Let's start with the positive: AC Milan have now played a home game this season that they didn't lose.
Beyond that, though, there will be little from last night's 0-0 draw with Anderlecht that will give Milan fans any comfort.
I previewed Milan's Champions League group here, in which I concluded that Anderlecht would be the weakest of the opponents the Rossoneri would face. If we presume that to be true—and Malaga at least looked far more impressive in their rout of Zenit—then a home game against the Belgians should have been the ideal way in which to move on from their disappointments so far this year.
But this did not prove to be the case. In truth, Milan could have considered themselves fortunate not to go behind in a first half where Anderlecht had the majority of possession.
The second half did see an improvement in both the vigour of the Rossneri's pressing and the chances they created, but they still lacked any real conviction in their play.
Much will be made of the front three played by coach Massimiliano Allegri, with Kevin-Prince Boateng and Urby Emanuelson providing wide support for Giampaulo Pazzini as the lone striker. But the root of the problem came from a Milan midfield desperately lacking in creativity.
Milan's problem in this area since the loss of Andrea Pirlo was masked to some extent last year. They had a get-out-of-jail-free card then: lob the ball up to Ibrahimovic, who will win the ball and make something happen.
This "route one" philosophy is still evident in their play, despite the Swede having long since departed for Paris.
So it was actually the midfield trident played by Allegri at night that was the more baffling: none of Flamini, Nocerino or de Jong are creative players and so they aptly demonstrated.
Emanuelson toiled well and Boateng was a little harshly jeered when substituted, as both were cut off for long periods of the game due to a lack of supply from the midfield.
It will obviously be to Riccardo Montolivo that Milan will look to remedy this, but he is far from a magic bullet. Relying on one player is never a good philosophy in football and, given the Milan squad's propensity for injuries in the last few years, it is an even riskier notion at Milanello.
Nevertheless, watching Milan flounder even in the second half last night, it was clear that they lacked on-field leadership. Never was there a sense that they needed to get the ball to "x player" a bit more, as each of them looked as devoid of ideas as the others.
Whilst a team with Robinho, Pato and Montolivo will obviously be a stronger one, it's still not clear that any of these men are ready to take on the role of providing the club with that much needed direction.
Calls for Allegri to be fired are premature—in his two seasons at the club, he has finished first and second in Serie A and he's seen the team he built decimated by transfers and retirements during the summer.
However, he will have to act fast to avoid becoming the scapegoat for this season's lack of success. I still believe that the reasons for optimism listed here are valid, but at a club like Milan, patience in not a well-held virtue.
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