By Aditya Bajaj
At the moment, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri just needs to go to Milanello, train his players, come back home and lock himself up because everything around the 45-yeard old seems to be falling apart. There’s a general air of misconception that he isn’t capable of doing any good if the last one month is anything to go by.
The season hadn’t even started when he was blasted by club CEO Dr. Adriano Galliani after the heavy pre-season defeat to Real Madrid in August, when Uncle Fester tried to remind him that Milan were a “Big” club, and needed to play a certain brand of football, perhaps, not realizing that he is among the main culprits to have forgotten that during the unremarkable summer transfer window.
But little did the former Cagliari boss know, or maybe he did, that he would be made the symbol of Milan’s misery once his team kicked off the season against Sampdoria at home. Not many were surprised when they were defeated by a team marking its return to top flight football from second division, yet fans and management reacted in amazement calling for the head of their coach right away.
The victory away at Bologna did raise a few hopes, but Allegri virtually lost the plot after Milan recorded their second consecutive home defeat at the hands of Atalanta and in the process making their worst start at home in 82 years. This was followed up by another lifeless display against Anderlecht. Same stadium, though in the Champions league this time, a competition Milan fans claim to be in the club’s ‘DNA’.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the most recent reports of a bust up (later denied by both) with former Milan striker and current youth sector coach, Pippo Inzaghi, has only dented poor Allegri’s hopes of staying for “quite some time” as the head coach of one of the most successful club in the world. If reports are anything to go by, Sunday’s match away at Udinese could very well decide his fate though Galliani claims to have backed his colleague. But who believes Uncle Fester anyway after the many false promises made during the Mercato right?
"We are Milan and we all love Milan, so nothing like that would have occurred. Rather than writing about things that didn’t happen, Milan need a helping hand."
- Pippo Inzaghi denying the media reported bust up with Allegri
The game at the Friuli will be Milan’s ‘fourth’ game in the domestic league, but is it really fair to judge a manager so early in the season?
To be fair to the beleaguered coach, Milan have always been slow starters with or without star players. Over the past five years since the Champions League winning 2006-07 campaign, the team has collected not more than 9 points from a possible 15 from the first five matches of the season. It’s a trend that’s been going on for quite some time and there is no reason to panic this time around as well, despite the team losing two of its two first three games in the Serie A.
|AC Milan's season starts post 2006-07
|Season||Points collected from the first five games|
There’s still time to turn things around, and all this team needs is a winning streak - even if it’s a shortlived one - to slowly gain confidence to play a more attractive brand of football as the season progresses. Remember, Milan are at the dawn of a new era, where the team is in transition to build a new generation of players who would go on to represent the club for a long time in future and this bunch needs time to get to know each other. Allegri, as the man overlooking this process, is in no comfort zone, and putting additional pressure on him will only hinder this metamorphosis.
Another big point that many seem to be ignoring is that the club has been lacking creativity of any kind in the squad, and that’s mainly down to the injuries that have been plaguing the club since the start of the season. We will not talk of Alexandre Pato, as given his record, his recovery will only be a bonus, but the Rossoneri are desperately missing two of their most creative players in Robinho and Riccardo Montolivo and the duo’s arrival will surely spark some life into the team.
Giampaolo Pazzini has been virtually absent, apart from that unimpressive hat-trick at Bologna, but with Robinho supporting him, his poaching instincts will be milked to great degree of success ultimately resulting in goals that have been missing. More important is the return of Italian international midfielder Riccardo Montolivo as he will lend much needed creativity to a very defensive minded midfield, Allegri has been forced to field so far this season. With Nigel De Jong or captain Massimo Ambrosini and Antonio Nocerino supporting the Italian, this midfield will be a constructive mixture of steel and artisanship.
It would only then be fair to judge the manager, once he has the full squad at his disposal as there will be no longer excuses and if results still don’t come, it will all come down to his tactics, in which case, one can argue it will be totally fair to give him the sack. But so soon into the season, with a half fit squad and a terribly inexperienced side from the one he enjoyed over the course of his last two seasons at the club and putting him under so much scrutiny, is far from being fair.
Perhaps, no one could have explained the situation better than Francesco Guidolin, Udinese's manager and his counterpart on Sunday, when he very truly remarked that people often forget that Allegri is a coach who had just helped Milan to the Scudetto a year ago, before finishing second last season to a very good Juventus side. But like he explained, such things can only happen in Italy.
“Unfortunately this only happens in Italy. Allegri, a coach who won the League title then finished second the following year, is under discussion after only three games."
- Francesco Guidolin speaks out in support of Allegri
Zlatan is gone, and so has Thiago Silva and that’s a bitter pill to swallow for any coach used to the luxury of having some of the best players in the world at his service. Not to forget, the mass exodus of the veterans, often regarded as the senators in the dressing room and without their inspiration, things will obviously be difficult initially and for that Allegri certainly deserves more than just three matches to prove what he is capable of pulling off.
He has been rigid in the past with his formations, but the fact that over the past one month Allegri has tried atleast three different formations from a 4-3-3 with a ‘false nine’ against Sampdoria to the 4-3-2-1 employed against Anderlecht alongside his favourite 4-3-1-2, which is certainly a positive sign that the coach is willing to adapt and is still looking to find the best possible way to move forward. It would be cruel to stop him from re-discovering a new team and the right brand of football should the team lose to Udinese on Sunday.
Galliani and Berlusconi have collectively made the fans go through a lot of changes over false promises in the past three months, and the former especially should be man enough to shoulder the responsibility of the debacle the season has been so far for Milan, instead of criticizing Allegri in public, while the latter has atleast been decent enough to support his manager. But having been accused of making shallow promises by no fewer than two players in Antonio Cassano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sunday will be a test, not only for Allegri but for the 68-year old CEO’s ‘word’ as well, after he very famously babbled at a presser back in April that Milan are a club that criticize their coaches, but keep them.
" The difference between us and the others is that we criticize our coaches, but we keep them. Others remain silent, then sack them. "
- Milan CEO Adriano Galliani at a presser in April
Well, we would have to wait until Sunday to find out if that’s another one of his now infamous “hollow quotations”.
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