Well looks like with a three match ban this whole idea of Milan being "Zlatan Dependant" is going to have to get thrown out the window. His game Sunday was actually painful to watch, and was one of those matches you see a striker have on occasion where absolutely nothing goes his way and he eventually loses every last shred of composure. Did he deserve the red card? Yes, of course, his behavior was pestilent and childish and I think the ban was warranted. Sure you can make a case that maybe it was a little harsh because he was given a straight red after all, but the FIGC has spoken and I don’t see anything changing. With a trip to Palermo and a Derby looming Allegri is going to have to make some sense of this little dilemma and I have a sneaking suspicion that Milan will be OK…
I am going to be brutally honest here, I don’t like the way we hoof balls to Zlatan. It is sloppy, it lacks invention and it caters to one player instead of blending the entire attack. Milan’s best performances this season have been when others have been involved in the attack, including Zlatan, with assists and great off the ball runs, case in point the Napoli match. The problem is when Milan seemingly run out of ideas, the team finds this horrible offensive phase of knocking the ball into Zlatan in any matter whatsoever: high ball, low ball, lofted ball, and through ball to try and make something happen. Sometimes he makes magic, more often than not he gets dispossessed, and turns into the crybaby we saw firsthand on Sunday. It makes the team one dimensional and seemingly makes it easy for a player like Pato to go among the missing.
The key to making a Zlatan-less lineup work is Antonio Cassano. His movement and link play interchanging both in and behind Pato and Robinho should make for a very dynamic attack, and one not reliant solely on one player. If Milan can make it clear to the opponent early that each member of the attack will be involved and potentially dangerous, offensive space and chances should increase dramatically. Playing the ball on the ground, to the feet of an interchanging trident of Cassano, Robinho, and Pato should be a nightmare to defenders and rather intriguing to us as fans who have been used to the "revolve around Zlatan" method of attack. If Cassano can use his skills and talents consistently the task of unlocking defenses should be easy, giving Pato space to operate, and hopefully if given the chance Robinho can finish.
Allegri may also have the choice of using KPB as the CAM and playing only two of the three attackers from the outset, a choice he can make based on the opponent and magnitude of the match. Most importantly he needs to make sure KPB is fit enough in whatever matches he chooses to utilize him. He adds a bit of grit and a steam rolling nature to the attack, while still having that finishing touch we have seen on three occasions already.
Now let me be clear, I don’t want to turn this into a Zlatan bashing post, or portray him as a problem. He is not; if anything the burden of our Zlatan dependency falls on everyone from the coach to the keepers. Just because Zlatan is on the field doesn’t mean every ball has to get played to his feet, the team has proved successful in matches when the attack is working cohesively as a unit, and not just as one player. While he has won us some matches in MOTM type performances, this team has plenty of talent to make due in his absence. If anything this ban has a silver lining. It will force the rest of the team to wake up and be accountable while giving Zlatan a much needed rest and refresher. Forget the opponents and forget the upcoming matches, this is not an excuse or a hindrance, but simply a wake-up call that this team can play well with whoever is on the pitch.