The AC Milan overhaul last summer has provided mixed results at the Stadio San Siro, with the Rossoneri already trailing Serie A leaders Inter by a wider margin than they would have hoped for. The return of Ismael Bennacer in January, though, could reignite their title challenge while they try to fix a struggling squad.
Although Milan lost the Derby della Madonnina 5-1, it was their only defeat of the first eight games of the domestic campaign. But as injuries and suspensions to the first team increased, the limitations of players brought in for a total of more than €130m have become clear.
The Rossoneri then went winless in their next four Serie A matches, with attacking reinforcements Samuel Chukwueze, Luka Jovic and Noah Okafor failing to relieve the goalscoring burden from a 37-year-old Olivier Giroud. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders have reinvigorated the midfield, but a Bennacer-shaped hole still exists.
What impact will a returning Ismael Bennacer have on AC Milan?
Because of the amount of change at Milan during the summer, the return of the Algerian and all the experience and technique the former Arsenal youth player brings can help the evolution of a squad that has shown signs of promise. Probably ahead of schedule when taking 21 points from a possible 24 at the start of the campaign.
The 25-year-old will feel like a new signing for coach Stefano Pioli and provides a skill set unlike others within the squad, providing a combination of defensive shielding, ball carrying and incisive passing. He will need little time to reconnect with the style his coach wishes to impose on the team.
How do AC Milan correct their errors in the transfer market?
While the Rossoneri probably want to make small tweaks to their squad, any arrivals during January need to be at a higher level to ensure that they can have an immediate impact on Milan’s fortunes in Serie A.
The Milanese giants must also forget about the Scudetto in the short term and focus on continuing to secure Champions League football for next season, which helped facilitate the huge spending last summer.
If Bennacer returns at the level he was performing before injury, it can facilitate the second evolution of the team under Pioli, but will need the likes of Chukwueze to show the confidence displayed at Villarreal last term and support Giroud.