With the mid-season break almost upon the Serie A, it’s time for many teams to take stock and evaluate the progress their squad has made to this point.
The Rossoneri are currently sitting in second place in Serie A, five points off Inter in the race for the Scudetto. Milan have also advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League and await the draw to find out their next match-up.
After a rough start to the season, the manager, Leonardo, has righted the ship and has the club in contention for both the Scudetto and a decent run in the Champions League.
After an experiment with a 4-3-1-2 formation in order to play Ronaldinho behind the strikers, failed miserably it appears that Leonardo has finally molded Milan into his image. In their favored 4-3-3 formation with Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato terrorizing the wings, the formation’s use has coincided with the Rossoneri’s strong run of form and has helped give the team an identity.
Seeing Alessandro Nesta return to top form has been a dream come true for Milan management and fans alike. Nesta has patrolled the middle with the style and class that made him one of the best defenders in world football. What is probably most amazing is how quickly Nesta reverted to his old form upon taking the pitch again.
Alongside Nesta in the middle of the defense, Thiago Silva has cemented his place in the starting lineup. Silva has used his tremendous athletic ability to excel as a defender on the ball and in the air. He has even found ways to contribute on offense with 5 goals on the season.
Ignazio Abate has proven to be the versatile player that Milan needed to fill a variety of roles. Despite being a fairly young player, Abate has played at right back, right midfield and right wing so far this season. That versatility and his excellent work ethic have quickly made him a favorite of coach Leonardo and the Diavolo fans
Ronaldinho has found his role within the team. He has dropped deep from his left wing position and has consistently provided quality service to Pato on the far wing as well as the strikers in the middle. His ball possession has become less wasteful and he is no longer under any illusions that he still has top pace. I may have to take back my reports of his early demise.
I continue to be amazed that Mathieu Flamini has such a hard time finding a role in the Milan midfield. He started for Arsenal alongside Cesc Fabregas and looked phenomenal. In the two seasons he has been with Milan, he has played aggressively, with pace and adding more offense than either Gattuso or Ambrosini. He has young, fresh legs and has played on a top-flight club. Leonardo needs to use this asset in a more efficient manner if Milan are to make deep runs in all competitions.
Massimo Oddo and Marek Jankulovski are clearly no longer capable of starting for a top club. Neither one has pace, any desire to play defensively and have lost their pinpoint crossing ability. Milan needs to cut them loose and look for younger replacements.
The lack of depth at center back behind Nesta and Silva is appalling. With Silva out for a few games, the options are Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Favalli. While Favalli can hold his own against the lesser clubs, Kaladze is a shadow of his former self. Oguchi Onyewu may be the answer, but injuries have kept him from seeing the field at all this year.
I may be the only one who believes this, but Marco Borriello has done very little for Milan this year. While the hot run of form has coincided with his prominence at the striker position, he is usually the recipient of great service, rather than making chances out of his touches. Milan is denying Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the chance to earn a starting spot, by awarding it to a player that has done very little to impress.
Transfer Window Rumors Involving Milan
The first and most prominent rumor at the moment is that of Klass-Jan Huntelaar either joining FC Twente on loan or being sold to Manchester United. I believe that the only situation in which either of these moves makes any sense, is if Milan has already sewn up a deal for Edin Dzeko. Huntelaar has excellent pedigree, displayed his class by snatching a victory in the final minutes of the match against Catania, and has been given very little opportunity to prove his worth. With only 5 starts on the season, he really hasn’t been given much playing time.
Edin Dzeko of Wolfsburg has again been making noise about his desire to play for Milan. If Galliani and Berlusconi are serious about acquiring top young talent, then Dzeko is the perfect acquisition. If they do acquire him in January, he will be cup-tied for the UEFA Champions League and will only be available for league play. That said, this may be the best opportunity to acquire him as Wolfsburg has been knocked out of the Champions League and appears unlikely to qualify for next year’s competition.
Another recent rumor is that Milan would like to acquire Goran Pandev as cover on the wings for Ronaldinho and Pato. This would be an excellent acquisition for Milan, as Pandev has proven to be a fantastic offensive catalyst in Serie A and would take some of the workload off the Brazilian duo.
If you haven’t heard of the return of David Beckham to Milan, you probably haven’t been following soccer. The hope at the San Siro is that Beckham will provide cover or enter into a rotation with Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo in the midfield. Currently Milan don’t have another play-making midfielder, so they lose an element of their attack when either the Dutchman or the Italian international need a break. Obviously this one is a done deal and not a rumor, but definitely worth mentioning.
Another player who was being linked with Milan a few months ago, but less so now is Milos Krasic, of CSKA Moscow. In my mind, this was one of the better options for the Rossoneri. Krasic is a 25 year old midfielder from Serbia with the ability to contribute offensively. He has been excellent for CSKA in the Champions League and has 13 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions this year. He could be the ideal replacement for Seedorf at the point of the midfield.
The final name to be regularly linked with Milan in January is Dominic Adiyiah. The Ghanian absolutely set the U-20 World Cup on fire by winning the MVP, the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot. While most media has reported the transfer to Milan from Fredrikstad in Norway as a done deal, nothing official has been completed. This would be another great signing for Milan, but obviously more for the future than for immediate dividends this season.
Despite having extremely poor play at the fullback spots so far this year, Milan has not been linked with any players of note on either the right or left side. Either this is a fantastic strategy by Galliani and company to disguise their intentions, or once again he is only focused on offensive players. That would be a grave mistake given the vulnerability that Milan have shown down the wings.
2010 holds a lot of promise for the Rossoneri, but their ability to nab 1 or 2 players in January could be the difference between a top finish in all competitions or a slightly deflated finish by an exhausted squad.