AC Milan started this new season under a new coach, Filippo Inzaghi. He had a full pre-season to prepare his players during which they won some and lost few of their matches. The matches they lost, they lost by quite a margin, most notably the one against defending English champions, Manchester City in the Internationals Champions Cup. There were no eyebrows raised since this was only pre-season and there were quite a number of players coming in as well as going out.

Fast forward to the new season, and Milan find that their problems at the back have not lessened even one bit. On the other hand, it threatens to become a menace ai??i?? one which will require immediate attention from the coach and his team. The closure of this transfer window left Milan with a plethora of attacking options and Inzaghi currently has as many as 7 strikers to call on as and when required. Going by the number of goals scored till now into the season, it can be safely said that scoring goals might not be a problem for Milan this season. It is at the back where Milan will be found wanting.

The defense line was strengthened by the addition of Rami, who was the best defender last year and also by the arrival of Diego Lopez, who just won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid. The first match of the season saw Milan take on Lazio, where they emerged comfortable victors with a 3-1 margin. Although all goals were scored by Milan players, the backline was not tested much. Inzaghi appears to have formed two centre-back pairs ai??i?? Zapata-Rami and Alex-Bonera. Till now, he has stuck to either one of these two pairs. The worst part of these pairs is that Bonera is still preferred as a centre-back when he clearly lacks the ability to play in such a position. Over the years, he has displayed some notable performances but he has waned to such an extent that he is schooled by youngsters week-in week-out now. Unless Milan gets rid of such deadwoods, they will face disappointments at the back.

Zapata-Rami has looked a far better option at the back and Inzaghi should give a long run to Rami, more so since they had invested quite heavily on him. Rami also possesses a powerful header and has a knack for scoring from corners, as was demonstrated in their last match against Cesena. It is a fact that the centre-back pair lacks defensive cohesion and forwards so far have been able to play through them quite easily. What is more worrisome for Milan is the defensive frailties of their attacking full-backs. So far this season, Milan have deployed Abate on the right and their Primavera product, De Sciglio on the left of their back four.

The full-backs have played their part in the attack to perfection but in doing so, seems to have forgotten their defensive duties. On many occasions this season, Abate was found so far high up the pitch that Poli had to deputize for him in the right-back position. While doing that does neutralize any threats personnel-wise, their defense is laid bare the minute Abate goes on one of his rampaging runs. Sometimes the ball falls inside the opponentai??i??s box while it goes for a corner otherwise. But it begs an important question ai??i?? does this rampage down the right flank give them any stability?

Moving over to the left flank, we find a similar situation, although in this case, De Sciglio goes so deep into the opposition half that he rarely tracks back to his usual position. Throughout the entire match, he can be found mostly inside the opponentai??i??s half, high on the left wing. His failure to track back has exposed Milan on the left on many occasions, most recently against Cesena, where the home team exploited the hole in the right side of the field. De Sciglio cannot be fully blamed for this since he plays in two very different systems for club and country.

For Italy under Conte, he is used as wide midfielder, as the left wing in a 3-5-2 formation. In that particular formation, the need to track back might not be so much but in a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2, there needs to be four players at the back to provide the formation some stability. So far this season, Milan have conceded a handful of goals, but the most bizarre has to be the own goal by De Sciglio against Parma. That goal has been played and replayed and every time it seems more and more ridiculous. The fact that Lopez pulled his hamstring and fell awkwardly on the ground added to the ludicrousness of the situation.

Inzaghi needs to figure out an optimal way to handle his full-backs since they are playing under two very different systems. If the need so arose, he might even choose to change the formation to a back 3 with two wide wingers. Getting the defensive set-up right should be the number one priority for Inzaghi right now and unless he figures out a way soon, Milan will be in for more humiliation at the back this season.

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