their first clean sheet in more than one month after conceding seven goals in the previous four games, and they achieved such a feat by showcasing a level of defensive focus during the full 90 minutes that was of paramount importance to tame Napoli‘s attacking waves, particularly in the second half.

Strong performances from Matteo Gabbia and substitute Alessandro Florenzi proved crucial to limit a lively Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, whose repeated attempts to break into the box tested the opponents’ rearguard more than once but without resulting in a breakthrough.

But the most comforting news arguably came from Milan‘s ability to confirm the progress made in recent times โ€“ once again, the Rossoneri opted for a more versatile approach to the game, nimbly switching between moments of strong defence to a more attacking attitude, although they could’ve been left to rue missed chances in the second half.

Does Stefano Pioli deserve more trust?

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli. [Photo: acmilan.com]

Such a performance was just further proof of their increasing maturity and self-awareness, something Stefano Pioli has been working hard on in recent months.

And in light of their rediscovered form and consistency, it’d be right to wonder whether the rumours of a potential – but almost certain – parting of ways at the end of the season should make room for a more level assessment, especially bearing in mind all the difficulties the Italian manager has had to deal with.

He is out of contract in 2025, so he cold certainly be left in his role for another season after this one.

On the other side, Napoli saw their three-game unbeaten streak halted in a match that once again highlighted their scoring struggles, as they remained goalless for the fifth time in their last seven Serie A outings.

Scoring woes are hindering Napoli’s growth

Although it is true that their defensive solidity has benefitted from the recent tactical tweaks, this remains a serious issue that Walter Mazzarri should absolutely address if they want to revamp a season that currently sees them level with Torino in 10th place, and on course to complete one of the worst title defences in Serie A history.

The return of Victor Osimhen will certainly be a priceless addition to help the Partenopei rediscover their scoring prowess, but calmness and confidence are probably what the Azzurri need the most to get points from displays like the one they put up in Milan, in which they looked unable to convert their moments of territorial supremacy into clear opportunities.

With the European spots still looking within grasp, it is crucial for Napoli to start putting together the consistency required with a view to a respectable final stretch of the season.

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