The 27-year-old French wing forward Jeremy Menez was signed by AC Milan at the start of the season from Paris Saint-Germaine. This is uncommon since Milan are usually at the other end of the transaction when the two clubs are involved in a transfer deal. The arrival of Menez was understandably not met with the greatest zeal but the realistic bunch of the Milan faithful were definitely aware that he was an upgrade over the incumbent roster. With the season slightly past the midpoint, Menez has hardly taken the world by storm but is comfortably the most threatening attacking weapon that Inzaghi possesses. Admittedly his ambition to deliver the extra-ordinary does get the better of him and the tendency to avoid the pass and instead go for glory himself is at times frustrating but it would be safe to say that Milan would have been far worse off if not for the bearded not-so-genius.
On Sunday, playing basement residents Parma at San Siro in a late evening kick-off, Menez was once again at the forefront as Milan emerged victorious on one of those rare occasions. The Frenchman put the Rossoneri in front from the spot early in the game after a Cristian Zaccardo cross was met by Cristian Rodriguez with a raised arm. It almost felt like a dream night for Zaccardo as the former Italian international seemed to have doubled the lead for Milan only to realize he was ruled a yard offside. Things, however, were far from smooth for Milan as Parma continuously tested Diego Lopez’s goal and it wasn’t long before the defence went haywire once again in a set-piece situation and Antonio Nocerino, a former Rossonero managed to restore parity to the game. Poli failed to deal with the aerial ball in the box, lost his man and Nocerino was the quickest to react to the loose ball in no man’s land and did the obvious without much resistance from his former teammates.
Lopez denied Parma at least a couple more excruciatingly close chances to go in front and one could almost see another fall for Milan coming. The setting looked familiar and nearly inevitable. The discouragingly empty looking San Siro wasn’t helping matters either. Agony was added to Milan’s pains as stand-in captain Alex came painfully close to put his side in front from a powerfully struck free-kick which was deflected off the post and the new signing Mattia Destro failed to hit the target on the rebound. Very few fans were hoping for a turnaround from Milan but Parma’s standing in the league reads so lowly for a reason. Even without any cohesion in their attacking play to speak of, Milan were able to invent a few opportunities on the counter and in one such move initiated by Alessio Cerci, a wonderful finish from Menez allowed Milan to grab the lead again. The Frenchman’s left-footed angled drive was too fiercely struck for Mirante to do anything about it. Menez once again outmuscled the Parma defence later in the second half to create an opening for Zaccardo and the Italian World Cup winner obliged by doubling the lead, netting one in against his former club on what was his first appearance of the season.
It was the first Serie A win in 2015 for the Rossoneri – one the team and particularly coach Filippo Inzaghi needed. The coach’s reaction in the presser on Sunday said a lot about how much the win meant to him.
“We wanted this victory at all costs, I think it is deserved and now we hope to get some players back for Saturday. We then also hope to play a little better as time goes on.”
“When you are without seven or eight first choice players and coming off a difficult period, it becomes tricky.” – said Inzaghi, speaking to Sky Italia.
Speaking on the tactical improvisations, Inzaghi threw a hint or two at switching to a midfield diamond in a 4-4-2 formation now that he has two classic strikers in Pazzini and Destro at his disposal. He also emphasized on the importance of a player of Bonaventura’s ability to play in a variety of roles.
“I think 4-3-3 has given us some good games until the start of the New Year. Now with strikers like Destro, Pazzini and Menez, I thought we could change to 4-4-2. A player like Bonaventura can give you the right balance.” – Inzaghi asserted.
A beleaguered Parma side now find themselves closer to the relegation than ever and it’d take nothing short of a miracle from here on for the Ducali to cling on to Serie A football next season.