Can Giampaolo Pazzini Lead AC Milan's Attack This Season?

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Can Giampaolo Pazzini Lead AC Milan's Attack This Season?
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

With each passing day, AC Milan get closer to kicking off their season against Lazio this Sunday. Following the sale of mercurial striker Mario Balotelli, the focus at Milanello has been on replacing his production.

Vice-president Adriano Galliani told the club's official website yesterday (h/t BBC Sport), "We will see if we are able to acquire an important forward. This is our main aim."

A player who could be at the fore of that search is Fernando Torres, Chelsea's highly inconsistent record signing. Matteo Bonetti of Bleacher Report discussed the merits of a potential move for Torres, yet it is unknown whether Milan will follow through on signing him.

Given Torres' recent history of profligacy in front of goal, along with his age and contract status, it may be in Milan's best interest to steer clear of signing him. Not only does a player like Torres bring a high-risk, medium-reward element to the table, but he would demand playing time that should be going to younger, long-term options.

In addition, Milan have their own potentially fairly productive No. 9 in Giampaolo Pazzini.

While Pazzini managed only three goals in 21 appearances last season, he was hardly the only member of the Rossoneri to underachieve. His return from a long-term knee injury saw him fit for only the second half of the season, where he managed to see the pitch in 16 of Milan's final 18 matches in Serie A competition.

The previous season, he managed 15 goals in 30 Serie A appearances as he played second fiddle to Stephan El Shaarawy for the first half of the season and Balotelli the second half.

Should he remain injury-free, Pazzini has proved he can be a consistent 15-goal scorer in Italy's top flight with his excellent scoring record at Inter and Sampdoria prior to joining Milan.

In manager Filippo Inzaghi's 4-3-3 formation, the prototypical No. 9 role previously held by Balotelli naturally falls to Pazzini now. El Shaarawy will assume his role as a left winger, while players like Jeremy Menez, M'baye Niang and Keisuke Honda will also find time as wingers.

Right now, Milan would do well to secure the signings of a quality midfielder and a young forward with upside to provide competition for Pazzini.

While Pazzini might not be the sexiest name Milan can field up front, the financial realities of the club are proving difficult to overcome, and big-name signings are unfortunately not going to arrive. 

The focus at the San Siro right now will be on building around El Shaarawy's considerable talents. Pazzini, for better or worse, will be a crucial figure in the direction Milan moves this year.

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