Robinho, Ibrahimovic, Pato and Ronaldinho: Can Milan's Attacking Plan Work?

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Robinho, Ibrahimovic, Pato and Ronaldinho: Can Milan's Attacking Plan Work?
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Good things used to come in threes at Milan.

Older fans can recall the Swedish trio of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordhal, and Nils Liedholm thrilling supporters in the 1950s. Many more will remember the Dutch triumvirate of Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten, and Frank Rijkaard.

This summer, they have tried to go one better.

Two late deals at the San Siro have snatched the headlines and captured the attention of their Serie A and European rivals. First came Zlatan Ibrahimovic to complete his tour of Italy's big three after a brief sojourn at Barcelona. Then they pounced for Manchester City misfit Robinho.

They join Brazilian aces Ronaldinho and Pato to complete a mouthwatering attacking set-up. It has given the Rossoneri a major boost in their bid to unsettle their city rivals Inter, who have been so dominant in recent times. But how, exactly, will it work?

Tactically, an ultra-ambitious 4-2-3-1 formation is being forecast with Ibra up front supported by Robinho, Dinho, and Pato. On paper, at least, the idea just about stands up. However, it does make you wonder who might do the tracking back.

Indeed, could they simply be repeating the mistakes made under Leonardo?

His side often looked like it had been sliced in two with the forwards at one end of the pitch and defence at the other. When it worked it was spectacular, but it was ultimately picked apart pretty easily.

Of course, the personnel has changed and that is a key factor.

Ibrahimovic may not have had the impact hoped for in Spain but he has always been a big player in Italy, capable of winning matches on his own. As a target man with Inter he often pulled opposing defences apart singlehandedly.

Robinho is more of an unknown quantity, at least as far as Italy is concerned.

There is no doubting his technique and skill. But his time in England raised concerns about his attitude and approach to the game. There is definitely work to be done to reclaim the player everyone knows he can be.

But perhaps the biggest factor in any Milan revival might be the form of the two footballers they already possessed.

Last season Ronaldinho flickered into life from time to time while Pato suffered injuries and an apparent loss of confidence. They need to step up their game this year.

The early signs have been good on both fronts. The young striker scored two against lowly Lecce at the weekend, and seems to have rediscovered the form which saw him skip by opponents with ease a couple of seasons ago. He has the ability to terrify even the top defenders.

As for his more elderly countryman, the world has been waiting a while for his return to form.

On song, there are few footballers who are more fun to watch mesmerise the opposition with some fancy footwork. On Sunday he showed just how influential he could be as an assist-man for such a quality strike force.

Inevitably, however, such an attacking line-up puts pressure on the defensive department. That is where new boy Kevin Prince Boateng might find his work cut out.

Along with veterans like Massimo Ambrosini or Rino Gattuso he will be expected to put in a tremendous shift in breaking up play. If he is partnered with Andrea Pirlo in a deeper midfield role, he may have to be a one-man wrecking crew.

The way the Rossoneri have been assembled is clearly no accident.

Owner Silvio Berlusconi wants his team to entertain and has now purchased the players he believes can deliver that goal. Coach Massimiliano Allegri will be under pressure to deliver both results and flamboyant football.

In times of austerity, Milan's Big Four seem like something of a breath of fresh air. They all have their flaws, for sure, but if they can click they all remain major world players.

As the transfer window closed the eyes of the world were on Serie A once again, it felt quite nice.

Only time will tell if this quartet can produce the sweet attacking symphonies their supporters hope for. However, they have certainly added some extra zest to the battle to topple Inter.

The countdown to the city derby in November is likely to be a thrilling one.

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