Milan were once again saved by Zlatan Ibrahimović, who managed to score the equaliser against Ajax in the Champions League. The talented Swede was behind most of Milan’s dangerous moves and managed to score with style to show once again he is in great shape as he seems to be the only player capable of scoring for the Rossoneri at this stage. Only Clarence Seedorf seemed compatible with Zlatan and the duo demonstrated some great understanding. While Ibrahimović continues to justify Milan’s move to add him to their squad, Brazilian forward Robinho continues to struggle and is looking increasingly frustrated.
The Brazilian wasted an opportunity when the game was scoreless, but some credit must go to Ajax’s goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg for the fine save. However, the Seleção star was guilty of wasting another great opportunity later on when he shot wide when he could have easily scored. Robinho seemed hesitant and instead of dribbling the ball past a goalkeeper who had already committed, he chose to strike the ball and totally missed the target. Robinho’s struggles could be down to a number of reasons such as the move to a new environment, needing more time to get familiar with his teammates and the system used by Coach Massimiliano Allegri.
With Alexandre Pato edging closer to making his return, Robinho could be the odd man out as Ibrahimović has certainly justified starting while Ronaldinho will likely command the third attacking place in the line-up. Robinho looked a frustrated figure against Ajax and also displayed signs of immaturity which have often plagued his career and progress. Coach Allegri will be under intense pressure to manage the talent at his disposal in attack yet the best option for the Rossoneri could be to offload one of those players during the January transfer window. There are growing rumours about Pato being sold and in return the Rossoneri will fortify the midfield area with one or two major signings, with the name of Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard mentioned on more than one occasion.
The Coach might be facing scrutiny but some of the senior players such as Dutchman Clarence Seedorf have offered their full backing to Allegri, with the veteran midfielder insisting his only concern is how Milan are growing quite dependent on Ibrahimović. Even when Zlatan does not score, he is either at the centre of everything good happening in terms of opportunities or he is trying to assist his teammates in scoring. The extent of Milan’s reliance on Ibrahimović cannot be underestimated as there are now growing similarities with the previous Zlatan-era in Serie A when Milan’s city rivals Inter were over dependent on the talented striker to create and score goals.
Milan cannot afford to become like the Inter of a few years ago because the Nerazzurri squad was deeper and had a more solid defensive line and a better midfield. Coach Allegri might have to change tactics in order to get the best out of the players and that could come at the expense of angering President Silvio Berlusconi, who wants three attackers fielded in the starting XI. A more suitable option could be to start with two attackers such as Ibrahimović and Pato while having four midfielders, excluding Ronaldinho, in order to match the younger and more athletic teams who rely on their aggressive midfield players to restrict the Rossoneri. Starting perhaps Kevin-Prince Boateng, Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini could be the best option provided all four are used in a 4-4-2 formation. Seedorf, Pirlo and Ibra can create scoring opportunities while Boateng and Ambrosini can take care of the more mundane tasks.
Allegri’s days could be numbered if he cannot get his tactics right and have the forwards working together as opposed to playing as individuals. The Coach is being assessed on a game-by-game basis but could be sacked in the summer if the results do not meet the expectations of the management. Last season Berlusconi was unhappy with Leonardo and directed some criticism at him in the media but chose not to let go of him before the end of the campaign. This could too become the fate of Allegri depending on the path taken by the Rossoneri from now on.