Kaka's Rejuvenation Brings Hope but Can't Stop the Rot at AC Milan

Colin O'Brien@@ColliOBrienContributor INovember 4, 2013

It was supposed to be something to celebrate. The San Siro's favourite son had finally returned to something resembling his best. Kaka had finally scored again in the Rossoneri shirt.

Even then, though, they couldn't win.

The Brazilian had taken more than an hour to break the deadlock against Lazio only to see his good work undone by a last-minute strike from Michael Ciani. It was no less than the visitors deserved. 

Allowing a bulky defender like Ciani to sneak through the back line and get on the end of Antonio Candreva's perfect cross is inexcusable. However, it's not a one-off event. Milan can't defend in the air at all this season and have conceded more headed goals than any other side in the division. 

That inability to control the game aerially, mixed with a tendency to lose concentration at key moments, should worry Max Allegri.

Those are two basic tenets of good defending and the fact that a side like Milan is incapable of winning headers and staying focused speaks volumes about the state of the squad—and indeed the club as a whole. 

It was worse against Fiorentina. Under different circumstances, you'd say that there was no shame in a loss to Vincenzo Montella's men. They're one of the most dangerous sides in Serie A and the starting XI is packed with intelligence and quality. 

At the San Siro, however, the Viola never needed to show how good they could be. They were allowed to walk to a 0-2 victory—even without key players like Mario Gomez, David Pizarro and Juan Cuadrado.

Montella's unlikely to get three easier points all season. 

It's incredible to think that Milan have gone from title-winning European heavyweights to easy pickings in the space of a few seasons. Nevertheless, it only takes a quick glance at their season so far to see how bad things have become: 

  1. Hellas Verona - Milan 2 - 1 
  2. Milan - Cagliari 3 - 1 
  3. Torino - Milan 2 - 2 
  4. Milan - Napoli 1 - 2 
  5. Bologna - Milan 3 - 3 
  6. Milan - Sampdoria 1 - 0 
  7. Juventus - Milan 3 - 2 
  8. Milan - Udinese 1 - 0 
  9. Parma - Milan 3 - 2 
  10. Milan - Lazio 1 - 1 
  11. Milan - Fiorentina 0 - 2

The games in which they've dropped points are in bold. They have three home wins to their name, all of which came against lower opposition.

Cagliari and Sampdoria have only managed two wins apiece this term in Serie A, so beating them is hardly much to celebrate for a club of Milan's stature. 

Hellas Verona have proven themselves to be the surprise package of the season, but the loss to Parma and the draws with Bologna and Lazio—both of whom are a shadow of themselves so far this year—were inexcusable. Bologna scored almost one-quarter of their total goals from 11 games against Allegri's side—and could have had more. 

If it were a new manager on the bench, common sense would call for patience.

However, Allegri's been at Milan now since 2010 and still hasn't managed to create a consistently competitive side since his title win in his debut season with a squad of Milan veterans. 

This current incarnation of Milan is listless and lacking direction. Individually, there are some fine footballers on the books, but they look ill-prepared and lacking understanding as a unit.

Whereas Rudi Garcia's Roma, Antonio Conte's Juventus and even Walter Mazzarri's Inter all seem to have a clear objective and identity on and off the pitch, Milan for the most part look like they're just winging it. 

When Allegri first arrived, it often seemed like Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the "get out of jail free" card. Then he left and Stephan El Shaarawy picked up the slack. This year, the responsibility's been shouldered by Kaka, who is still working his way back from a horrid four years at Real Madrid, and Mario Balotelli, who's in danger of imploding under the pressure.

Milan need to do more than just rely on one or two extremely talented players. There needs to be organisation, concentration and honest labour across the pitch.

The danger of burdening Kaka and Balotelli should be obvious.

The Brazilian's prone to injury and needs protecting. He also deserves more time to find his best form. The Italian is already in meltdown. Balo's lost his joie de vivre and spends most of his time sulking rather than scoring. He's got more cards than goals so far this season. 

Both players are integral to Milan's hopes, but they shouldn't be unfairly charged with making up for everyone else's deficiencies.

The squad is now due to go away on a special training camp. Everyone in attendance will have to work hard at resolving what are a multitude of shortcomings.

They'll need to work hard and accept some harsh truths, because while it might be difficult for a team like Milan to accept, right now they resemble mid-table strugglers more than the continental contenders they still believe themselves to be. 



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