By Kris Voakes at San Siro
“It’s not that bad,” claimed Massimiliano Allegri after AC Milan’s latest San Siro humiliation against Atalanta on Saturday night, but he was kidding nobody. The Rossoneri have now lost back-to-back home games to begin a season for the first time in 82 years, and while the coach tries to play down the damage that has been done so far, a repeat showing when the Champions League kicks off on Tuesday could see him nudged desperately close to the exit door.
It was not an ideal summer for the 45-year-old to say the least, with Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sold to save cash and several other experienced heads ending their long associations with the club. But with each abysmal showing, such as was witnessed last night, there comes an ever growing feeling that Allegri is being exposed as a featherweight trying to fight in the heavyweight division.
While this is a rather new-look Milan, and some kind of allowance has to be given for that, it remains a squad with more players of quality than either Sampdoria or Atalanta, yet both have turned up to the Giuseppe Meazza in the past three weeks and driven away with three points. The worst part is that on both occasions the Rossoneri have got exactly what they have deserved.
|MILAN'S HOME RECORD IN 2012-13
|Shots at goal
Both sides arrived with a simple yet effective game plan - defend in numbers and use intelligence in midfield and flair in the forward line to ask questions of the home side. Atalanta caused trouble with the use of Maxi Moralez on the left, occasionally switching with Giacomo Bonaventura to slot into his more familiar central role behind the ever-dangerous German Denis. But it was with the simple tactic of stretching Milan’s defence and laying the ball back to the edge of the area that they caught the home side napping on a number of occasions, finally breaking through when Luca Cigarini fired home from just such a move.
At that point, 19 minutes into the second-half, Milan had not once reached the byeline and sent in a meaningful cross. They did not once play to the strengths of Giampaolo Pazzini. The one time they had asked a serious question of Andrea Consigli was with a snap-shot from Stephan El Shaarawy, which the keeper then had to save for a second time after the ball came back off his own skipper Gianpaolo Bellini.
There was no energy, no movement, no obvious gameplan. Far too often, when a Milan player looked up, he saw only static red and black shirts ahead of him. Nigel De Jong, starting for the first time, must wonder exactly why he left a Manchester City side which exhibited superb movement ahead of the midfield line for a club whose attacking unit gave him absolutely no out-ball 99 per cent of the time.
But for one turn and shot across the face of goal, Kevin-Prince Boateng looked like an imposter in the hallowed No.10 shirt. Urby Emanuelson turned in yet another midfield performance devoid of any real thrust or creativity. Luca Antonini failed to stretch the unconvincing Cristian Raimondi and Bellini even once. The defensive pairing of Francesco Acerbi and Daniele Bonera again left the home fans wondering why there has still been no game time for Cristian Zapata. It was a complete no-show from the Diavolo, and Allegri’s tactical ineptitude was apparent from start to finish.
Massimo Ambrosini tellingly admitted after the game that Milan were missing those star players on whom the rest used to wait for a moment of magic. He might as well have referred to Ibrahimovic by name, because the message was clear. After two years of team-talks which amounted to little more than “give it to Zlatan," Allegri’s ability as a coach is under massive scrutiny. It is his job to motivate the troops, to give them a clear tactical plan, to out-think the opposition coach, to cajole an improvement in the performance levels of his players, to respond to times of trouble with new ways to subvert the opposition. Yet at the moment, he is falling short in every department. Last season they may have been one-dimensional, but it was a step up on what is being served up right now.
So, as the Rossoneri get set to welcome Anderlecht for their European opener on Tuesday, Allegri would do well to admit that things really are bad and start to do something about it. Otherwise, more damaging defeats will follow and the rot could set in even deeper before this great club can begin to turn around their ailing fortunes.Follow Kris Voakes on