After fairing wonderfully in the first half of the season, AC Milan has had an inauspicious start to the year 2011, thanks to injuries to some of the pivotal players. AC Milan went into the winter break at the top of the table; but, at present, are having a torrid time. They have tasted victory only once in three encounters.
Milan bolstered their attack immensely in the summer transfer market with signings which surely delighted Milanistas world over. However, Galliani failed to resurrect the defensive unit, which can cost them dearly.
It’s rather ironical that in spite of being an Italian football giant and having possessed some of the greatest defenders of all time, Milan suffers from a severe shortage of a decent full backs.
It’s a fact that with players like Baresi and Maldini in their ranks, Milan made San Siro their fortress. Sadly, this fact has now become a myth.
Why did the fortress crumble?
In Nesta and Silva, Milan possesses arguably the best center-back pairing in Serie A. But then again let us be real, Nesta is not getting any younger and sooner or later Milan would need someone to replace him. Unfortunately at the moment, this doesn’t even look remotely possible, considering the defensive talent Il Diavolo have at their disposal.
Thiago Silva has impressed and has forged a crucial partnership at the back of the field with Nesta since Il Capitano retired. However, an injury to either of them will magnify the void that the Rossoneri have at the heart of their defense. This is something which Inter Milan and Manchester United showcased and fully utilized last season.
Bonera, who is Allegri’s first choice replacement for either of them, in the center back position should hang his boots as soon as possible for his own sake (before the Italian Mafia decides to take this matter into their own hands). Watching him defend or for that matter, Seedorf trying to hold onto the ball, has been the worst sight for any Milan supporter this season.
Why is Allegri not fielding the young Greek Papastathopoulos, is beyond comprehension. More so because he has a Bonera on the bench whose ‘forte’ is woeful defending and serving goal scoring opportunities to the rival forwards on a platter. The 34-year old Yepes, the first signing done by Galliani this season has proved more effective than Mr. Bonera and should be given more match time because nothing can be worse than Daniele Bonera.
Injury to Zambrotta, their first choice fullback, has made matters worse. In spite of him being way past his prime, he remains the best option for a full back position. This further highlights the incapability of Milan, to attract world class young defenders to their squad, off late.
It is difficult to label Antonini, who fills in for Milan at left back position as a ‘defender’ – even at gun-point. while performing his defensive duties, he is often found out of position and down in the mouth. Even an average attacker, who creates attacks from the flank, has the ability to keep Luca in his pocket.
Ignazio Abate, who was severely criticized for his performance last season, has put up an improved defensive display this time around. Even though he is not a natural defender, he has worked hard to fit into the role of a right back. He does goof up every now and then but then that is only expected if you play a midfielder in a role that is not meant for him. He has shown promise this season and with age on his side – which is a rarity in Milan, he might develop into a full fledge right back.
Galliani would not even remember as to why Oguchi Onyewu was even bought. After missing the entire 2009-10 season, due to injury, he has been loaned to FC Twente. The American international made just two appearances in Milan colors and both these matches ended in a defeat. A reason behind this could be the fact that they found it rather difficult to pronounce his name in Milan. So communicating on the pitch with him would have been challenging for his teammates.
Bruno Montelongo could be another Onyewu in the making. Not only is he blessed with an interesting surname but also because this Uruguayan youngster has not seen any playing time at the San Siro, despite the unavailability of good defenders.
If reports coming from Italy are to be believed then one could expect a decent defender at the San Siro. Galliani is believed to be on the lookout for a solid young defender and he has been wearing his lucky golden tie as well. Fans can count on another great deal coming Milan’s way this winter market after getting a steal in the form of Cassano, early this January.
On the radar
Criscito is one name which is doing the rounds in almost all Italian sports newspaper. He is one guy who can liberate Milan from its defensive ailments. Galliani did admit that talks are on with Genoa to rope in the 24-year old defender on loan, with an option to buy him at the end of the season. This deal looks a little dicey as Genoa’s president has outrightly refused to let Criscito go this winter. However, taking into consideration Galliani’s negotiating abilities, one can always expect surprises. What might work for the Italian giants is that Milan and Genoa have been actively involved with each other in this transfer market and if this deal goes through, it should certainly strengthen the bond.
With Genoa’s president standing in the way of the Criscito-deal, Sampdoria’s Ziegler has emerged as a front runner as his replacement in the transfer market. Doria signing of Zsolt Laczkó is a strong indication that Milan are the favourites in acquiring the Swiss defender before the transfer window closes. Milan desperately needs him and rumours have it that they are even willing to pay Sampdoria’s share to Real Madrid for Cassano, to get this deal done.
With Inter, Lazio and Napoli breathing down AC Milan’s neck, Galliani needs to fully utilize this winter mercato if Milan wants to see themselves with the Scudetto after the 38 rounds of Serie A or if they want to better their last season’s performance in UEFA Champions League.
Till now, Milan has conceded the least amount of goals in Serie A; but one would not consider betting on Milan with their current backline if they were to take on the likes of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid or even Tottenham for that matter, who have a certain Gareth Bale.