The Rossoneri are in crisis, no doubt about it. Three losses in four league games this season have manager Massimiliano Allegri close to being dismissed from Milan’s bench.
But what could be the reasons for the Milanello club to have its worst start in 80 years?
It is well known that Milan's squad was disbanded last season. The team lost several key players after they were transferred or retired.
Just think about these names: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Clarence Seedorf, Thiago Silva, Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta, and Antonio Cassano. All of them were important players for the club in recent seasons. Seedorf, Inzaghi, Nesta and Gattuso even enter the club's category of historic players.
Then take a look at the following players: Nigel de Jong, Giampaolo Pazzini, Francesco Acerbi, Bojan Krkic, and Sulley Muntary. These were Milan's top transfers this season. They are good players but none of them compare to the quality of the ones who left, even the ones that reached a retirement age. Players like Seedorf, Gattuso and Nesta were occasional starters or came off the bench very often and played important roles in last season's campaign in which a competitive Milan was fighting for the Serie A title until the end. It is important to point out that some of the players that arrived this season were not wanted by their former clubs and found in Milan a place that could kick start their careers.
According to Transfermarkt.de, Milan had a positive balance of £39.5 million ($64.1 million) in last summer's transfer window. Milan's executives usually spend more than they sell, and generally Milan's transfer balance is negative unless it sells a big star. Such was the case in 2006 when it transfered Andriy Shevchenko to Chelsea for almost £40 million ($65 million) or 2009 when Kaka went to Real Madrid for £57 million ($92.5 million). Last summer Milan sold Ibrahimovic and Silva for a combined £55 million ($89.3 million).
But this time, Milan's bosses will most likely not use the transfer surplus to spend in big signings next season or in the winter transfer window, aiming for a more financially responsible way of operating. They have cited the UEFA's Financial Fair Play rule as the reason they've taken these measures, since the rule is already being put in effect by UEFA, which aims to introduce more discipline and rationality in soccer clubs' finances.
Milan's weaker squad then, could be cited as a good reason for the team’s poor performance. Ibrahimovic’s presence and dominance inside the box was key to Milan’s recent success, and the absence of Silva, who is regarded by many as the best central defender in the world, creates a big hole in the Rossoneri's defense.
But the current squad is probably stronger than 16 or 17 teams in Serie A. The reasons for Milan's poor performance go beyond the quality of the squad and are aimed towards the team's playing style and manager Allegri's strategy.
The seven-time European champions have had short instances in which they have played good soccer, dominating and creating chances, but they are lacking the consistency needed to play well most of a game. Last Sunday, for example, they played very well the first 25 minutes and then the team slowed down while Udinese gained in confidence.
The fact that Milan has not faced a big team yet makes the situation worse. Home defeats against much smaller teams like Atalanta and recently promoted Sampdoria, and in the UEFA Champions League game against Anderlecht are clear examples that is not a matter of lack of quality in the squad but a matter of just simply failing to establish the most appropriate approach to each game. That's when Allegri's responsibility comes in.
Allegri has been given some slack due to the big changes in the squad, but his time is running out as the bad results against inferior teams have put his job on the line.
There are also rumors of internal problems. Italian media reported Allegri and new youth team coach Inzaghi had a heated exchange of words last week. Although the reports have been denied, the internal situation may not be optimal and can have an effect on Milan's performance. We have to remember that Inzaghi retired from professional soccer last season after Milan denied him a contract extension, a decision that could have been influenced by Allegri.
However, there is hope for Allegri. Brazilian strikers Robinho and Pato, who suffered injuries at the start of the season, will return in the next days and should give the team an offensive boost that will definitely make the most internationally decorated club in the world (along with Boca Juniors) more competitive.
Milan's consolation is that its city rivals Inter Milan is also going through a bad streak after losing at home last Sunday against Siena (who is in last place due to a six-point deduction for its part in the match-fixing scandal). In fact, San Siro stadium has not seen any of the Milan teams win this season (in eight games), as Milan has lost two and tied one and Inter lost three and tied two at home in all competitions.
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