Montella turning Milan around quicker than expected

With 12 games of the Serie A season in the books and with the focus on the international break, it's an opportunity for AC Milan coach Vincenzo Montella and his staff to reflect on the first few months of his tenure at the San Siro.

The 42-year-old was a popular choice this past summer to replace Cristian Brocchi and although there have unsurprisingly been some bumps in the road, he's done a commendable job in taking the Rossoneri forward.

Heavy defeats to Napoli and Genoa were undoubtedly the low points, but they have been offset by thrilling wins over Sassuolo and Juventus. Milan have taken 25 points from a possible 36, good enough for 3rd place in the Serie A table and their third best start of the last 10 years.

There is likely to be further inconsistency between now and the end of the season, but there are many highlights and lowlights to discuss already this year as noted in the five talking points below.

Montella's influence

The Italian tactician has given Milan a sense of direction and built on the positive work done by Sinisa Mihajlovic last season. There is an identity about this team and a mental strength that has been absent in recent years.

With greater patience in possession and a desire to control games, Montella's simple and calming approach has instilled confidence and belief in the players that they are capable of getting results consistently and responding to a setback.

Milan are building a winning mentality and playing as a group and that makes up for any deficiencies in technical ability or experience. With the right spirit and Montella's tactical flexibility to adapt to the players at his disposal, there are many positive early signs.

Faith in youth has produced results

Milan have presented a project to the supporters that they can get behind. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Manuel Locatelli and several other talented young Italians now form the core of this squad, and it's producing early results.

It appears as though the days of stringing low-cost deals together to try and assemble some sort of squad are over, and Montella has a solid foundation on which to build as his faith in these young players has been rewarded thus far.

The likes of Donnarumma and Locatelli have proven decisive already this season, and with further time, patience and faith, the players mentioned can all grow into fundamental pieces of Milan's long-term success.

Players grabbing second-chances and opportunities to impress

The entire squad deserves credit for their efforts so far this season as they've been able to respond when called upon.

Whether it's Gabriel Paletta and Suso returning from loan spells last season to form pivotal parts of this squad to Gianluca Lapadula and Andrea Poli coming in and giving their teammates a lift with the right mentality.

It's been a group effort thus far, and if Milan have hopes of sustaining their good form, they'll need that to continue even when facing adversity.

Defensive record must still be fixed

Although the Rossoneri now look more of a cohesive unit, it's been more effective from an attacking perspective than a defensive point of view.

Milan have scored 19 goals so far this season, a respectable tally, but they've also conceded 15, which is the second most of any team in the top 10 of the Serie A standings.

It's difficult to pinpoint what exactly can be done to fix the issue, as on an individual basis, the likes of Donnarumma, Paletta and Mattia De Sciglio have all been impressive and provided solidity at different times.

Whether it's a lack of concentration or a collective issue, Montella needs to figure it out as they've shown signs of how effective they can be at times with five clean sheets.

Important to build on early success in right way

After years of failed signings and desperate loan deals to assemble a squad devoid of real quality, Milan have now found the right way to build again.

However, all the players have to buy into what Montella is trying to do and those who don't should be considered dispensable.

With the takeover of the club to be completed next month, it's absolutely crucial that they get things right in the transfer market. Experienced and quality additions are more than welcome, but what Milan can't do now is stunt the growth and development of their key young players.

They have to build around them and help them step up to the next level, and finding that balance will be one of the next big tests Montella will face as he hopes to prove that his methods can produce long-term results at a club which hasn't exp