A simple headline reading ‘No Zlatan no party’ would probably be a quite effective to sum up how the absence of the Swede creative force affected AC Milan chances to beat a dogged Hellas Verona at home.
However, a closer look at the Rossoneri’s 1-1 draw suggests there have been several factors playing a part in Milan’s inability to overcome their more confident and organised rivals.
In fact, Verona were simply the worst opponents to face at the wrong moment. Ivan Juric has shaped a stubborn and brave team that have no fear of trying to impose their football against any side, and it was all it took to expose the weaknesses the Stefano Pioli’s outfit still have, despite putting together a five-match winning streak for the first time this season.
AC Milan deprived of their keystones
First of all, the presence of Ismael Bennacer is as pivotal as Ibrahimovic. Few people could predict that back in summer, but after getting off to a rough start, the former Empoli man has bagan showing his qualities under Pioli, pulling the strings from midfield thanks to his excellent passing ability, which is often coupled with a relentless work.
Deprived of their Algerian starlet, the Rossoneri struggled to find a reference point in the middle, something which affected the whole team’s build-up, preventing Milan from creating goal-scoring opportunities with ease, like they did in January when they scored 13 goals in six matches.
As a result, the San Siro outfit could only find the net through a deflected freekick, while most of the other chances they mustered looked quite fortuitous.
Other than that, it is no mystery how the team has benefitted from Ibrahimovic’s arrival. His charisma and experience, much more than his excellent footballing skills, have helped everyone raise their confidence and show the kind of character that led Milan to score an injury-time winner against Udinese or overcome many hurdles to win three points at Brescia.
The 1-1 draw against Verona was arguably a sign that the Rossoneri still have limited resources to cope without all their keystones at the same time, both in terms of play and personality.
Finally putting up a fight
There is reason to smile for Stefano Pioli, though. Looking at how the game played out, with Verona hitting the post twice in the second half, one can’t help but think that Milan would have lost a match like that in the past.
However, despite lacking their opponents’ organisation, the Rossoneri fought bravely and mounted an assault in the closing minutes, trying to move beyond their own limits and believing they could still turn the tide, even after struggling for long periods.
Although the late pressure didn’t pay off, this represents a significant step forward compared to the resigned and uninspired team that were thrashed by Atalanta or the one that couldn’t break the deadlock against a mediocre Sassuolo side back in December.
Milan look alive, but their odds of success will still depend on a limited number of key players.