Finally we can give some marks to the Strikers and Midfielders. Hate to be redundant here but I can’t help but reiterate the criteria for these marks in both performance and expectation, I can imagine these may get interesting…
Ambrosini: It would be hard to argue that it has not been one of his more complete years as a Milan player. The Captains armband has seemingly sent a wave of form through Ambro and has been the only real box to box presence in the 3 man midfield. While I would like him to net a few more goals, and maybe even shoot a bit more as well, but in the end the consistency is what really counts. His form lately has dipped as he battled with illness and fatigue, and if you hold that against him than he probably gets a B, but his performance has been consistent and solid and exceed all my expectations and for that I would say an A is in order.
Pirlo: There is not a single player on this team that frustrates me more than Andrea. In one instant he can send a pass so far off target and make such a horrific yellow card tackle, and then suddenly hit Pato with a 35 yd screamer and shield the ball from 4 defenders. He is as inconsistent as they come, and Leo’s 4-3-3 and lack of real defensive cover is not doing him any favors. The inconsistency kills me, but his willingness to work has become more apparent in the past few games and I feel as though he is coming to grips with his new role and working in his own abilities as well. Without two defensive beasts on either side of him we may never see Andrea Pirlo of 2007, but a good passer and tempo manager is still very welcome, and if he can do that he deserves his starting spot all the same. For now he is a C, could just as easily be a D or even a B, it just depends how much he is willing to work in this system. We all know what he is capable, the question is does he want it?
Seedorf: While Andrea frustrates me, Seedorf infuriates me, and solely because of his tempo. Granted I understand why he holds the ball when he does, and in essence he is like Milan’s offensive metronome, he paces the attack and judges when he has the numbers to advance, but there are times when all I want is for him to turn and strike be it on net or into the corner to allow for a quick counter with some pace. The squad has counter well this season, granted not scored on all of them but one two’s with Pato, Pirlo, Dinho, Antonini, and Bori have all come to fruition with pace and venom, none of which have included Clarence. He can still score, and he is still as wily and experienced as you can get for a midfielder, but a C is where I have to draw the line.
Pato: I can’t help but liken Pato to a teenager getting his first taste of action with the ladies: sure he scores when he needs to, but bumbles around far more than we like and lacks the calm and suave demeanor to really make his mark. This will come with growth and experience, but it may also come with some benching and substitutions along the way. How he handles this continuing education will make or break him as a player and it appears he is more like Kaka, mentally, than Ronaldo or Adriano, which is promising. Bottom line though needs to be more decisive, when to pass, when to shoot, and when to dribble, more often than not his head does not match the speed of his feet and his is left with a poor touch or worse a clattering foul. I would rather him make a decision and nail it, then be caught out in no man’s land, yes football is a thinking man’s game, but with his raw ability a little instinct would go a long way too. I feel like a C is proper, but he is so dangerous and proves so important to his teammates that he earns a B.
Borriello: The debate about Borriello could go on forever. Some people think he is not glamorous enough or doesn’t score enough goals to be the team’s man in the middle, but in footballing sense his value is very high. He absorbs pressure from both CB’s moving between them and opening space for Pato and Dinho behind marauding wing backs, he also provides a layer of possession to help keep attacks alive, and finally when given chances is often able to finish. Granted he has missed a few sitters but if you consider his chances he has taken most. In the end his is the ideal filler to the Brazilian sandwich in attack, he provides grit and allows Pato and Dinho to be a bit more “fancy” in there because he is willing to get dirty. He gets an A because few strikers would be willing to do what he has up to now, and that is commendable in its own right. If he keeps on this form he should be going to South Africa.
Ronaldinho: This one is tough for me because of expectation. For an entire season I was told how great Ronaldinho was, and how epically game changing he can, I was promised a plethora of goals while he juggled Fiats on the pitch…in the end my expectations so inflated nothing the man could do would be considered successful. This season I expected zero, in fact I expected I’m to be on a flight out of here, so the fact that he is contributing with most of Milan’s assists is fantastic, but here comes that little expectation bug again. Is it wrong of us to expect some goals from Ronaldinho or do we know just accept his role as a passing hub with little mobility and few chances on net? Frankly, I am not sure!? So in the end if you were expecting Dinho circa Barca Glory Days then you his mark would be abysmally low, he is not scoring and rarely taking on opponents and succeeding one on one. But if you value what he has brought to the team and his ability to gel with Bori and Pato, while beginning to work in some other good one two combination with the likes of Antonini then an A would not be out of the question. For me I am caught in between and unfortunately stuck with a C. I am pleased at what he has provided, in fact very much so, but is it wrong of me to want some goals, the same way some of you clamor for Borriello to score more? Is it wrong of me for him to get some mobility back and counter, this may asking a lot, but if he shot on goal 2-3 times a game, few of us would complain.
I have specifically chosen to exclude Flamini, Rino, Pippo and KJH becasue between red cards, injuries, and poor performances an collective D is on order for this lot. Hopefully that changes in 2010!