Club Focus – Milan – Unstoppable Ibrahimović leads Rossoneri to Round of 16 in Europe

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Words have become superfluous when used to describe how effective and important Zlatan Ibrahimović has become to Milan as he has continued to produce one magical goal after another. Following his weekend’s great finish which sealed a valuable victory over Fiorentina, Ibrahimović struck again in sublime manner to inflict a massive blow to the morale of Auxerre’s players and pave the way for the Rossoneri’s away victory in the Champions League. Ibrahimović would later be substituted with the enigmatic Ronaldinho taking his place on the pitch and managing to double the score after a neat finish which reaffirmed the Brazilian’s supreme talent.
Zlatan has publicly admitted he is in need of taking time off and Coach Massimiliano Allegri is insisting he cannot afford to rest the Swedish star because of his unique characteristics. In reality, the Rossoneri squad does not have players with attributes similar to those of the Swede and it must be said the striker, still owned by Barcelona, is on a scoring spree with no end to his heroics. Only injury or fatigue seem as plausible factors which can slow down the indomitable attacker who continues to be at the heart of il Diavolo’s dangerous offensive moves. Against Auxerre, he was not only the finisher but also involved in the build-up which led to the Rossoneri’s first goal. Pundits seeking to praise the efforts of Ibra have run out of words suitable to compliment the Swede’s contribution while critics have apparently resorted to dismissing the Rossoneri as a one-man show.
There is endless mention of comparisons made between Inter’s reliance on Ibrahimović, prior to his move to Barcelona last season, and the Rossoneri’s perceived dependence on the Swedish star. Those dismissing Milan as a one-man team fail to acknowledge the Rossoneri are dealing with an acute injury problem in attack which deprived the club of veteran goal poacher Filippo Inzaghi and young star Alexandre Pato. In addition, Azzurri midfielder Andrea Pirlo has had a tough summer which restricted his World Cup experience to a single substitute appearance and affected his preparations for the current campaign.
The injuries to Inzaghi, Pato and Pirlo have perhaps inadvertently, yet decisively, influenced the Coach to shift il Diavolo’s tactics to 4-3-1-2 with Ibrahimović partnered by Robinho in attack, while Dutch veteran Clarence Seedorf has assumed the link up role between midfield and the attack. This adjustment in formation leaves Brazilian maestro Ronaldinho on the bench as Allegri now prefers to rely on two attackers while concentrating on strengthening the defensive line by offering support through a more robust, physical and aggressive midfield. The trio of skipper Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso and Mathieu Flamini are renowned for their physical approach as opposed to their skills and flair. With the trio playing together, Milan have been fairly successful in building a defensive wall ahead of the back-line which now relies heavily on veteran Alessandro Nesta and Seleção centre-back Thiago Silva. The main concern here is the lack of capable players in both full-back positions which has forced Nesta and Thiago Silva to often cover for the mishaps committed by the defenders on the flanks. Vice-President Adriano Galliani has declared the Rossoneri will not make any drastic changes during the January transfer window unless the right players are available on the market. Interestingly, he might be looking for attackers as opposed to defenders who can play on the flanks.
Milan’s rise this season has coincided with Ibrahimović’s scintillating performances and it would be wrong to ignore his tremendous influence on the club’s climb up the Serie A standings. By making sure he avoids getting injured or exhausted before the latter stages of the season, Coach Allegri can perhaps help guide the Rossoneri to the Scudetto in his first season in charge. Milan will undoubtedly be relying on him for the remainder of the season and Pato’s return will unlikely cause a shift to that aspect. Some intriguing questions will revolve around whether Robinho can become consistent and if Ronaldinho can fight his way back to the starting line-up through proper training. If he can show glimpses of brilliance on a consistent basis, Ronaldinho can then be considered similar to a new signing considering he is barely playing at the moment while his goal against Auxerre served as a fresh remainder of what he is capable of doing when at his best.
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