Club Focus - Milan - Ibrahimović at the double
The Champions League match against Auxerre sums up Milan’s season so far. The Rossoneri dismantled Lecce before putting in a disappointing performance in the defeat to Cesena. Against the French club, Milan looked unconvincing up to the point when Zlatan Ibrahimović managed to score his first in Rossoneri colours. The temperamental Swede would go on to score a second to put his penalty miss against Cesena behind him.
While the result on the pitch was positive, the scenes off the pitch have not been as optimistic with the news Alexandre Pato is suffering from an injury which will sideline him for three weeks. The injury comes at a delicate time when Coach Massimiliano Allegri is trying to get familiar with the new players while integrating the old with the new in a cohesive unit. Filippo Inzaghi was visibly upset at not having the opportunity to play even for a few minutes, but Allegri attempted to shrug it off by claiming he is happy to see the veteran striker still has the fire to play and score goals. Inzaghi is one of Europe’s all-time greatest goal scorers at the club and his hunger to find the back of the net is a testament to his desire to play and be of service. As for Ibrahimović, he continues to grab the headlines with his theatrics and performances, his two goals in the Champions League were overshadowed by his verbal attack on former Azzurri Coach Arrigo Sacchi and his kick at Rodney Strasser in training, although the Strasser incident appears to have been a joke without any malicious intent.
Coach Allegri has his hands full trying to integrate the star forwards together and the injury to Pato will not help since the young Brazilian is an important starter in the team. Pato’s injury could be a blessing for another player, Robinho, who has not received the same media coverage as Ibrahimović. Robinho has been saying all the right things insisting he will work hard to earn a starring role but this injury to his compatriot could see him walk into the starting line-up this weekend. It could be only time before Robinho begins to instigate things and completely turn Milanello into a circus along with Ibrahimović.
In the midst of all this Ibra fever, the injury to Massimo Ambrosini was overlooked while Kevin-Prince Boateng’s European debut with Milan received little attention. Boateng is on a season-long loan and every minute played will be a test to his mental strength and physical ability to cope with the best in Serie A and Europe. Boateng might find it hard to break into the starting line-up just as Mathieu Flamini has been unable to do so since joining from Arsenal a few years ago. Flamini joined the Rossoneri after a solid season with the Gunners but never established himself with players such as Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Massimo Ambrosini all ahead of him in the pecking order.
On the injury front and besides Pato’s absence, the Rossoneri will be without skipper Ambrosini for up to three weeks. This will give Boateng the opportunity to get more playing time and perhaps solidify his chances of becoming a starter. The injuries will not help the squad build consistency and familiarity since players will be going in and out of the first XI before the Coach can settle on his preferred team. Allegri will be earning his paycheck the hard way and one should not be surprised if he becomes one of the first victims of the post-Ibrahimović and Robinho signing era. If the Rossoneri go through a bad stretch then the Coach will be the first to come under scrutiny. The defeat against Cesena and the shaky performance against Auxerre have already raised some doubts which mean outspoken club President Silvio Berlusconi might intervene or make declarations that could destabilise the team. As long as the Rossoneri win matches then all will be forgotten and the focus will be on the results, but once a bad stretch hits the club the voices of criticism will raise calling for change. Allegri has the unenviable task of keeping his stars happy yet he must be satisfied with Ronaldinho’s contribution against Auxerre as well as the return of centre-back Alessandro Nesta, who is crucial to the stability of the defensive line.