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As the old cliché goes, history repeats itself. And this could not be truer come every February for Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Whether at Barcelona or in the blue or red half of Milan, the ‘big’ Swede’s scoring record often leaves something to be desired at this time of the year. Goals, to be precise. In each of the last five seasons he has just managed one solitary goal in this month.

While in the last two seasons he has started the New Year with a bang, notching four league goals in January. In February and even onwards to the end of the season it is becoming an all too familiar tale; the goals simply dry up. It is incredible to think this for a player who seems to have the canny knack of winning league titles; he has won eight in a row at four different clubs in three different countries.

Already known as a big game ‘flop’, a player unable to take hold of matches against the sternest of competition – which perhaps explains why he is still without a Champions League medal – as a result of this recurring trend he has now built a reputation for losing  form in the second half of the season.

Last term as Milan charged towards their first title in seven years, their leading talisman contributed just one goal in their last 16 matches. He doubled this tally in red cards received and he seems eager to equal this record again this season after picking up his first one against Napoli for an act of stupidity. He will now miss three games.

He still played a key role in Milan’s domestic success last term, however, it was Brazilian duo Robinho and Pato that helped get Milan over the line last May to claim the club’s 18th Scudetto. Between them they tallied 13 goals. The arrival of Antonio Cassano in January also aided Milan’s cause as the pint-sized Italian claimed four goals and six assists.

But, hopes that these three will be able to provide the firepower Milan will need to prise away top spot from undefeated league leaders Juventus are faint.

For a start, Cassano is likely not to play for the rest of the season. Meanwhile Robinho has failed to hit the heights of last season. At the same time last year he stood on eight goals. This year he currently has just three to his name.

As for Pato, his contribution of six goals in the second half of the season were instrumental for Milan. But, this term, as with last, his injury problems continue and whether or not he will be fit for the remainder of the season once he returns from his current injury is unlikely given his track record.

However, what is most concerning for the defending champions is their growing dependency on their big Swede. Milan have won 10 of their last 15 matches and in all ten of those has Ibrahimovic scored. In total, he has netted 13 goals in these matches of collective total of 26. This record reads quite clearly, when Ibrahimovic does not score Milan do not win.

Despite his comments to the contrary, Allegri must be slightly worried about his side’s chances of retaining their domestic crown. With Robinho off-colour, Pato out injured, Cassano still unavailable and with Ibrahimovic (most likely) absent for the next three games which will include crucial ties against Udinese and Juventus, exactly where this Milan side will get their goals and derive their inspiration from is hard to tell.

It is highly unlikely that the answer for Allegri lies with new signing Maxi Lopez. Perhaps this explains why he was Plan B while his compatriot, Carlos Tevez, was Plan A for the club in the January transfer market. The latter is of such a standard that he would be able to carry Milan in big matches while the ‘big’ Swede watches on from the sidelines. The former, however, will most likely not have such an effect and if his cameo appearances to date for Milan are anything to go by, this will be proven so.

This time last season when Ibrahimovic lost his form – and head - it did not derail Milan’s push for the title then. It was all red and black confetti, flares and flags in the Piazza Duomo at the end of May.

But, this time round matters are different. Milan now more than ever rely on Ibrahimovic’s magic and it could prove their undoing. Then there is the small matter that this season, unlike last, there is another team that look more like champions than the Rossoneri and this team is Juventus.

Undefeated after 21 rounds and leading the Serie A by a point with a game in hand, overcoming Antonio Conte’s men looks a monumental proposition at this point in time and Milan will need Ibrahimovic back to his best if they are to reclaim top spot. But, it would be a foolish man who would bet on Ibrahimovic coming good anytime soon.

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