AC Milan have been trying to sign their very own version of Pep Guardiola for the past two years. Their first attempt involved bringing Clarence Seedorf back to the club, in January 2014. But, the Dutchman refused to be a puppet and was subsequently fired, even though he managed to inspire results from a team that was at its weakest since Massimiliano Allegri had taken over.
Enter Filippo Inzaghi. The former Italian striker had spent two years with the Primavera (u-19) team, performing miracles by winning the esteemed Viareggio youth tournament. He appeared to be the man with the staff that would part the Red Sea, the savior who would to take this club forward into the promised land. He was expected to be the mentor, who transitioned youngsters into the first-team, thereby forging the core of a new AC Milan.
Well, five months into the job, and Inzaghi is still struggling with giving this team an identity. The one successful tactical shift he has competently executed was converting Jeremy Menez from a winger, into a false-nine. Even that has somewhat been diluted with his insistence of force-fitting a misfiring Fernando Torres into the starting line-up. Or has he really managed even that transition?
When we evaluate Inzaghi’s coaching exploits thus far, we need to consider the possibility of the coach being a mere pawn, controlled to a great extent by the men at the helm, namely Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi. Massimiliano Allegri was Galliani’s man, Seedorf was Berlusconi’s. Inzaghi appears to be the marionette having brought about a truce within the bureaucracy.
So, when complaints are raised about Inzaghi being clueless concerning his starting eleven, or that the team has just won it’s first game in six matches, we need to add the caveat that Inzaghi’s credit rating at the club has not been impacted, if he is just following orders.
Although his position remains unaffected, there is a growing discontentment amongst the fans. They are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the new coach. He is rapidly losing credibility with performances like the ones against Juventus, Palermo and more recently, Inter. His continuous alterations to the team and his repeated tinkering have further annoyed the fans, who are probably expecting a state of stability by this point.
That apart, his reluctance to make the supremely talented Marco van Ginkel a regular fixture in the first-team has been nothing short of baffling. Particularly in Riccardo Montolivo’s absence, van Ginkel could add technical quality to a midfield currently comprising of destroyers. Additionally, Inzaghi has not helped the progression of Davide Pacifico, Andrej Modic or Hachim Mastour into the first-team. On the contrary, he remained silent as Bryan Cristante, one of AC Milan’s young stars, departed to Benfica in the summer.
Under Inzaghi, the team has evolved into becoming a counter-attacking side that relies on the pace of its attackers to hurt the opposition. The team also exerts pressure by selectively pressing during certain phases of the game. However, AC Milan are unable to break down resolute defences sitting deep.
Admittedly, the team has limited creative midfielders in the squad, but Inzaghi has not enabled the wingers to create from the flanks, which would have been the obvious alternate course of action. The standard of play has stagnated and some would argue that it has regressed.
Inzaghi is AC Milan’s man and will have the support of the management throughout this campaign, unless he fails spectacularly. The fans might not be as charitable, though.
December will be key in defining the extent of support the fans extend to AC Milan’s new coach. A trial by fire awaits him, and we will soon know if he overcomes the ordeal.
Follow Rajath Kumar on Twitter: @rajathkumar. You can read his work on his AC Milan blog “Milan and Me; The Love Affair” — http://rajaththemilanista.wordpress.com/