Phantom defending is the best way to describe Milan’s back-line during the majority of the match against Palermo, particularly in the first 20 minutes when the Rossoneri conceded two goals due to defensive errors. The first goal came via a corner with Cesare Bovo left with a simple strike as he was unmarked, while the second goal was admittedly a fine finish by Abel Hernández but the manner with which the defenders were dissected in the build-up was appalling.
The defensive frailties were on show yet again, and Massimo Oddo, deputising as a centre-back, put in a dismal performance proving experimenting with full-backs in a centre-back position is a failure after the disappointing experience with veteran left-back Giuseppe Favalli. Palermo’s trio of Fabrizio Miccoli, Hernández and Javier Pastore were given the freedom to roam up-front, run circles around Milan’s back-line and comfortably use incisive passing to split the bemused defenders. It was a shambolic display from the whole team, and not just the defenders with Gennaro Gattuso struggling to match the Sicilian midfielders while World Cup winner Gianluca Zambrotta once again left fans scratching their heads as to how Azzurri boss Marcello Lippi has kept him in consideration despite his pedestrian performances. As it is, the World Cup betting will be on him going to South Africa.
It is easier to criticise than to applaud, yet statistics are impartial and even they reveal how pathetic Milan’s form has been in recent months. In seven games Milan managed a single victory in Cagliari while losing three and drawing the remaining three fixtures – not the form of a contender or even a European team but rather a team trying to avoid relegation. The excuse of lacking motivation is lame because Milan were in the title race just three weeks ago before the 2-2 draw with Catania. Had the Rossoneri beaten Catania and then properly dealt with Sampdoria and Palermo then they would be a point behind Inter. This can be attributed to lack of form and the mismanagement of the club with Rossoneri directors probably the second worst in Calcio after the inept Juventus management. Over these last seven games, 12 goals have been conceded, and nine have been scored, indicating further problems across the pitch. Surprisingly, the unreliable Dida was blameless on all three goals as he spared Milan further embarrassment, particularly when saving from Pastore and substitute Edinson Cavani.
The intolerable situation could result in the departure of Leonardo who looked like a man resigned to his fate after witnessing the comical defending. Even Miccoli’s goal, a gem by any means, could have been avoided if he was given little time to choose, execute and curl his shot while inside the penalty box. Somewhere legends Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini were probably incensed at the lack of defensive acumen displayed by the Rossoneri throughout the encounter. Last week we warned against using Oddo as a centre-back, suggesting he should not be used in this position on a regular basis despite his promising start as a central defender against Sampdoria. Throughout this tumultuous season sources close to the club released on condition of anonymity what is no longer a secret – Leonardo was hired as the Coach considering it was going to be a win-win situation for the management. As previously mentioned if Leonardo succeeded then Adriano Galliani and his assistants would be hailed as worthy risk-takers and if Milan’s season crumbled then the scapegoat was available in the shape of the Brazilian tactician.
Instead of focusing on the transfer market Vice-President Galliani is preoccupied denying rumours and insisting no drastic changes will be made in terms of playing staff. Recently he did change his tone with regards to Leonardo after he declared he might depart to be close to his family in Brazil. This came on the back of persistent confirmation from Galliani on at least five occasions the Coach will remain with the club next season. Dutchman Clarence Seedorf admitted uncertainty surrounding the Coach’s future has been detrimental to the team. In recent days some persistent rumours have resurfaced regarding the future of Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato, yet Galliani preferred to tackle the issue pertaining to Filippo Inzaghi’s future insisting the sparingly used veteran remains if Champions League football is guaranteed. Galliani should have a glance at the standings because at this pace, and despite having nine points to play for, Milan can still drop to fourth or even out of the Champions League picture altogether.