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Francesco Pizzolla On March - 23 - 2011

San Siro Summary: Weekly Milan Round-up

Milan will go into next week’s hugely important derby in the exact way they didn’t want to: Only 2 points ahead of Inter. If hypothetically Inter do go ahead and wind up winning this Scudetto, Milan fans will most certainly look back at these last two results as the results that compromised the season.

The match against Palermo was difficult to watch, a hopeless Milan side failing miserably at getting a result. If the match had lasted even 90 more minutes, I guarantee you that Milan still would not have put one shot past Palermo goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. Going into the match, Milan knew the Stadio Barbera has been a unkind ground in recent history. The Rossoneri had not won in Sicily since the 2005/2006 season, when Andriy Shevchenko and Pippo Inzaghi scored goals to defeat the Rosanero. Since then, a string of negative results that continued on Saturday. In addition, Palermo were on an immense losing streak, and new boss Serse Cosmi still had not won a game since replacing Delio Rossi. That gave Milan a little hope, but a desperate Palermo side was always going to be an extremely tricky opponent.

Milan have been called Ibra-dependent all season, and with the big Swede serving a three match ban, this was the opportunity to erase that reputation. Unfortunately, the match against Palermo only increased the Ibra-dependent reputation, as Cassano and Pato did nothing to make Milan fans forget about Zlatan. Pato, despite his excellent scoring rate in a Milan shirt, still has not had that breakout season where he shows he has definitely reached the next level. Pato is having a typical Pato season, which means lots of injuries mixed with lots of inconsistent performances mixed with moments of sheer brilliance. For Pato to be most effective, he has to work on weeding out the first two. Cassano still has not reached he levels everyone knows he can reach. The player everyone loved to watch at Sampdoria has only shown up in bits and pieces at Milan. He was sidelined for two months and still hasn’t found form and fitness, and if Milan want to be successful in these last games they need Fantantonio to really step up his game and show everyone that he is the most talented Italian player. Both players really played bad vs. Palermo, and with the derby looming Pato will have to recuperate from a knock he received and Cassano will have to step up his game. Maybe with the Italy game on Friday Cassano will gain some confidence back.

Most importantly, it seems that Milan’s workhorse midfield isn’t working anymore. Van Bommel, after a brilliant start to his Milan career, has been responsible for the two goals scored by Palermo and Bari. It might be time for a rest. Flamini tackles hard but doesn’t add much to the offensive side of things, and Gattuso is the only one consistently playing great. This is where Milan really miss the injured Andrea Pirlo. The World Cup-winning playmaker brings unique quality to Milan’s midfield and has the ability to change a deadlocked game at any instant with one invention. Lots of rumors are swirling around about Milan not renewing Pirlo’s expiring contract, but if i where Galliani & Co., I’d think twice before letting a player like Pirlo go. There really is nobody else like him. Looking to the derby, I think Allegri has to move Seedorf to a Pirlo-type role like he played vs. Tottenham. Against Spurs at White Hart Lane the Dutch midfielder was one of Milan’s top performers, and Milan need more quality in midfield. In addition to Seedorf, Milan really need to recuperate Boateng over this next week and half. The Ghanian is a crucial part of the Rossoneri midfield, and a real dynamic player that could make the difference. He’ll be needed for the derby.

There has been lots of criticism of Max Allegri after these two results, but I wouldn’t be so quick to blame him. There was not much else Allegri could do with the players at his disposal. There are simply too many injuries and the midfield is only what’s available. I wouldn’t be so quick to change the 4-3-1-2 either, I think it will still be effective when Milan can get a top line-up out there. Some people call for a 4-2-3-1, but Milan simply don’t have the attackers willing to sacrifice in defense like other teams do. Can you picture Cassano tracking back and helping out in defense? I rest my case.

The international break came at just the right time. If the derby was this weekend, I would say Inter would beat Milan 10 times out of 10. The Nerazzurri came off two morale-boosting victories in the Champions League and Serie A and Milan came from two discouraging defeats. But with the international break, Milan get a chance to sit back and look at their recent errors and find ways to correct them by working hard in training. This will definitely serve to better prepare the side for derby and hopefully make that final push to a long-awaited Scudetto.

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