Milan recorded another precious win at the weekend, returning from Rome with full three points thanks to goals by Brazilians Thiago Silva and Alexandre Pato. The 2-1 conquest of Lazio confirms the Rossoneri’s positive trend since the famous 3-2 away victory over Real Madrid. Beating los Blancos in Europe seems to have reinvigorated the team and the San Siro outfit has since climbed the league table to occupy third place behind Inter and Juventus respectively.
The reaction of Coach Leonardo following the latest victory is perhaps one of an inexperienced Tactician, as he mentioned that his side is capable of winning the Scudetto instead of trying to focus on the positives from the current uplifting run. Milan is by no means on par with their city rivals, which has a deeper bench, more weapons upfront and certainly better full-backs. There is nothing wrong with wishing to wrestle the title away from the Nerazzurri, but a small stretch of positive results does not build champions out of a side that was struggling for form and finding it difficult to hit the net. The hope is for this mini revival to extend beyond the euphoria emanating from grabbing four out of possible six points from continental rivals Real Madrid. To be fair to the Brazilian Coach, the team is displaying admirable consistency and is almost at a point where the starting line-up picks itself based on compatibility with Leonardo’s tactics and recent form.
The concerns which marred the start of the season have not dissipated as the team’s weaknesses are now covered by individual performances, such as Alessandro Nesta’s confident displays at the back, his partner Thiago Silva’s consistent improvement, Clarence Seedorf’s marauding runs, Ronaldinho’s infrequent but sufficing flashes of brilliance, and most notably Pato’s return to scoring form both in Europe and Italy. If Nesta or Pato perform poorly then the team is likely to struggle in a match, even more so against the weaker teams which tend to throw players behind the ball, score from counter attacks and then sit back to contain Milan’s reaction. The results up to this point have revealed the team struggles against weaker sides which use defensive schemes to restrict the use of Pato’s pace and scoring abilities by limiting open space. In Serie A, the Rossoneri was held to scoreless draws by Livorno and Bari, while Atalanta achieved a 1-1 draw – highlighting the club’s difficulty in breaking down teams with a defensive plan to counter Milan’s slick passing approach. Even in the Champions League, the team suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat to the group’s whipping boys FC Zürich.
Following the international break, Milan’s fixture list will include must win games against Cagliari, Marseille and Catania. All three games are winnable on paper, particularly with the first two matches being home games at the San Siro. Leonardo must be alert to warn his players from getting carried away with the recent results and must demand full focus in the upcoming games, particularly the European encounter with Marseille. The revenue generated from progressing in Europe and the allure created to encourage players to join the club should not be underestimated.
Leonardo publicly stated that he is looking forward to the international break so his players can recover, as well as allow time for the return of some of the injured players. Milan’s ageing squad certainly stands to benefit more than others from having time-off from official matches. Even the clash with Lazio showed Milan’s two sides, with the first-half offering a stern reminder of the qualities of the players on the team’s roster while the second period was a stark contrast to the first 45 minutes. Age, the declining fitness and the lack of alternatives are all reasons which can play a role in the discrepancy between the two halves. Furthermore, these negative qualities generally surface more and more as the season progresses due to injuries and fitness concerns. While the Rossoneri may have recovered from a slow start to the season, the club’s management and the tifosi must be careful not to place too much pressure on the team.
Off the pitch, Vice-President Adriano Galliani confirmed that owner Silvio Berlusconi will not be selling the club. Earlier during the season rumours were circulating about a potential takeover by Arab investors, and then by an Albanian business tycoon. It seems as though Milan will end 2009 with Berlusconi at the helm and Leonardo still coaching the team.
Milan Club Focus 2009/10
Pre-season expectation – August 18, 2009
Leonardo breathes as Brazilians relieve pressure – August 25, 2009
Kaka returns to the San Siro – August 27, 2009
How to play 4-3-1-2, a lesson from their rivals – September 1, 2009
Reshuffle the current squad, regain the winning mentality – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Leonardo’s time to react – September 7, 2009
Livorno springs opportunity to end crisis – September 11, 2009
Serie A slides down priority list – September 15, 2009
Leonardo lurches into decision-making territory – September 18, 2009
Off the pitch rumours continue to swirl – September 22, 2009
Old legs cannot win forever, will Berlusconi follow in Della Valle’s footsteps? – September 25, 2009
A powerhouse that no longer strikes fear – September 29, 2009
Time is running out to save il Diavolo’s season – October 2, 2009
A draw as bitter as a defeat – October 6, 2009
The club is not for sale – October 9, 2009
International week (Republic of Ireland-Italy, Italy-Cyprus)
In search of strikers and defenders – October 13, 2009
Berlusconi reiterates he will not sell as the Rossoneri prepare for Roma – October 16, 2009
Brazilian duo see off Roma – October 20, 2009
Rossoneri record famous win in Madrid – October 23, 2009
Leonardo stumbles upon the 4-2-3-1 – October 27, 2009
Two precious points dropped – October 30, 2009
Borriello strikes twice as Milan continue climbing the table – November 3, 2009
A bitter draw after Pato’s disallowed ‘goal’ as Huntelaar emerges unscathed – November 6, 2009
The Rossoneri challenging Juventus for second place – November 10, 2009