Milan settled for a late draw with Real Madrid but a point is perhaps a fair result given the ineffectiveness of the Rossoneri prior to substitute Filippo Inzaghi’s brace. The lethal striker has made the European scene his home as he notched his 70th goal in Europe to leap over Raúl as top scorer in European club competitions. Inzaghi’s determination would later be highlighted by Coach Massmiliano Allegri who hopes younger players learn from Inzaghi. It is no surprise Allegri decided to level some criticism at emerging star Alexandre Pato, insisting the young Seleção attacker should focus more on being instinctive as opposed to thinking too much.
Allegri’s concerns extend beyond Pato’s condition as the same weaknesses which have plagued the Rossoneri squad in recent years have not been addressed at this stage. Real Madrid took advantage of static defending, wrong implementation of the offside rule and a weak full-back. Gianluca Zambrotta was the left-back who allowed the opponents to get the ball to the penalty box virtually unchallenged. Zambrotta, at his advanced age, is not the right player to restrict the attacks of speedy and skilled opponents and is a shadow of the player who starred for Juventus and Italy in the last decade. Christian Abbiati was forced to perform a couple of tricky saves to keep Los Blancos from scoring more goals.
One positive from the match was Andrea Pirlo’s two goal line clearances which showed he is willing to track back and help with defensive duties. However, while he did save Milan from conceding a goal, he was ineffective in terms of creating scoring opportunities highlighting Pirlo’s inability to perform a dual role at this stage of his career. Pirlo’s physical condition does not allow him to play a dual role which is important for Milan under the current system and with the players used by Allegri. Veteran Gennaro Gattuso has been playing his best football post-knee injury, but can only perform defensive tasks and is rather incapable of launching attacks. Kevin-Prince Boateng is showing determination but he lacks the vision of Pirlo while also falling way short the level of set by Gattuso years ago when he intimidated opposing players. This raises the question once again as to whether having Pirlo in addition to three attacking players – Zlatan Ibrahimović, Pato and one between Ronaldinho or Robinho, is diminishing the Rossoneri’s ability to track back and match the physical approach of weaker teams which typically seek to hassle Milan.
Besides the obvious weaknesses, Ibrahimović, despite his current scoring spree, is not renowned for being efficient and is a volume striker in the sense he needs several opportunities to notch a goal. Against Los Galácticos he wasted two scoring opportunities which perhaps could have been converted by a goal poacher like Inzaghi. Ronaldinho’s form continues to be a concern while Robinho has improved in recent games but it remains to be seen whether the latter can effectively replace the former World Cup winner as Ronaldinho edges closer to the twilight of his career. There are even intermittent reports about Ronaldinho’s potential departure during the January transfer window. The Rossoneri ought to invest in signing a quality midfielder and a capable full-back since stacking veteran defenders such as Massimo Oddo, Zambrotta and Mario Yepes will not help in building a solid defensive line. With the exception of the Champions League triumph in 2007, Milan have shown they cannot succeed in winning titles with several veteran players as was the case last season when the likes of Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Favalli were part of the squad.
The status of Coach Allegri is less certain than some might think as a trophyless season will virtually lead him to the exit door by May. Allegri has given the impression he is inflexible when it comes to tactics as he continues to implement similar strategies. Another criticism against Allegri is his lack of assertiveness when it comes to managing players and the lack of experience at the big stage highlighted by defeats to Real Madrid and Juventus prior to the latest draw against Los Blancos. Big egos such as Ibrahimović’s need to be kept in check, something successful Coaches can achieve considering they have the pedigree and experience to manage difficult players. Motivating Ronaldinho might become an issue since the Brazilian is prone to going through lean spells and falling victim to distractions when things are not going his way. Former boss Leonardo was able to get the best out of Ronaldinho but Allegri has failed to duplicate the previous Coach’s efforts. Milan will now look to defeat Bari in order to get back on track on the domestic front as anything less than a victory could prove to be fatal when it comes to challenging for the coveted Scudetto.