A few days ago we gave Leo his marks, so now I want to turn my attention to the keepers and the defense. I am going to use the same criteria looking at expectations and performance, while also exploring the positive and negative of each player.
Dida: I was not happy to see him in net, but I understand Leo’s choice. It was either Dida or Roma, with Donnarumma being a pipe dream, and possibly career suicide for the youngster. Dida’s mistake against Real Madrid was quickly forgotten thanks to the result, but not forgotten with me. He was instrumental against Napoli, but his inconsistency remains an issue and his play is not what one would call rock steady. He has however exceeded expectations and in some weird parallel universe that could only happen at Milanello may even be granted a contract instead of a ticket out of Milan when his value has increased. Still shaking my head at this one, but in the end the guy has to get added on what he has done, and being the keeper on a long unbeaten is still solid, granted his mistakes could have been costly, but a B is a fair grade.
Storari: Marco was really unfortunate, his injury really cost him his starting job and while the team was performing in abysmal fashion in front of him he was keeping this team in games. Scoreless draws against Bari and Livorno were nothing short of World Class performances from the keeper, and had he not been injured, Dida would be on the outs, and few would be crying for Abbiati to get back between the sticks. A truly unfortunate turn of events for a player who was easily en route to an A, but is now stuck a mark down with Dida at a B.
Oddo: Frankly not sending him to Lazio in a package for DeSilvestri was an epic fail, and not selling him to Fiorentina for a song to make De Silvestri available for Milan was worse. Yes he played OK against Madrid, but considering his inability to cross with consistency and his disappearance in defense, the saving grace for Oddo was his injury. Bottom line Oddo is an F.
Nesta: When you consider Nesta’s lofty goals for himself, and his value to any defense, it becomes a challenge to really give his play a mark. Without Nesta though this team would be in shambles on defense, his ability to cover for the RB’s forays forward and his chemistry with Silva has been superb. Tough to choose a single player for this title, but you would have to look to Nesta for Milan’s best so far. An A is must here.
Silva: I don’t like giving rookies high marks, but he blew through his growing pains, and his injury was devastating with many of us hoping for a speedy recovery. What is even more impressive is his runs forwards, a huge positive in his game, and his only really downfall is a awareness which comes with experience, thankfully he has recovery speed so even that weakness gets glossed over. I can’t help but salivate at the potential pairing of Silva and Rannochia or Bonucci for the future, this kid really was a find. I have to give him a B+ because it leaves room for improvement!
Zambro: Watching a player decline is never fun, usually players are graciously phased out when their skills and abiiities no longer hack it, but Zambro is not given this luxury. His versatility is really the key to his inclusion, being able to play both sides, and while he looks atrocious on the left, I had high hopes for his return to the right but even there he lacks pace to get forward or back and is often caught in defensive no man’s land. There was a time where Zambro was the best RB in the World, but his time has passed, a C is representative to what he has left in the tank.
Abate: if you consider that Abate is not really a defender than the mere fact that he had some success back there is a miracle. There is talk in the boot that Abate is not good enough to take on that role on for himself, but without game time and chance to grow into the spot we may never know. In terms of skill set I think he can succeed in the role, but he needs to be more discipline with all the responsibilities that go along with the position. It sure helps that he is probably one of the faster players on the team and with a little more smarts on the defensive side I think he can be OK. Either way his versatility is a huge plus and the fact that he can play any spot on the right makes him an asset to Leo, this gets him a B.
Antonini: I personally always believed in Antonini, I thought he had the right mix of pace and build to put it together, but he never really got a fair shake to prove it. Leo has given him chances and he has shown a pretty solid ability to defend and with more game time he developed a really slick interchange with Dinho that could potentially blossom further with more comfort and game time. What really bugs me about Antonini is that he clearly is not making an impression day in and day out in training to cement his place, and that has to boil down to work ethic, a factor that we can only assume, because we will never see. I want more out of Antonini and if Leo does as well, and he responds, than this mark can only go up, until then a C is about right.