George Rinaldi believes the Rossoneri’s answer to their attacking problems is already at the club and changes must be made to suit him.
Attacare! Attacare! Attacare! A word all Milanisti would be familiar with after the infamous dressing room scenario involving Silvio Berlusconi and Pippo Inzaghi. Now, Sinisa Mihajlovic must be screaming this on a regular basis following the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Juventus. AC Milan need goals.
Are the Rossoneri really struggling though at a first glance? They’ve registered 15 goals thus far, the same total as Sassuolo above them and just one less than top of the table and arch-rivals Inter.
This is until you look to last season’s table. At this time, Milan had scored six more to reach a total of 21 goals and had conceded the exact same amount as this year (17). Even the rather dismal campaign before that saw Milan grab 18 goals, despite sitting in 13th.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise however when only three strikers have scored, and two thirds of those belong to Carlos Bacca. The 29-year-old in question didn’t even force Gianluigi Buffon into a save, or indeed muster a shot on goal during Saturday’s defeat. If Bacca is not scoring then Milan are not scoring. Simple.
Mihajlovic is short on attacking options though, a point that needs to be raised in regards to their scoring woes. Mario Balotelli is still dealing with an unfortunate injury and Alessio Cerci will never, ever be regarded as a proper forward. His nine games to zero goals ratio thus far cements such a comment.
It leaves but one man who must improve in order for Milan to boost their goalscoring stats: Luiz Adriano.
The Brazilian joined alongside Bacca in the summer and looked to be half of the answer to Milan’s new striking formula, but instead has been the chief recipient of criticism from both supporters and journalists. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to readers or the 28-year-old himself, two goals in 12 matches is simply not good enough. 658 minutes of professional football with just two seconds of that time reserved for his goals showcase exactly why changes must be made.
Instead of focusing on his own improvement, Adriano has taken to talking about Balotelli and the Italian’s return to football in his native country. It has seemed as if he has been appearing more in front the camera with a microphone shoved under his face than in the penalty area.
The days of six Ukrainian Premier League winners’ medals and even a UEFA Europa League success is but a distant memory for Adriano. From scoring double figures four times during his days with Shakhtar Donetsk to a measly two from 12 in Milan, the dream of moving to Serie A may be rather short-lived. If he kept his current form of goals alongside amount of performances, in 36 games he would have just six goals. Putting in perspective, his teammate Bacca already has that total.
But why the sudden change? The obvious point would be to compare the quality of football and the opponents both Shakhtar and Milan face, but regardless of who is attempting stop Adriano, if you’re a good footballer you score. When in Ukraine, Adriano lined up a 4-4-1-1 formation and would dip out of a starting role to an impact substitute. The Brazilian would then play the lone role with Alex Teixeira just behind, and a rotational system of Marlos, Bernard and Douglas Costa on the wings. The tactics deployed were based off of short passes that developed onto the byline whereby those on the wing would deliver the ball onto Adriano’s head. In layman’s terms: run, cross, head, goal.
With Milan, Adriano has something he hasn’t been used to, a striking partner. Playing alongside Carlos Bacca means he is no longer the lone front man, and is also in a setup that doesn’t play fast wingers, or indeed have any real focus on the wide areas.
With Mihajlovic chopping and changing his formations, be in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2, Milan have no real quality on the wings. Cerci and M’Baye Niang were playing that supposed role against Juventus on the weekend, but as previously mentioned, Bacca had no shots. The style didn’t work and even if it might have with Adriano as the solitary striker, Mihajlovic will not drop Bacca.
The coach needs to tinker with his team once more in order to get the goals he craves. Both Bacca and Adriano are different strikers, but neither fit the role of fast and skilful. Neither can drop behind the other in a system like Adriano’s at Shakhtar because it just wouldn’t work. That role would have to fall to someone such as Balotelli, but Mihajlovic needs to change things now.
Can Adriano be the answer? It’s very unlikely, but judgement will be held on the Brazilian. Maybe his boots have just been tied up too tight all along . . .