Milan have struggled to retain the hard-earned Scudetto which they won in 2011. Fighting through a season filled with injuries, heartburn and more injuries (in some cases, career-threatening), Milan ended up almost empty-handed, an undeserved prize for a cruel season. If one looks back and compares the 2011 with the 2012 season, the thing which will strike the mind first is the amazing number of goals conceded last season.
AC Milan – Defensive Lapses
A total of 33 goals were conceded last season in the league alone despite (or because of) Bonera, “one of the most talented center back in the world”, featuring in the Milan back-line on a regular basis. So much so, Milan committed defensive mistakes from the very onset of the season and till the time the winter break came, Milan had committed as many mistakes as they would normally make in an entire season.
Compare this to the previous season where Milan had leaked only 24 goals – 12 home and 12 away. Also, there were not too many changes defensively for the 2010-11 season. The defenders which came in are – Mario Yepes from Chievo, Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Genoa, Bruno Montelongo from River Plate, Didac Vila from Espanyol and Nicola Legrottaglie from Juventus. These players were brought – some for their experience, some to increase the depth and some to add a new dimension to the Milan back-line.
However, every one of them failed to live up to the mark that was expected from them. Yepes found little time on the field and on almost all those occasions, barring only one or two, failed to meet expectations. However, one thing that can be said in favor of Yepes is his attacking instincts – Strongly built, Yepes often charged forward creating chances. But those forward runs backfired heavily at times, when he lost the ball in the midfield. All in all, Milan cannot sit back and relax knowing that Yepes is manning their defense line.
The same happened with Papastathopoulos. A lot was expected of him after he was named the “Greek Young Footballer of the year” in 2008. But his time in Milanello was cut short when he was shipped back to Genoa. Montolengo and Vila rarely played for Milan and these were two unnecessary transfers which not only wasted money but also dashed the hopes of fans. Legrottaglie was brought in to enrich this squad with his vast experience, but he too left, bloodied and with a broken nose.
Milan Defensive Dilemmas Last Season
That brings us to the 2011-12 season. The defenders that were brought in included Philippe Mexes from Roma, Taye Taiwo from Marseille and Djamel Mesbah from Lecce. Mexes, though good on few occasions has had his blooper moments. Also, in the ill-tempered and ill-fated match against Juventus, where the ghost-goal was denied, Mexes punched Borriello – an action which was not only distasteful but also one which divided Milan fans worldwide. Granted that Mexes is heavily experienced in Serie A, he still has quite some way to go before being expected to lead the Milan back-line.
Much was said about Taiwo and his long-range bullets which sometimes found the back of the net back in France. But in the four matches he played for Milan, he was often found out of position and none of his shots even went within a mile of the goal post. He was packed off to QPR for the rest of the season as Allegri found him “not suitable” for Milan. Mesbah, on the other hand, has age on his side, but has a long way to go to even fill the left-back position which has been vacant since Maldini departed.
Milan have experimented a lot with the defensive line-up in the previous two seasons, mostly due to unavailability of key players. But one thing which has come forth is the partnership between Nesta and Silva. In the 2010-11 season, whenever these two stalwarts played for Milan, the opposition rarely got a sniff of the goal. But last season with Nesta being out injured for a longer part of the season and Silva injuring himself against Roma needlessly, Milan were bereft of a proper defensive combo. But now with Nesta’s departure to Montreal, the inevitable question arises – who will partner Silva?
The Central Defenders
The present choices in the team for the center defense position are Mexes, De Sciglio, Yepes and the ‘ever promising’ Bonera. With such exalted company, Milan need to look far far away to even come up with a suitable player. This brings us to Brazil, more specifically to Vasco da Gama. Anderson Vital da Silva aka Dede has been making headlines for quite some time as being the next big thing from Brazil.
The big nasty defender, erstwhile known as Lucio is now 34 and his counterpart, Juan is 33. Both of these players are not getting any younger, and hence Brazil coach Mano Menezes has looked in the other direction while selecting the squad for friendlies. Out came Dede, an unknown talent who was first seen in the match against Argentina. Strong and tall, Dede is a commanding presence in the Brazil back-line and with adequate exposure is bound to be a mainstay for the Selecao in the years to come. Voted the best central defender for the past two seasons, Dede has been one of the reasons for Vasco’s resurgence.
Another player who can fill the void is Mats Hummels. He has been making all the right kind of noises since last season and so far every team who can afford him is readying themselves with a cheque book. Although Hummels plays in a more competitive league than Dede, the latter has scored more goals (17 in 120 matches). However, Dede has been instrumental in making Neymar as uncomfortable as possible during the Campeonato matches. Being an imposing presence, Neymar found Dede to be a tough nut to crack and in spite of the pre-match shenanigans, never got past him.
Watch the video below to see how Neymar’s life was made uncomfortable by Dede.
Dede comes in at a much cheaper price than Hummels and at 7.5 million Euros is a deal which Milan should look to ink as soon as possible. However, by no means is Dede a finished product and at 24 years of age. He still has a steep learning curve in front of him. Should Milan decide to acquire his signature come the end of August, Allegri can heave a sigh of relief knowing that under Silva and Dede’s watch, Milan can breathe easy.