Club Focus – Milan – Sampdoria derail Rossoneri’s progress

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Milan failed to extend their lead in Serie A after being forced to settle for a draw with hosts Sampdoria in a match which confirmed the Rossoneri’s need for a goal poacher following the season ending injury to veteran Filippo Inzaghi and the absence of Alexandre Pato till early 2011. Pato is undoubtedly one of the top attackers in Serie A but he has had to deal with various injuries over the last couple of years. The Rossoneri must now address their need for a striker during the January transfer window with rumours linking the club with a move for Cagliari attacker Alessandro Matri.
Il Diavolo’s search for a goalscorer is no longer a secret considering the club’s injury crisis in attack and the fact superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović has not been rested despite claiming he is tired and in need of a break. Ibrahimović recently asked to be excluded from Sweden’s squad for the recent midweek friendly which is another sign of his tiredness. The Swedish star has been giving his best and has single-handedly guided Milan to the top of the Italian league with some stunning goals. However, to expect him to keep scoring and playing from the start at least twice-a-week from now till the end of the season ought to be considered as unrealistic when factoring in the many touches he gets when Milan are attacking. He has been involved in most of the attacks whether at the finishing end or during the building process. Against Sampdoria, the big Swede delivered a great assist for Robinho to volley home the opener but unfortunately this was not enough to secure all three points. While Ibra has scored an impressive 11 goals in 17 matches in all competitions, he is not renowned for being a goal poacher.
In Genoa, il Diavolo held the majority of possession and had more than double Sampdoria’s total shots on target yet the visitors failed to take advantage. Zlatan guarantees goals and is a very talented attacker but he is not the typical central striker, such as Inzaghi or Sampdoria’s Giampaolo Pazzini, who is there to pounce on scoring opportunities. Without reverting to the blame game to explain the inability to defeat Sampdoria, Milan have shown time and again a shortage when it comes to quality full-backs. None of the full-backs are of the requisite quality to start for the leading side in Serie A. Gianluca Zambrotta and Marek Jankulovski are both in decline while Daniele Bonera has failed to establish himself when the four usual starting defenders are healthy. The other options such as Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini have often been inconsistent while Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos has not impressed enough to force his way into Allegri’s plans. With Milan apparently eyeing Matri for attack, reports have also linked the club with a move for Sampdoria’s full-back Reto Ziegler. The capture of either Matri or Ziegler or even both does make sense on more than one front.
By signing Matri, the Rossoneri will be able to rest Ibrahimović in certain cases despite the two attackers being different in terms of their approach. Matri’s acquisition would also decrease the pressure on Pato to make quick recovery or be used when not fully recovered. This could also signal the end for Ronaldinho as his contract expires at the end of the season. As for Ziegler, he will be a free agent in June which means Sampdoria could easily lose him unless he is sold in January or a contract extension is negotiated to secure his services. Adding both players could provide the Rossoneri with needed depth to compete on multiple fronts since winning the Champions League remains an objective for President Silvio Berlusconi.
Speaking of contracts, there is a host of veterans who will be up for contract renewal once the season is over including Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo. Nesta is still needed by the Rossoneri with his calming influence and experience while Milan have coped well and exceeded expectations with Pirlo on the sidelines. It could be time to let go of Pirlo as he is on the wrong side of 30 and he has the tendency to make the Rossoneri’s defensive line look vulnerable due to his lack of pace.
Il Diavolo will also have to consider the expiring contracts of veteran duo Clarence Seedorf and Massimo Ambrosini but the gifted Dutchman and skipper Ambrosini have both shown they can contribute and provide needed experience. Milan will probably renew for all four players, including Pirlo, as well as Inzaghi while letting go of Jankulovski, also with an expiring contract in June, and perhaps selling Ronaldinho in January if Matri is signed. Regardless of the plans for the transfer market, it is obvious the Rossoneri have the talent to compete for titles but are still in need of a few tweaks in order to address some weaknesses, such as the susceptibility on the flanks and the need for younger players with the old guard nearing retirement.
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