The disappointments have only continued to grow for AC Milan from the last season after the club could not produce anything noteworthy. In the second season for Massimiliano Allegri in charge, the club failed to defend the Serie A title and adding to the anguish of the fans, bitter rivals Juventus were crowned the eventual champions.
The quest for a European crown is still far from complete and it was pretty evident in Milan being outplayed against Barcelona after reaching the quarter finals of Champions League. The downfall in performance levels can majorly be attributed to the number of players who remained unavailable for selection at any given time which delimited the options for the coach.
However, the squad, to the fullest of its strength, still looked pretty potent but then rose a club in France called Paris Saint-Germain and in a matter of days the squad available to Allegri looked depleted, incompetent and extremely thin. The collective departure of an entire generation of players was not something the fans would have anyway found easy dealing with and adding to the pain, the club saw the two best players depart for Paris in Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The financial problems at the club are very well-known and the money generated out of those sales was never even expected to be utilized into buying immediate replacements of equal merit. The speculations were confirmed when Milan continued making pedestrian signings, adding no real quality whatsoever to the squad apart from the numbers.
The latest development in the transfer market has seen Antonio Cassano switch loyalties to city rivals Inter, the club he apparently was a fan of as a child. The deal has landed Italian forward Giampaolo Pazzini in exchange of another €7 Million.
This should in all probabilities, put an end to the last creative dimension left in Milan. That leaves the squad in a largely unconvincing state and it will take nothing short of a miracle for Allegri to challenge for the title. TheHardTackle evaluates every single component of this Milanese squad and tries to predict the possible outcomes at the end of the season.
- Christian Abbiati
- Marco Amelia
This was a department of concern last season too and from their activities in the transfer market, it appears Milan are hardly bothered about the shortcomings here. Christian Abbiati was at times tentative in one-on-one situations and his collection of an aerial ball too was not the cleanest. His distribution has always left a lot to be desired and with him not getting any younger Milan certainly need to add quality in this area.
Perhaps Abbiati may continue playing at the top-level for two more seasons but he cannot be relied upon to deliver goods for ninety minutes week after week. His immediate deputy Marco Amelia adds little promise to Milan’s goalkeeping woes and with Flavio Roma’s departure, Milan are even thinner in number now. Brazil’s 19-year-old custodian Gabriel was signed from Cruzeiro but he is not expected to be thrown into the first team straight-away. He could enjoy good playing time for the Primavera team and probably nominate himself for the senior team next season.
- Philippe Mexes
- Francesco Acerbi
- Mario Yepes
- Cristian Zapata
- Daniele Bonera
- Ignazio Abate
- Mattia De Sciglio
- Luca Antonini
- Djamel Mesbah
- Didac Vila
Given the quality of the names that the squad sheet reads, Milan are likely to be extremely vulnerable in their own half throughout the season. The entire defence heavily relied on the central defensive partnership of Nesta and Silva till last season and with the loss of both, the defence should definitely be caught wanting from time to time. That, the central defence will be led by Phillipe Mexes enough suggests the lack of leadership and organization at the heart of defence.
New signing Francesco Acerbi is certain to accompany Mexes in the centre and the Italian has shown promise in the pre-season but those performances can certainly not be considered a yardstick to predict how strong could be prove to be against the big names in Italy and especially when Milan contest in Europe.
Mario Yepes will be into his third season at the Lombardy based club which may prove to be his last one unless he’s able to be a real asset from the bench. Daniele Bonera, despite the general tone of criticism that is always associated with his game was far from an abysmal defender last season and can surely be banked on to keep delivering few disciplined performances when any of the first choice defenders is unavailable for selection.
New signing Cristian Zapata brings with him some promise and also provides an alternative to deploy him a little above the defensive line in the role of a sweeper to add a protective dimension to a defence that inspires no real confidence. He could play in the van Bommel role but his assistance to the other midfielders should be even inferior to that of the Dutch man as far as attacking in concerned.
Ignazio Abate will continue to operate from the right-back slot but his fitness raises concerns after the injury that he picked up during the 2-3 loss against Juventus. Mattia De Sciglio is expected to be consistently engaged with the first team this season and his versatility to adjust in both the full back slots can prove to be a great asset to Max Allegri. The left-back slot is still left unattended and Allegri will have to rotate between Antonini and Mesbah. Didac Vila too is an option but there’s a good chance he might again be loaned out before the transfer window closes after the loan move to Valencia could not materialize as the player failed to clear the medical.
- Massimo Ambrosini (captain)
- Riccardo Montolivo
- Antonio Nocerino
- Kevin Prince-Boateng
- Mathieu Flamini
- Urby Emanuelson
- Sulley Muntari
- Rodney Strasser
- Bakaye Traore
- Kevin Constant
- Mattia Valoti
It can easily be said Milan midfield offered close to no creativity last season and that is not expected to change pretty soon. The departure of Ibrahimovic will only further the problems as Milan do not boast of a single midfielder since Pirlo left for a certain club that wears black & white. Milan have not retained Alberto Aquilani’s services after his one year association which indicates the loss of another player with decent passing range.
However, the arrival of Riccardo Montolivo may allow Milan to nurture a passing game once again as the ex-Fiorentina man will be operating from the deepest point in midfield unlike the role he performed for Italy earlier in the summer at Euros. Should Flamini stay fit, he may provide him a decent cover defensively while Nocerino should be more focused on attacking duties. The two Italians can combine well going forward while Flamini can more than make up for their poor abilities while tracking back.
Allegri is least likely to change his customary 4-3-1-2 formation and hence unless there is a prolonged injury period that keeps any of these three out, most of the others will continue to warm bench. Allegri is not the greatest fan of rotation but despite that, skipper Massimo Ambrosini is expected to enjoy reasonably good playing time. At his age, a player can no longer perform at highest level every weekend and considering this, Ambrosini will have to make way for the younger, quicker and more effective midfielders.
There is no obvious distinction in any of the three midfield positions as far as Allegri’s system is concerned and he is famous for deploying a blueprint that does not let his counterpart form any clear point of reference to mark a player out. This lets him effectively rotate players – something which is highly necessary given the general fitness condition of players at Milan. Midfielders like Kevin Constant, Bakaye Traore and Sulley Muntari are the players who will come extremely handy while dealing with these injury crises to players who precede them in the pecking order.
Youth team graduates Rodney Strasser and Mattia Valoti have been deemed good enough to be associated with the first team. However, it is important for both of them to be thrown into action from time to time.
Due to the clear lack of options, the injection of creativity is something the trequartista will be accountable for. Boateng will naturally select himself to play in the hole behind the forwards but his proneness to injuries is secret to none. Urby Emanuelson is his clear deputy howsoever unfamiliar the position might be to his natural game.
- Alexandre Pato
- Stephan El Shaarawy
- Giampaolo Pazzini
Max Allegri has to face this. Ibra was Milan and Milan was Ibra for two seasons and he must react smartly to the situation in front of him now. He has lost the last source of creative spark in his roster with Antonio Cassano jumping ships but what he has got in return, however unseemly though, might prove to be a decent signing. An in-form Pazzini knows his job well but he has been off colour for too long to generate any hopes among Milan faithful.
Out of the remaining forwards, Pato is the name Milan will gather their hopes on and should he manage to have one full season without any major injury concerns, he might at least manage Milan a decent campaign in the league. Robinho will provide some selection headache to Allegri but he might well be played in good rotation with Pazzini. Robinho may also fit into the hole should the need arise.
The player who must step up this season is Stephan El Shaarawy. The Italian striker in his short spell at the club has provided the fans to build their hopes on him and this is the time to deliver when the club might well experience an unfamiliarly abysmal start to the season. He will continue to be used as a super-sub quite frequently and he must ensure his conversion rate is top-notch. He has demonstrated his talent in abundance but he can no longer delay to meet the required levels of professionalism, commitment and delivery should he be aiming at reserving a permanent spot in the attacking line.
Milan are extremely thin in all departments and the quality of the signings that have been made is far from the stature that the club beholds in Europe’s footballing circles. It will be fair to suggest Milan will only challenge for the automatic Champions League qualification next season especially given the standards to which Juventus have elevated their squad.
There isn’t much to hope on the European front either as Milan will find it a little too hard to compete against the physically and tactically superior teams from Spain, England and now even France too during the knock-out stages in the competition.
Coppa Italia therefore is a competition Allegri must pay due sincerity as that might earn Milan a piece of silverware nevertheless. Apart from titles though, there is much to gain this season as Milan will see an entirely new set of players take guard and it is important they generate the required team chemistry at the earliest. Milan