Imagine my disbelief as I pulled myself away from my mojito and the hot Mexican sun to check the Palermo – Milan match only to see Dinho take the single worst PK I have ever witnessed. As if that was not enough the following 45 minutes was a display as poor I have seen from Milan since their trip to the San Paolo last season, in the waning weeks of the campaign. But that was not the worst of the news; Thursday’s loss to Lazio only compounded and reinforced the misery and the sinking of the Rossoneri.
I guess I should start with today before I go any further. 45 minutes of nonstop attack on the Catania goal yielded a scoreless draw at halftime and my frustrations at a boiling point as I watched chances zing by, above and across the goal. My initial reaction was that Shevchenko and Kaka had rekindled some unbridled passion circa 2004 and that Pato was strapped in along for the ride. The problem was the more I watched the more I noticed that Catania, unlike many of Milan’s past opponents, was not crowding the box all that much, and were plenty happy to play the ball out and ultimately defended both with width and depth. So basically they closed down flank play a bit, but didn’t all out defend in the penalty area.
As refreshing as the first half offensive front was the second half left me shaking my head and my fist, at Carletto. Once again the Rossoneri decided to absorb 25 minutes or so of pressure which in turns leads to close calls which this time went Milan’s way. Kaladaze was guilty yet again of a handball in the box, but this time Milan was fortunate, and easily made up for the lost points a few games back, hate to say it again, but these things almost always balance in the course of the season. More alarming than the call was Carletto’s substitution plan as Catania grew more bold and desperate. Like a war general with nothing left to do in terms of a strategic assault, he threw more troops at the battle hoping to somehow stop the opponent’s forward progress. Emerson out, Favalli in, Sheva out, Antonini in, with no real or rhyme reason or even tactical planning today proved that as innovative as Carletto can be and has been, he can still be as clueless as they come when it comes to changes on the fly.
Enough about today, the month or so of matches has not as bad as it could have been, but with the drawers piling up and the points pissed away; this team no longer looks like the gritty contender we were doting a few weeks ago. In fact it is being exposed as a bit lucky, with a mix of solid individual performances from the likes of Dinho, Kaka, Rino, and Abbiati to help win matches. How can something move so well in the forward direction gone awry so quickly? My thoughts, albeit terse, but as always I welcome yours as well…
Personnel: What started as a “wealth” of midfielders has become more of a thorn. Too many grunts and not enough suits. The return of Pirlo was supposed make the Rossoneri a collective creative unstoppable force in the attack. Instead they have become a team unable to mount an attack, and struggling to find touches when they matter most for the player up front. The injuries have certainly not helped, specifically Borriello who was finding a nice groove with Pato and would make quite a trio with Kaka behind them. Pirlo has struggled to reintroduce himself to the new system while Dinho, though playing well in his own right (and instrumental to recent victories) has not had the desired effect of raising the level of play of the rest of the squad.
Tactics: Let us reminiscent a moment to Milan squads of past years so surgical and vicious in the counterattack that opposing teams wouldn’t even commit defenders to their corner kicks. Fast forward to the Rossoneri of today, Kaladze wins the ball in the back, passes out wide to Janks, Janks dumps the ball into Seedorf as he moves up the flank. Seedorf stops dead surveys the situation, drops a four foot pass to Dinho who also stops in his tracks as the attack flounders in the center circle. Is this team to old to press forward with pace an conviction? Possibly. Is this team incapable of carving lanes into the defense to score goals, I don’t think so or at least I hope not. The problem really is Kaka is the only one willing to push the issue with Pato a close second. This just isn’t enough as attacks fizzle, or defenders, by the trio, close down the “running” forward.
Finishing: Milan’s single largest problem last season was the amount of wasted chances. We blamed Gila, we blamed Ronaldo, hell we blamed everyone who missed the net, and what did Fester and Co. do. They went an added an attacking midfielder, when the team screamed for a clinical finisher with size, strength, and pace capable of playing in the XMAS Tree formation. Instead of landing the likes of Drogba (injury unplanned for), Eto (whose is quite easily the best striker in Europe at this moment), Amauri (who we all knew was capable of playing well in Serie A), or Adebayor (who was so close the jerseys were almost printed), we are still stuck wondering who on Earth is going to score game in and game out. Question: How many goals has Milan scored this season, and how many came from the striker position?
I want to go more in depth for the week past, but my knowledge of the games is limited at this moment and I as watch I will try to cover more. I am also still not convinced that Dinho and Kaka can make things happen together, especially when each one plays that much better without the other. This is not a bad thing, but again still worth discussing. Lastly, Juventus is coming quickly and this game will go a long way in making or breaking this first half of the season.
I also want to thank everyone for their contributions while I was away. I read a lot of top notch discussion and comments as always. You guys are top class day in and day out!