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The Rossoneri were a long way short of their title-winning best last night, giving Massimiliano Allegri another reason to alter his side's approach before they get left behind

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By Kris Voakes at Juventus Stadium

Beaten into submission, bruised and battered, AC Milan succumbed to two late strikes at Juventus Stadium last night. On leaving Turin, they will have realised that they very nearly got away with one of the most unwarranted points imaginable. And with a midfield so static, narrow, and devoid of flair, they need a serious rethink on their style of play if they are to have any hope of retaining their crown this season.

The team that did so well last term in picking their moments and striking at the heart of the opposition has been left behind by the dynamism of the early pace-setters. It is no coincidence that Massimiliano Allegri’s side can boast only one point from their clashes with the league’s current top three. While the likes of Juventus, Napoli and Udinese light up the country with performances and points, the champions are lacking in both regards.

The loss to a team containing Andrea Pirlo at its play-making heart comes as a timely reminder of the creativity that Milan used to boast. They may well have used a 4-3-1-2 system for a lengthy period now, but there are different ways of playing any formation, and the current narrow, energy-free version just doesn’t suit Serie A in its 2011-12 guise.

With the impressive starts of Napoli and Juve in particular has come a lesson to the rest of the league. Football evolves, and so Milan can ill-afford to stand still. Yet standing still was something they were very guilty of during the game against the Bianconeri. Lacking full-backs with pace, they were unable to offer anything other than a predictable, lifeless approach, based solely on the hope that their hosts would eventually make an error from one of the several telegraphed cross-field aerial passes.

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With Clarence Seedorf offering little cover for his defence and even less mobility when attacking from deep, Mark van Bommel is lacking the energetic presence he requires to make his style of play a platform-building one. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Antonio Nocerino on a regular basis – albeit partly due to the current injury crisis – has exposed the lack of variety in the Rossoneri’s midfield depth. Dogged and determined though Nocerino may be, drive and dynamism are not the first things you think of when describing the former Palermo man.

Although there are obvious concerns over Daniele Bonera at the back, it does nobody any good to keep going over the well-worn point. He isn’t good enough: it’s as simple as that. Once Alessandro Nesta limped out of the action, there was always the chance a mistake could land Milan in trouble, and so it proved. That Christian Abbiati should take his eyes off the ball to allow a second goal in injury time just rubbed salt into the wounds.

SERIE A TABLE | Round 6

1 Juventus
2 Udinese
3 Napoli
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15 Milan
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17 Inter
Played
5
5
5

5

5
Points
11
11
10

5

4
Up front there was little movement from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and no invention of any note from Antonio Cassano. The ex-Sampdoria man is proving with each match that he is not cut from the Milan cloth. The sooner Alexandre Pato and particularly Robinho return, the better. The No.70’s lack of action this season has been one of the main differences between the Rossoneri of early 2011 and their current underwhelming version.

The addition of Alberto Aquilani has so far not been the answer, and the return of Robinho cannot come quick enough for a side missing their Mr. X. Kevin-Prince Boateng, willing though he is, suits the midfield three much more than the trequartista role. His damage is often done on the flanks, leaving nobody dictating the pace and passing from the middle.

There is a worry that the returns of their usual starters may not be enough. With the leaders already six points ahead of them, and looking infinitely more comfortable with the dynamic demands of Serie A football this season, Milan need an entire rethink. A change of shape may well be in order to allow them to open up new avenues of attack, given that at the moment they are far too easy to stop, far too often.

Just as Tottenham Hotspur exposed his squad’s lack of creative flair in a different environment back in February, Allegri is now looking short of answers in the modern make-up of the Italian league. Five months is a ridiculously long time in football, and a new, more flair-orientated approach is likely to be the one rewarded with Scudetto glory this season. At the moment, Milan simply don’t fit the bill.

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