Milan were undone by two early defensive mistakes against Real Madrid, yet the team looked incapable of mounting a comeback due to the lack of guile, aggression and speed amongst the majority of the team’s starting lineup. Madrid took the lead after a grave mistake by veteran midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who moved creating enough space in the wall to allow Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick to sail straight through leaving goalkeeper Marco Amelia stranded on the other side of the goal. It was not long before more defensive confusion led to the second goal by los Blancos as Ronaldo glided through the Milan defenders before passing to Mesut Özil who kicked the ball which was misdirected after hitting defender Daniele Bonera.
The Rossoneri defenders looked slow and appeared hapless whenever the Spanish team poured forward. Ronaldo’s pace was a constant nuisance as the Rossoneri suffered with the faster tempo employed by the hosts. Milan were missing Thiago Silva – Daniele Bonera is a mediocre substitute at best. That said, the defeat cannot be blamed on Bonera because he was unfortunate to see Özil’s shot deflect off him to trick Amelia. There are a number of reasons which must be considered as factors behind Milan’s inconsistent start to the season and more specifically the defeat against the Spanish giants.
As previously mentioned the Rossoneri back four is a combination of aging veterans nearing their retirement and mediocre players who are not going to get any better. Luca Antonini is 28-years-old and Bonera is 29-years-old, making it hardly realistic to expect either defender to get any better while Gianluca Zambrotta is probably playing one of his last seasons as a professional footballer. Even the impeccable and highly respected Alessandro Nesta has slowed down considerably and cannot physically cope with playing three competitive matches a week let alone chase around the younger and faster players. Nesta has his work cut out because the defenders around him are average at best while Thiago Silva has yet to reach a level consistent of someone considered as an international defender. Nesta has often masked some of the deficiencies in Thiago Silva’s game, but sooner or later the former World Cup winner will have to step down leaving the Brazilian alone to lead the Rossoneri backline.
The defenders are not the only susceptible part of this Rossoneri squad as the midfield continues to look old and haggard with Gennaro Gattuso past his best and Andrea Pirlo providing few sparks this campaign besides his winning gem against Parma, while veteran Seedorf is probably playing his last season in a Milan shirt. The Rossoneri midfield has often been overrun by opponents this season and this explains why the club struggled not in one but in a number of games which were expected to be easy. Younger and fitter teams can easily trouble il Diavolo, particularly when the team does not have possession of the ball. More than one pundit, and even some opposing Coaches, have pointed out the apparent troubles of Milan whenever they are not in control of the ball as Pirlo and Seedorf as well as the attacking trio Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Zlatan Ibrahimović are not renowned for tracking back when losing the ball.
The weaknesses in the Rossoneri squad extend beyond the players to include the Coach Massimiliano Allegri, who proved once again he is not yet ready to be in charge of a big team such as Milan. Allegri has not introduced any positive changes since taking over from Leonardo while he has failed to so far to properly integrate Kevin-Prince Boateng and is yet to give Sokratis Papastathopoulos a fair chance to shine as part of the defensive line. Allegri should give both Boateng and Sokratis more playing time, as this season should have served as the main building block towards the rebuilding process at Milanello.
The club’s management has also erred since the signing of Robinho was not a tactical necessity, but rather a means to appease the tifosi and silence the increasingly frustrated supporters. Had the club signed a solid and capable defender then the critics could now be writing about Milan’s rebirth, but for now this will have to wait at least until after the tough stretch of matches which includes clashes against Napoli and Juventus. Allegri will hope to at least have Thiago Silva available for both matches as he is yet to fully recover.