AC Milan: Ibrahimovic and Boateng Were Great Moves while Robinho Was a Mistake
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Until mid-August this summer, Milan had only made a couple small additions. Sokratis Papasathopoulos, Marco Amelia, and Mario Yepes were the club's only additions.
With a couple weeks left in the transfer window, Milan brought in Kevin-Prince Boateng on loan from Genoa in a weird move (Genoa bought him from Portsmouth and loaned him to Milan immediately) that also brought skepticism upon his arrival.
On the final weekend of the summer, Silvio Berlusconi became a hero to his club's fans, as he brought in both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho.
We all had that bit of excitement when we saw Robinho would be joining Milan on the last day of transfers. Especially since Milan had already beat Lecce 4-0, maybe this would be our year.
Shortly afterwards, I began to question the move.
Although I have been calling for Robinho to be Pato's replacement during his injury recovery, that does not mean I necessarily think he was a great buy. I think he should be playing because he is our best option on the bench, though he still has not started for Milan.
The problem with Robinho's purchase is that the $28 million could have been spent on more pressing needs.
I hated seeing Marco Borriello leave. I know he did not want to be a reserve, but the point is we did not need to buy two forwards. That was Berlusconi being greedy and thinking that the purchase of two superstars would revive the team and fans.
Was Allegri smart in playing Boateng on the wing instead of the midfield against Lazio?
As fans, we do get excited when we see our team get big names, but then we expect results.
The reason we are not getting results is because, as I said, that $28 million could have gone into the midfield or defense. No one wins by only having a strong attack. You need a good defense, a good midfield, a good goalkeeper, and a good attack.
I truly believe that what Milan needed more than Robinho was a right fullback. Luca Antonini, despite criticism from some, is a good, established player on the left. Much like Gareth Bale, he is an excellent defender and very talented on the wing. He has become a main figure on both sides of the field for the Rossoneri.
Instead of going after Robinho at Manchester City, the club could have easily gone after Pablo Zabaleta, who is no longer preferred at right back with the addition of Micah Richards.
Milan are now reportedly interested in the player, but considering his wages and the price City will be looking for, he would have been a much smarter buy in the summer.
As we have seen, Milan are caught out too easily on defense, especially on the wing. Antonini usually does a good job holding down the left. It is usually Zambrotta or Ignazio Abate (for whatever reason he was in against Lazio) that get burned. Hernanes got in too easily on the right against Milan and the Lazio midfielder ended up burning the right side of the defense to set up the late equalizer.
A new fullback must be a priority of Milan and should have been dealt with in the summer rather than making a pointless buy like Robinho.
On the flip side, Milan's other two main signings have been doing very well for themselves.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has done well since joining the red and black. In four matches, the Swede has netted three goals. He seems to be enjoying life in Milan thus far (though hopefully he keeps the karate kicks to himself from now on). Ibrahimovic takes the attack to a whole new level. Once the front line starts to get fit (which it seems like the have started to do very well) the attack with Pato, Ibrahimovic, and Ronaldinho could rain goals this season.
Ibrahimovic has done a great job getting in behind the defense thus far. Maybe he should have buried a couple more of his shots, but he is still doing very well.
The only complaint I have about Ibrahimovic is his holding on to the ball until it's too late to get a pass or shot away. Also, he needs to be more careful on those little back heel passes. The one time I have seen that almost work is when he laid it off for Seedorf in the Catania match. Even that one was ill-advised as Seedorf barely reached it.
Besides this minor issue, Ibrahimovic is going to be a breakout player for Milan and will rejuvenate that attack.
Along with Ibrahimovic's great performances comes probably Milan's best player thus far this season: Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The German-born Ghana international has sent shock waves through the world of Milanista, quickly becoming a fan favorite at the San Siro. The irony: people were upset when he was the biggest signing to date when he joined.
Without a doubt, he has proved to be the best acquisition.
He made his debut as a sub in the first match against Lecce and played a phenomenal 15 minutes, as he nearly assisted and scored his own goals and proved to be a great talent in the midfield. He sat out the Cesena loss, but was called upon early on in the Champions League matchup with Auxerre, as Massimo Ambrosini was forced off at the 15th minute due to injury.
He was crucial to Milan's eventual victory and got the assist on Ibrahimovic's first goal. He was a playmaker in the center of the ground and is clearly Milan's best midfielder at the moment.
He made his first Serie A start against Catania as the fans sang his name. He later said that it made him positive this is where he wanted to be and at 23 he had never expected to have the fans of a club like Milan singing his name.
The Lazio match once again showed the value of Boateng. Despite being put in a completely strange position by Max Allegri, who decided to play him at right winger, Boateng still played very well and did all he could to keep Milan going.
Boateng is definitely the best addition of the summer thus far. Between him and Ibrahimovic, the two of them have added some energy to the Milan attack.
Playing Boateng at winger leads me into comments about new manager Massimiliano Allegri.
Max, what are you thinking?
Let us examine the starting lineup from the match against Lazio:
Here is where I raise an eyebrow.
1. Have we not learned that Ignazio Abate is not very good at fullback? Sokratis has only gotten one chance this season and while he was not a star by any means against Cesena, he would have been a much better option against Lazio.
2. Even if you sit Abate but do not put in Sokratis, move Zambrotta to the right and play Luca Antonini, your best fullback! Why would you sit your best fullback, who is also excellent at pushing up into the attack, against your best opponent to date? That does not make much sense to me.
3. Gattuso? Seedorf? Why? Mathieu Flamini is back and healthy. He has proven, especially in the latter stages of last season, that he deserves to play in the midfield.
Gattuso has not been the Gattuso of old. Why? Because he is older than he was when he was a star for the Champions League winners in 2007! He is slow, always injured, and cannot get himself up and down the field the way he used to. He becomes a risk for Milan getting caught out more than any other midfielder they have.
Even Seedorf, who is still a good player, is a sub at best in my opinion. Like I said, Flamini is back and healthy and he gets 10 minutes in Rome. That is wrong. Pirlo is the established center mid, but Boateng and Flamini should be there with him. It takes quite a few years out of the midfield and provides extra speed, stronger defense, and better ability in the attack.
4. Why is Boateng in the front line? Seriously Allegri, he is a midfielder and should be used as such. With Boateng in the midfield, Milan are a much better team. Besides that, why is a $30 million investment like Robinho sitting on the bench in the perfect opportunity to make his first start while Allegri is moving players into unfamiliar positions and the team gets burned because of it?
This was three points Milan could have easily taken on the road, but Allegri's choices caused a slip-up.
Allegri should be looking back and slapping himself across the face. That lineup spelled disaster from the time it was released. With the limited options that are given in the back, here is what the lineup should have looked like in my opinion:
Abbiati (or Amelia who still has not been given a chance)
That lineup provides more fitness on both defense and in the midfield, more youth, and a better attack. Milan could have put Lazio away with this squad, but Allegri decided to go with a lineup I do not even know how to describe and then subs when the chances of recovery are slim to none. How does that help the club? It does not in any way, shape, or form.
Having said all this, I believe Milan did a great job with the additions of Boateng and Ibrahimovic this summer, but I think Robinho was more of a publicity statement and a stupid move. When the fans say, "We want new signings," it helps if those signings are going to help us win trophies!
Sure, Robinho is a great player, but he was not a necessity. Milan would have been much better off going after another fullback. Like I mentioned earlier, Pablo Zabaleta might have been an easier grab in the summer, when the club had money and Manchester City needed to offload a couple players.
With Micah Richards now playing right back, he is not as much of a necessity at Eastlands and a move to Milan would have been favorable. Now, Milan are a bit strained for money, again, and his wages are too high with Ibrahimovic and Robinho already here.
While Boateng and Ibrahimovic are thriving, new manager Massimilano Allegri seems to be struggling. He is arguing that he is a new manager working with a new team and now even newer players.
I do not care how experienced you are with a club or not, anybody who starts Boateng on the wing, Gattuso and Seedorf over Flamini and (since Boateng was starting anyway) Robinho, and Abate and Zambrotta over Antonini and Sokratis at fullback against a team like Lazio is nearly insane.
Therefore Milan fans, there is no need to be skeptical of Ibrahimovic and Boateng anymore. Both will do fine at Milan. We can hope that Robinho will do the same, but even still, his purchase over a more pressing need is a big question mark in my book. Also, let us hope and pray that Allegri figures out this team and starts to put out the best possible team every match.
The season is young. Our Diavolo can right the ship and hopefully bring the Scudetto back to the Curva Sud and allow Milanista worldwide the chance to rejoice once more!
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