Scouting Giampaolo Pazzini: Milan Striker in Red-Hot Form This Season
Milan are in a state of transition this season and the transfer policy reflected that last summer.
Massimiliano Allegri was determined to target players for specific roles to give the team the best chance of snatching a Champions League place.
With the lack of funds to be able to completely rejuvenate the squad, Allegri decided to pinpoint certain positions that would become more important throughout the course of a season.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving to PSG, Milan's collection of strikers was rather one-dimensional, including Alexandre Pato, Stephan El Shaarawy, Robinho, Antonio Cassano and Bojan Krkic. All excellent strikers under the right circumstances, but all similar to each other, too technical and dependent on getting touches on the ball.
Without the ball, Milan lacked a body to be able to hold the attack together and provide that fulcrum for the more technical players to revolve around, which led the Rossoneri to pursue a deal for Giampaolo Pazzini.
Milan opted to swap Cassano for the former Inter striker, with extra cash going towards the Nerazzurri. The deal appeared lopsided in favour of Milan's rivals, but given the desperation for a striker that was capable of thriving inside, rather than outside of the penalty area, Milan pulled the trigger on the deal.
After a hat-trick on his debut against Bologna, Pazzini's form took a sharp dive and it appeared as if he had lost his ability to affect a game for a club of Milan's stature. Allegri never lost faith, though, and Pazzini has worked his way back into the reckoning in recent months and the goals have returned.
Pazzini is enjoying a purple patch currently and proof that he is back to his best was the sensational second goal that he scored against Bologna at the San Siro in January. His confidence is at the highest it has been in his short Rossoneri career and it is apparent when you see the player have the sheer audacity to flick the ball over the defender's head and volley into the back of the net.
Pazzini offered the side a great deal in that period where he was not finding the net too though, it was just less obvious. Often linking with El Shaarawy, who was the league's Capocannoniere at one point, was a major part of Milan's recent revival.
Pazzini's close control and vision to manoeuvre the ball into the space behind the opposition's defence was a major reason for El Shaarawy proving to be such a hit coming inside from the left flank.
The reason for Pazzini's goals drying up though was simply due to Milan's attacks becoming too obvious, as Bojan or Kevin-Prince Boateng, who occupied the right side of the front three, tended to replicate what El Shaarawy was doing by cutting inside to link with Pazzini.
Without more diversity in the attack, Milan's opponents could stick two centre-backs on Pazzini. That means that even if some good movement could deceive the first centre-back, it was not enough to get a clear sight on goal as the second centre-back would often snuff out the danger.
The emergence of M'Baye Niang on the right has changed everything, although Boateng started this process by beginning to move the ball to the outside of the full back and attempt to deliver crosses into the area—even if the Ghanaian was not a natural at doing so.
With the threat of attacking from the outside, one of the opposition's centre-backs was forced to come towards the near post in order to defend the crosses, which provided Pazzini with the one-on-one situations that he craved.
Pazzini's movement can be very clever, as he cannot rely on express pace to pull away from defenders.
His ability in the air and tendency to work half a yard of space by positioning his body between the defender and the ball means that he can develop opportunities if the service is there.
Niang is hardly the finished article, but the mere threat of the Frenchman beating the left-back on the outside is enough that the opposition cannot double-team Pazzini all the time, which gives Milan's number nine more opportunities each game.
Pazzini is constantly alive in the penalty area and when the space opens up; it is inevitable that he will sniff a chance, which will result, sooner or later, in the ball being in the back of the net.
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