Despite beating Newcastle, AC Milan were nevertheless eliminated from the Champions League. The last match in the group stage for the Rossoneri took place in the northern region of England. It was always going to be difficult. The Italian giants had a slim chance of advancing to the Knockout Stage.

The fate of Stefano Poli and his player was out of their hands last night. Even though they secured a dramatic 2-1 win away, they will not be continuing their road to the Champions League. In their place, Borussia Dortmund advanced to the following round with the help of Paris Saint-Germain.

Meanwhile, the third-placed Rossoneri will be eligible to play in the Europa League. After losing out on Europe’s most prized competition, getting into the Europa League is a welcome consolation prize.

With another Champions League season in the rearview mirror, AC Milan is once again left scratching its head. Why was one of Italy’s best teams unable to advance beyond the group stage? The Rossoneri’s inconsistent play, maddening failure to convert opportunities and the influx of new players in the summer played a role.

Summer signings: Too many, too soon?

The arrival of new players during the summer transfer window is a common thread in discussions about AC Milan’s Champions League run. After showing potential in Serie A, the club brought in new blood with no fewer than ten recruits. But it was more difficult than expected to incorporate so many new people into a unified whole.

It asked too much for the team to be able to adjust. Many of these players entered a new league, culture or playing style in a short period. Part of AC Milan’s exit from the tournament goes to the fact the squad had trouble settling into a rhythm.

Adaptation woes of new signings

Both benefits and drawbacks might come from the transition phase for new recruits. Though these newcomers enrich the team with new ideas and abilities, the settling-in process could throw off the existing routine. The new players that Milan brought in this summer have not adjusted to the style of play under Stefano Pioli. The rigors of Champions League participation in a volatile group expose those flaws.

With six goals and three assists across all competitions so far, Christian Pulisic is alone among the new signings to make an immediate impact while wearing the Red and Blacks shirt. He began leaving his imprint on the most prestigious platforms after leaving Stamford Bridge in the summer. Milan welcomed the 25-year-old attacker with open arms, giving him the consistent playing time he lacked in London.

Samuel Chukwueze, Luka Jovic, and Noah Okafor are among the attacking newcomers who have had trouble breaking into the starting lineup. Their true value and influence have not become apparent until far into the year’s conclusion.

The squad’s inconsistent play in the group stage might be an indication of how they are adjusting. Because of their inability to work together as a cohesive unit during crucial European matches, Milan has suffered torment in the beautiful game.

Consistent injury crisis

It would seem that AC Milan has been in a continual state of urgency about absent players. Injuries have been a major problem for the Italians this season. In fact. the Champions League loss to Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 5 was just the latest in a string of setbacks.

The Bundesliga side defeated them 3-1 at San Siro and almost eliminated Milan from the group stage. Dortmund scored two after Milan pulled Malick Thiaw out with a hamstring injury. The German club’s speed on the wings exposed the inefficiencies of depth in the Milan ranks. Stefano Poli finished the game with central midfielder Rade Krunic playing at center defense.

It speaks volumes about the current state of affairs. Seventeen of the 27 injuries sustained by the Rossoneri this season have been muscular in nature. With 10 players out with injuries at recent games, Pioli used creative solutions with one healthy center back.

Unbelievable as may seem, Englishman Fikayo Tomori is their only option for a central defender. Injuries have kept Thiaw, Simon Kjaer, Pierre Kalulu, and young Marco Pellegrino out of play for the time being. Mattia Caldara is also not playing for the team, having been sidelined indefinitely. Also, club star and winger Rafael Leao was out until the last Newcastle game with a hamstring injury.

Profligacy in front of goal

The failure to score from several opportunities has been a major problem for AC Milan throughout their Champions League campaign. Despite showing promise in the offensive third, the club suffered from a lack of precision finishing.

The Milanese team’s wastefulness played a role in its early elimination. Not only did the club lack finishing, but the usual goal-scorers were non-apparent on the field. The first match against Newcastle United at San Siro yielded a scoreless draw despite a fierce effort. That game is a phenomenal illustration of this issue.

Despite being a continual danger down the left and keeping the Magpies’ defense busy, Leao’s finishing failed him after scoring in his previous two outings. After trying a backheel instead of a more direct finish, the Portuguese star became an early target of criticism.

Even worse for his side in Group F, they went scoreless in the next two back-to-back games. After a scoreless draw with Borussia Dortmund, they lost 3-0 at PSG. Just two weeks ago, Milan had another chance to save their Champions League campaign when Samuel Chukwueze earned a penalty kick for Dortmund in the first half.

Gregor Kobel stopped a penalty kick by Olivier Giroud, and Dortmund wasted little time getting the ball back and scoring. It was the pinnacle of their European season in that one instant. Still, the Milanese players should shoulder some of the blame for the failure to advance. Their responsibility for a return of only three goals from 7.9 xG into the last game is high.

“Pioli’s on Fire”: Has it burned out?

No matter how it seems from the third position in Serie A, the Rossoneri are really in the midst of a major problem right now. The legendary song “Pioli’s on Fire” is no longer heard at the San Siro before games begin.

Doubts about his tactical style and his role in player load management have never been higher. There is no denying the validity of the critique of the Italian boss. Stefano Pioli will stay on as head coach since the team avoided a total withdrawal from Europe. He has prevented the club from firing him, at least for the time being.

Despite some perplexing selection selections, Pioli put Milan in a position to produce and win with his match preparations. On the field, he began Tommaso Pobega instead of Tijjani Reijnders in the San Siro match against Newcastle, and in Dortmund, he substituted Yacine Adli, who had a fantastic impact.

Over the last several weeks, Pioli has baffled everyone by starting his most dangerous attacker, Theo Hernandez, at center back instead of promoting one of his academy products or repurposing Rade Krunic.

The 5-1 humiliation suffered by their city rivals in September only served to strengthen the notion that Pioli had finally reached the end of his tenure at Milan. For the Rossoneri, it was their sixth straight derby defeat this year.

There was no doubt that the coach was failing to grow from his setbacks. Despite bringing in a slew of new players, Milan’s pressing game, choice to man mark, and lack of innovative offensive patterns caused them to stagnate rather than advance.