AC Milan's Balotelli-El Shaarawy Duo Is the Best Attacking Duo in the World
Milan might have endured a turbulent season but they have stumbled across the best attacking duo in football and I will explain why.
Firstly, it is important to explain what I mean by attacking duo, as clearly you could throw Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo together with one of several teammates and collectively they might be considered a better duo simply due to productivity.
Likewise, you have to consider whether two players are really an attacking duo; Balotelli and El Shaarawy represent the focal points of Milan's attack, whereas Bayern Munich might not have two players in particular who represent their attack.
So please express your views in the comment section below and whether you agree or disagree and your suggestions for the best attacking duos around too.
All statistics were taken from Transfermarkt.
While considering how good Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli are, it was important to compiles a list of other candidates.
While it was tricky in some cases to identify who would be a side's best attacking duo, such as Real Madrid or Barcelona, I have made a list of other candidates that I considered.
With Messi and Ronaldo being such outstanding players and the rest of their side regularly rotated in and out, it was almost impossible to pin point who would clearly be considered one of these two's partners to make up an attacking duo.
Of course, there will be plenty others that I have missed or maybe some would consider better than others, so feel free to chip in with suggestions below.
- Franck Ribery and Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich: While one could argue that Mario Mandzukic should be one of Bayern's best attacking duo, I felt that Ribery and Mueller represent the two most productive attacking players that are assured of their place each game as Claudio Pizarro and Mario Gomez receive plenty of action ahead of the Croatian. Goals/assists 2012-13: 26/30.
- Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, Arsenal: The Gunners have not been entirely dependent on a true centre forward, with Olivier Giroud failing to fully convince. Cazorla's craft and Walcott's explosiveness represent a fine combination. Goals/assists 2012-13: 30/26.
- Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio, Inter Milan: The Nerazzurri's Argentine duo have a wonderful understanding and that's what made me plump for the former Boca forward rather than Antonio Cassano. Goals/assists 2012-13: 31/15.
- Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, Manchester United: The Dutchman started the season on fire, but his form has dipped since the new year and Rooney's fitness problems and inability to fully compliment the former Arsenal striker probably takes this duo out of the equation, but certainly one to consider. Goals/assists 2012-13: 41/27.
- Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, Chelsea: Two magicians on the ball who ooze class and possess near-perfect technique, they maybe lack a killer instinct in front of goal that other team's best attacking duos contain. Goals/assists 2012-13: 30/52.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi, PSG: Right up there for talent, but due to a lack of time together, having both joined the Ligue 1 outfit last summer, maybe fall short of the very best. Goals/assists 2012-13: 42/21.
- Erik Lamela and Francesco Totti, Roma: A sensational pair of fantasistas that make the Giallorossi a joy to watch, with a half-decent defence, Roma could have mounted a challenge for Champions League football. Goals/assists 2012-13: 26/15.
- Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik, Napoli: The Partenopei almost mounted a serious title challenge thanks to these two, who both upped their games in light of Lavezzi's departure last summer. Goals/assists 2012-13: 40/25.
- Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, Manchester City: When on song, two of the best strikers in the world, but surely City falling well short in the title race is an indication that the Argentine duo are not as consistent as they should be. Goals/assists 2012-13: 32/21.
For Borussia Dortmund, it was tricky to dissect who exactly were their attacking duo, and I believe it is fair to say that they do not have one due to the diversity of their attack. Robert Lewandowski, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and even Jakub Błaszczykowski are all fundamental to Jurgen Klopp's side.
Equal Importance Prevents Opposition Focusing Tactics on Nullifying One
Milan's advantage over some other sides who possess a potent attacking duo is that it is difficult to say who is more important for the Rossoneri, Balotelli or El Shaarawy.
Since Super Mario arrived at the San Siro in January, sides have found it tremendously difficult to defend Milan.
With Massimiliano Allegri's 4-3-3, two centre-backs are tasked with defending Balotelli and would probably be confident that they could stop Italy's number nine if they were on their game.
The problem is that Il Faraone is then left to his own device on the left wing where he faces a one-on-one matchup with the opposition's right-back, which can often result in the 20-year-old getting in behind the opposition's defence.
When this happens, the centre-backs are often forced to split and leave Balotelli marked by just one defender in the middle of the penalty area, which can be an awful situation for any defence to find themselves in.
Variety of Attacking Skills That Can Hurt the Opposition
The biggest compliment you can pay this lethal attacking duo is the variety of ways in which they can hurt the opposition.
Balotelli is perfectly capable of operating as a penalty box striker, but he has so much more to his game, which can be a nightmare for the opposition to defend against.
Super Mario can drop deep into the midfield and create when looking to get involved in the game if starved of service up front.
In a similar way to Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season for Milan, Balotelli dropping deep creates a lot of space behind him as the centre-backs tend to step up to prevent him from turning and running at the opposition.
When this is the case, El Shaarawy can scamper inside and look for long balls in behind, such as the one that sliced open Fiorentina a few weeks ago and subsequently forced Nenad Tomovic to bring down Il Faraone and earn himself a red card.
At the same time, El Shaarawy can work well when receiving the ball on the wing as his dribbling skills are outstanding.
Whether he knocks the ball in behind the defender and beats him for pace, or using his close control to maneuver the ball around small spaces, there are a number of tools to unlock the tightest of defences.
When it comes to finishing, there cannot be a better pair of finishers around Europe as Balotelli and El Shaarawy are both capable of operating in a 4-4-2 as out-and-out centre forwards.
Since leaving Manchester City, the pair have chipped in with 11 goals and four assists in 14 games.
By the time the new season arrives, the pair will have enjoyed a pre-season together and found out the keys to making Milan's attack tick.
But with the potential to work together and the early evidence over the past couple of months, Balotelli and El Shaarawy can claim to be the best attacking duo in European football.