Milan have finally recorded their second win of the season after failing to register a victory since the opening weekend of Serie A action. The goal scored by Zlatan Ibrahimović was enough to secure all three points for the Rossoneri, but once again the performance was not convincing enough despite the presence of talented forwards Robinho and Ronaldinho. Seleção star Robinho made his first start in a Milan shirt as Coach Massimiliano Allegri once again chose to make adjustments to his starting line-up.
The new attacking trio for Milan meant they had a different attacking trident for the fifth match in a row. Allegri’s selections in attack are not the only ones raising questions because his decision to start Gennaro Gattuso has been rather strange. The veteran midfielder quit the Azzurri following the World Cup and seemed to be largely a fringe player prior to the injury to skipper Massimo Ambrosini, which seemed to provide the midfielder terrier with the opportunity to start again as he enters the twilight of his illustrious career. Gattuso no longer has the legs or stamina to battle against younger, faster and fitter players in Serie A or Europe.
Against Genoa, the Coach opted to bench Clarence Seedorf and give Kevin-Prince Boateng a start which could be justified considering the Ghana international has displayed great will and fighting spirit in the matches he played so far. The issue with starting Boateng and Gattuso together is rather related to the duo’s lack of creative skills when compared to Dutchman Seedorf. On the other hand, Allegri could be factoring in the presence of Robinho, Ronaldinho and Ibrahimović in the starting line-up since the trio are not renowned for going back to help their teammates or retrieve the ball.
The positives from the victory over il Grifone should not be underestimated since it has served as the perfect tonic for Coach Allegri, who was facing relentless pressure following the string of disappointing results and performances. In addition, the victory provides the players with a massive morale boost while striker Ibrahimović is increasingly looking like he is settled once again at San Siro. Coach Allegri can build on the current result but must still deal with the injury list which continues to sideline star striker Alexandre Pato and club skipper Ambrosini. The duo will not travel to Amsterdam to take on Ajax but Allegri will be able to rely on Ibra and Robinho, while the Coach will hope Ronaldinho can begin to approach his best form – a key to the Rossoneri’s positive run during last season.
The Coach must also address the concerns not just in midfield but also on the defensive side, particularly the full-back positions. Allegri has so far tried Ignazio Abate, Gianluca Zambrotta, Luca Antonini and Daniele Bonera as full-backs but none seem to have impressed him enough to secure the starting role for the remainder of the season. Allegri cannot put personal agendas and individuals ahead of the team’s interest but must also be aware of the defensive frailties beginning to show with Alessandro Nesta’s age and Thiago Silva’s slow start to the current campaign. The two centre-backs formed a solid partnership last season but have looked lacking in terms of understanding and pace this campaign.
Coach Allegri is in the unenviable position of having to answer to a demanding crowd as the tifosi have grown accustomed to success following glorious years in the early 1990s followed by some intermittent success in the Champions League. Once Pato is fit and able to play then Allegri will have to manage four attacking players who can walk into the starting line-up of any team across Europe. Starting Robinho was the first step taken by Allegri to appease the tifosi and outspoken President Silvio Berlusconi but the question remains how the talented Brazilian will fit in once his compatriot Pato makes his return. Ibrahimović and Ronaldinho appear to be guaranteed starters given the goals scored by Zlatan and the continued presence of the latter in the starting line-up. The match against Ajax will perhaps provide some clarifications regarding the first XI used by Allegri and his preferences for the team moving forward during the campaign.