Milanese home slump has little to do with the San Siro pitch
Wednesday night saw AC Milan win their first home match of the season, a 2-0 victory over 10-man Cagliari. Their cross-town rivals Inter have fared worse, having yet to record a win at the San Siro. Prior to their triumph over their Sardinian counterparts, Milan had lost to Sampdoria, Atalanta, and drawn with Anderlecht while Inter have lost to Roma, Siena, and drawn with Rubin Kazan in the Europa League.
Never have both sides done so poorly at home to start the season at the same time. The main reason being bandied about in the media is that neither side have acclimated themselves to the new synthetic pitch laid out over the summer. It’s not a particularly valid excuse seeing how their opponents have been able to put in decent performances at the San Siro.
Rather, it probably boils down to the fact that both clubs are in a state of transition, and as a result, have suffered through slow starts to the season. Milan essentially lost their core over the summer as the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Antonio Cassano, Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso left the club. In came several new players such as Crisitan Zapata, Nigel De Jong, Giampoalo Pazzini, and Riccardo Montolivo as replacements. Much is also expected of Stephan El Sharaawy, the scorer of both goals Wednesday night.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri has not had the best of times this season either. Amid mounting pressure in the wake of a 2-1 defeat away to Udinese, Allegri reportedly interrupted a training session held by youth coach Filippo Inzaghi, accusing the former striker of undermining his position. Allegri’s lashing out at Inzaghi stemmed from rumours that should he lose his job, Inzaghi and current assistant Mauro Tassoti would take over until the end of the season.
Despite the defeat in Udine, Allegri received a vote of confidence from vice-president Adriano Galliani. To the manager’s credit, the Rossoneri did show signs of improvement, in particular El Sharaawy. In the past two matches the young Italian international has scored all of Milan’s goals, with the pick of the bunch being a long distance strike against Udinese.
Meanwhile, Inter continue to go through their own rebuilding project. During the summer the Brazilian trio of Lucio, Julio Cesar, and Maicon all left the club, all of whom were so integral during the Nerazzurri’s treble-winning run a few seasons back. Like their red and black rivals, Inter also brought in several new faces during the summer, including Antonio Cassano, Samir Handanovic, and Uruguayan duo Walter Gargano and Alvaro Pereira. Inter extended their rejuvenation project to the managerial position, promoting Primavera manager Andrea Stramaccioni to first team boss two-thirds into last season.
Obviously with a new manager and a new philosophy it has taken time for Inter to adjust to all these changes at once. Stramaccioni’s inability to settle on a set formation has also led to Inter’s erratic form. In five league matches Inter have used four different formations: 4-3-1-2, 4-4-1-1, 4-3-2-1, and most recently 3-5-1-1. It is one thing to have one or two different formations in the playbook, but to be constantly changing shape week to week only destabilises any run of form. Therefore it’s important that ‘Strama’ settles on a formation soon if he wants to see Inter gain any momentum.
Both rebuilding processes are also focused on cheap transfers. Inter, in a move unusual for the Massimo Moratti era, did not buy a ‘big name’ player over the summer, instead focusing on transfer that could actually fit the manager’s needs; no Diego Forlans this year. Moratti has even confessed to the fact that with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play coming into effect, the Nerazzurri can’t afford such luxuries anymore.
Milan’s financial issues are well known, having to sell Ibrahimovic and Silva in order to help balance the books. It is a trend that has gone on for a while, going back to Kaka’s transfer a few years ago. The Rossoneri’s most expensive purchase this summer was Giampoalo Pazzini, costing the club €7 million plus Antonio Cassano.
Nevertheless, it’s still early in the season and both squads are talented enough to compete in the upper third of the table, even possibly fighting for a Champions League spot. Milan need to make sure that they continue to improve as their next five matches include Parma, the derby against Inter, and trips to Lazio, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Malaga; the only home match in this stretch is against the Nerazzurri. If Allegri can right the ship and get results in all five matches, his job security will certainly improve. Inter have three home matches against a tough Fiorentina side that recently took Juventus to the limit, Catania, and Partizan in the Europa League.
The home woes of both sides have little to do with the new pitch. For anyone who has taken a statistics or research methods course, correlation does not necessarily equal causation.