By now, you’re probably sick fed-up of hearing about AC Milan are their troubles.
You’ve read in excess of 100 articles attempting to dissect their woes, you’ve been exposed to the hackneyed contrast between their current squad and the side which dominated Europe all those years ago, and you’ve likely stumbled across the Serie A standings and were left befuddled at their current league position.
Granted, many people have came to accept that Milan are no longer a force to be reckoned with, but sitting yourself down in front of a Milan game in recent times has became more of a penance rather than a reward.
Saturday’s night’s trip to Verona only served to deepen the wound inflicted upon the Rossoneri this campaign, as Milan reached a fresh new nadir in an already ghastly season.
Chievo are side whose main ambition is survival. They do not possess the funds nor the capability to stake a European claim, yet, for the bulk of Saturday evening’s encounter, Chievo appeared to have found a side that they could go toe-to-toe with.
In fact, it was the side from Verona who ended the match boasting more shots on target – albeit only three – but the harsh reality of it was that Milan only came close to scoring minutes after the restart when Keisuke Honda rattled the crossbar. Chievo themselves came close late on as Diego Lopez was forced into action when Ezequiel Schelotto took aim from long-range.
The fixture did, however, act as an underpin to the deep-rooted problems which have plagued Milan this campaign. Pippo Inzaghi’s side have failed to register back-to-back league victories since October, they remain without an away win since mid-October and, since Torino grabbed an invaluable 1-0 victory over Napoli on Sunday night, occupy 10th spot in the Serie A table. It’s an abject state of affairs yet the signs have remained omnipresent as the season has progressed.
To his credit, Inzaghi has masterminded various satisfactory performances this season. They carved open Rafa Benitez’s Napoli side in December before heading to the Stadio Olimpico where they earned a hard-fought point against a side with Scudetto ambitions and for a brief moment, it appeared as if this Milan side were on the verge of kick starting their season.
But they haven’t, and their form since the turn of the year does not make for pretty viewing. Out of a possible 27 points since the Serie A recommenced on January 6th, Milan have picked up only three – against strugglers Cesena at home.
Within that frame, they have experienced home defeats to Sassuolo and Atalanta, and could only manage a draw against newly promoted Empoli. Their form on the road remains harrowing, netting on only three separate occasions.
This came after the January additions of several renowned faces. Alessio Cerci was relieved of his Madrid nightmare in exchange for Fernando Torres whilst Mattia Destro – a proven Serie A goalscorer – was acquired on a six-month loan deal from Roma.
In defence, meanwhile, both Salvatore Bochetti and Luca Antonelli – once of AC Milan – were brought in to aid a fragile back four, with Gabriel Paletta supplementing the pairing after he was signed from Parma for a fee of €1 million.
Those names became the second batch of arrivals into the club after the likes of Jeremy Menez, Diego Lopez, Andrea Poli and Giacomo Bonaventura were all captured in the summer, making the Rossoneri’s transfer activity one of the most frantic in recent years.
But the activity seemed rather superfluous. Granted, there were several needs that Milan needed to address, but it seemed as if Galliani had been wound up in the Rossoneri’s previous triumphs, perilously attempting to restore his side as a European powerhouse despite overseeing arguably his worst period as Milan CEO, where they failed to finish in the European places for the first time since 1998. He’s often lauded for his shrewd transfer-dealings, but Inzaghi is seemingly being made to pay for Galliani’s summer of irrationality.
Though that argument appears rather superficial. Milan are a considerably stronger side than what they table depicts them as. Jeremy Menez is keeping pace with both Mauro Icardi and Carlos Tevez at the summit of the Capocannonieri standings, reigning player of the year Nigel De Jong has remained his diligent and consistent self – despite recent injury worries – and Diego Lopez has fast-tracked into Milan’s most indispensable player.
Admittedly, Inzaghi is still wet behind the ears. He was plucked from the Milan Primavera and was tasked with returning Milan to the promise land, but that doesn’t explain the shortage of potency that has bedevilled Milan’s play this campaign.
Granted, he has – and will continue to – make fledgling errors, but his apparent inability to motivate the Milan dressing is a definite cause for concern. Sulley Muntari was dubiously handed the captaincy when Milan visited the Juventus Stadium last month and it worked to no avail. In fact, the Ghanian trudged off the field after a 3-1 defeat as one of the worst players on the pitch.
Furthermore, Inzaghi has yet to find a settled backline and midfield trio, and, with the midway point of the season gone, has ostensibly shifted formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-3-1-2 to accommodate new arrival Mattia Destro.
Yet, when you take a quick glance towards the depth Milan have in attack, a central-based formation appears mystifying. True, the likes of Giacomo Bonaventura and Jeremy Menez have been a rare bright spark in the Rossoneri attack in recent weeks, but it is simply ludicrous for Inzaghi to mould the entire side around three attacking players.
Of course, Cerci, Stephan El Shaarawy and Honda – the typical wide-men – have struggled to find any sort of constituency this season, but gradually implementing them into the side would certainly be a more prudent approach than to shun them out of the squad completely. Does Inzaghi have a long-term plan?
Galliani certainly doesn’t. Bryan Cristante – often touted as the successor to Andrea Pirlo – was sold to Benfica in the summer for €6 million, despite being only 20 years of age. Additionally, M’Baye Niang, who played over 30 games for Milan at the tender age of 20, was loaned out to fellow European chasing side Genoa during the January transfer window. Theoretically, the €6 million couped from the Cristante sale went towards the signings of Paletta, aged 29, and Adil Rami, aged 28, and that still leaves spare change.
They are, undoubtedly, a club in turmoil. From the board, to the manager, to the players. The opportunity to appoint an accomplished head coach is now gone, the opportunity to ameliorate the squad where most required is now gone, and consequently, their chance at European qualification is now, ultimately, gone.
They could stick with Inzaghi, allow him to administer the large portion of transfer-dealings, or they could twist, bring in a seasoned coach and hope that he can manoeuvre his way through the rubble and rebuild this Milan side to what they previously were.
Either way, the Rossoneri are a club deep-rooted in crisis, and with aspirations of a new stadium in the near future, will need to stabilise affairs within the club if they have serious intentions of rubbing shoulders with the elite.