AC Milan Club Focus: The Story So Far… Panic on the Streets of Meelan
Suffice to say, this season review will not be as jolly and optimistic as my fellow writers covering Roma, Juventus, Fiorentina, Napoli, Hellas Verona, and my local Sunday League team (and I don’t even have one).
What began as a season not filled with the fresh air of excitement that usually comes before the start of Italian footballing calendar for AC Milan, there was however some level of expectancy that the young side Massimiliano Allegri had could mature enough to challenge for a Champions League position.
Mario Balotelli was set to have his first full season as a starter, while Andrea Poli and exciting starlets Riccardo Saponara, Stephan El Shaarawy and M’baye Niang were part of a team brimming with potential could translate into performance.
What happened since? Mario Balotelli has six goals this season and about 6,000 enemies in the Milan curva while Riccardo Saponara was recently offered to Torino for Danilo D’Ambrosio, a decent but not exciting full back. M’baye Niang is set to be loaned out to Montpellier while Stephan El Shaarawy is floating between injured and for sale. Andrea Poli is alright, though. A leaky defence married with dull, uninspiring football (as well as the lack of quality on the pitch) has doomed Milan to lower table mediocrity.
Anything else? Oh yeah, Adriano Galliani resigned then came back a day later while Paolo Maldini was once again left standing waiting for a job that wouldn’t come while Silvio Berlusconi referred to the club as “one of his hobbies” – dodging jail and leaving the club in some odd, Caesar’s senate-esque power share between Barbara Berlusconi and Galliani.
There may or may not be a new director in June and despite needing an entire squad makeover for the 2nd time in a year, Galliani recently told press that “it is pointless to discuss the market.” The transfer window opens in a week. Nice.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri has shifted between 4-3-1-2, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1 and some of 4-throw-on-a-few-strikers-and-shout-‘Dai’-a-lot.
The re-arrival of Kaka and insertion of Valter Birsa into the starting XI (*cries*) has Allegri settling into Carlo Ancelotti’s famous “Christmas Tree” 4-3-2-1 formation with Kaka and Birsa (usually, Saponara recently started there against Inter in light of Birsa’s injury) either side of Mario Balotelli.
Behind them, Montolivo, De Jong and Andrea Poli or Sulley Muntari occupy the midfield. Mattia De Sciglio, Philipe Mexes, Cristian Zapata play next to the walking black hole Kevin Constant.
Erm. Ah. Good question. Maybe Kaka? The Brazilian has been a pleasant surprise since re-joining from Real Madrid, linking up play pretty well and scoring a couple of great goals, including a superb curler against Lazio but the Brazilian hasn’t been the saviour that he was billed as – flashes of greatness has come in between long periods of anonymity.
But he’s been ok, which is better than pretty much every other player who has played significant time.
Worst performer: Kevin Constant
It’s tempting to put “everyone else” but if I had to pick one – Kevin Constant’s last few months have a Milan player have been spectacularly bad.
From attracting abuse for posting a selfie in a nightclub the day before a game (in which he was terrible) to countless, literally countless of 90 minute segments of poor crossing, positional awareness and misplaced passes.
And he wears Andrea Pirlo’s old No. 21 shirt.
Transfer of the season: Kaka
Well, Kaka as he also came for free.
Nothing sums up the controversy and chaos surrounding the club than Riccardo Kaka’ and Christian Abbiati talking to the fans outside the San Siro and hearing parental threats from the Curva Sud like “you can forget about staying out all night now!” while the two players are standing in the car park like “can we go home now?”.
Seriously, utterly laughable. No, that actually happened. The Milanisti, incensed about the team’s performance in a turgid draw with Genoa blocked the players paths home until someone came and promised to try harder.
There was even a round of applause at the end and lot’s of awkward “no it doesn’t bother us, the fans are great” interviews to various media outlets.
What needs to happen in 2014?
Milan can’t exactly press the reset button and tank for a draft pick like a US Sports team, so they have to try and gun for a Champions League place. To do that, the month of January is key in bringing in players to achieving that.
Adil Rami and Keisuke Honda will improve things but the addition of a full-back, (at least) another midfielder and cut their losses and jettison as many players as possible is necessary.
After that, a few players coming back to fitness and a huge slice of luck is needed to come even close to securing a European place of any kind, let alone the Champions League. Things look pretty bleak.