Nov 232014
 

Daniele Bonera suspended, Alex and Ignazio Abate carrying injuries and Pippo Inzaghi’s apparent complete mistrust of Pablo Armero meant Adil Rami started as right back and the starting defense featured Philippe Mexes getting a rare start and given the captain’s arm band! In front of them Nigel De Jong had not yet recovered and therefore Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari started. The latter almost gifted an early goal as he gave away the ball without any pressure only for Diego Lopez to stop Mauro Icardi’s low shot.
The goal came when Stephan El Shaarawy’s low cross was well diverted into the far side by Jeremy Menez. Inter’s equaliser arrived when Obi shot through legs and into the far corner. A full stretched Lopez was unable to stop the ball. An invisible Fernando Torres was replaced by Keisuke Honda and then Andrea Poli came on for Muntari, in between El Shaarawy had a very good chance to regain the lead but his shot over Handanovic hit the cross bar. Chances and good plays were rare and the derby finished ranking as one of the least memorable.

More about the game in the forum

milan inter

Nov 182014
 

Japan’s Toyo Tires is one of Milan’s newer premium sponsors. The partnership started last spring and in this new video (with a surprise ending!) Menez, Montolivo, Rami and Honda race a “PROXES T1 Sport” Toyo Tires equipped Audi R8 in the streets of Milan in a bid to get to Casa Milan first.

toyotiresdriver

Who is the driver?!

Toyo Tires was founded in Osaka, Japan in 1945 and now has a world wide presence. The “PROXES T1 Sport” model of tires are made to provide control and balance in both dry and wet conditions, in any kind of road or turn. The tires’ performance is on display in the video below.

Nov 022014
 

Milan 0-2 Palermo
Zapata OG 23 Dybala 26

A home loss with little offered and a horror first half only barely salvaged by Diego Lopez. The midfield offered little, Jeremy Menez worryingly poor again and Cristian Zapata, a very early sub for injured Alex, only made it easier for the visitors. An own goal off his head and another a result of just about poor everything. More about the game in the forum match thread

Milan Palermo

Inzaghi’s 4-3-3 increasingly ineffective

Oct 312014
 

by forum member ACMILAN1983

Ask many involved in Italian football and even many fans “What is the future of Serie A and Italian football?” and often the response will be rather dismissive or the question might even be considered offensive. However, it’s hard to deny that this is a question that should be asked regularly, if simply to take an introspective look into the future of calcio and its growth.

UEFA Champions League Trophy

Will an Italian team win this ever again?

Now, in a period when Italian football is at best considered to be in a state of transition or at worst considered to be in a state of unrecoverable decline, more than ever it seems this question needs to be asked. For the Italian game to return to its former glory, it would seemingly make sense that the issues within the game, both sporting and administrative, be assessed and the positive trends studied to work out a long term project to help the long term development of Italian football both in Italy and at a global level.

The first point of interest would surely be to take a look at Italy’s competitiveness, both domestically, but also throughout Europe and on the International stage. Serie A, like most major leagues in Europe, appears to suffer from having distinct sub groups in the larger league. For example, it’s generally been assumed that Juventus and Roma will fight for the Scudetto, while a number of teams including Milan, Inter, Napoli and Fiorentina will fight for third spot and Europa League places. At the other end of the table it is assumed the likes of Chievo, Sassuolo and the newly promoted teams from Serie B, Cesena, Empoli and Palermo, will generally be fighting a relegation battle. So far this season has pretty much followed the expected pattern, although with the odd anomalies such as Sampdoria exceeding expectations or Parma at the bottom of the table.

While the predictability does little to determine the quality of the league, more questions are asked when the top teams are playing in Europe. Juventus for years have been considered by some distance the best team in Serie A and have been regularly considered outside bets for Champions League success, yet in Europe have continually underwhelmed, most recently with the loss to Olympiakos. Roma too are under great scrutiny, as it was widely believed the investments made during the summer would help them compete with Juventus in Serie A and make headway in Europe, only for them to be humiliated 7-1 in the Champions League by Bayern Munich.

Continues on the forum

Oct 162014
 

Pippo Inzaghi started his reign and hopefully a bright new era with a somewhat unexpected win vs Lazio. Keisuke Honda provided early hope for the team and his form as well. The 3-1 win provided further hope for a good season for Ignazio Abate and may be even Sulley Muntari. Diego Lopez’s debut was assured.

The second week game provided lots of goals and revived old question marks for the defense in particular. The 5-4 win away at Parma featured a goal by newcomer Giacomo Bonaventura (aka Allegri jr!), a fantastic highlight reel goal by Jeremy Menez that made headlines around the football world and on the negative side some concern for Mattia De Sciglio’s (early season) form.

Jeremy Menez

Jeremy Menez has had a good start back in the Serie A

Inevitably the home match vs Juventus had its share of controversy and was the season’s first loss. The overall performance of the team was one of giving too much respect to the opponent. The players weren’t alone in the underperforming, the formation probably needed tweaking from the 4-3-3  better counter face Juventus’s three man defense and packed midfield which was without Andrea Pirlo. Carlos Tevez often had and was given space to move. A midfield consisting of Muntari, Nigel de Jong and Andrea Poli seemed destined to perform poorly. Indeed as the weeks went by the formation seemed to be evolving into something else, perhaps a slow return to the 4-2-3-1 that was often a handicap with Mario Balotelli.

A come from behind 2-2 at Empoli had the team starting very poorly and featured Fernando Torres’ first for Milan. Christain Abbiati again started in goal for the injured Lopez, Abate rapidly becoming the team’s assister in chief continued his fine form and Daniele Bonera made Milan fans wonder why he is still starting for what seems like the 100th time more than he deserves.

Bonera was on the bench in the 1-1 tie at Cesena, the disappointing result exposed the obvious defensive and midfield weaknesses and perhaps tiredness. Cristian Zapata was sent off for the first red of the season.

The 2-0 win vs Chievo featured three players with a Milan connection. All of Valter Birsa, Maxi Lopez and Alberto Paloschi started for the Verona based team. A better overall performance provided another ray of hope for Inzaghi’s coaching. Honda and Menez in particular showed more and convinced some fans that attacking transfer targets should not be a priority in 2015.

Off the pitch Silvio Berlusconi paid regular visits to training and gave his backing to Inzaghi whenever he could. But he seemed to keep alluding to bad decisions by Galliani – without mentioning him of course. He also talked of his dreams for the 2016 Champions League final that is set for the San Siro. Of course he never hesitated to highlight his own importance and in the process exaggerate the financial contribution he needs to make to keep the team afloat. While he claims to want to build a team that is at the summit of the European game in 2 or 3 years one can bet that this team will not be in the Champions League final in 2016 and probably not soon after either. Massive transfer spending will be needed to become competitive against current European powers and even if that does happen the new set of players will need time to reach or to become a team to match the likes of Chelsea or Real. Milan are probably better off mixing investments – in a stadium and filling specific squad needs with smart transfers – with nurturing youth. Doing both will pay off in the form of consistent success later, but not in time for 2016 or even 2017. One example of a questionable transfer target is Liverpool’s Suso. While the young Spaniard is highly rated – some Liverpool followers prefer him to Coutinho – there are more important needs in defense or midfield. A young defender or box to box midfielder that provides a better link up the pitch will almost certainly be more beneficial to this team.

Forza Milan

Sep 222014
 

Today brings the news that Theo Zwanziger, the former German Football Association president and current FIFA executive committee member, has expressed an “opinion” that Qatar will lose the 2022 World Cup because of heat or weather issues.

I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar, Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions. They [the Qatari organisers] may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there.

qatar-2022Heat is of course difficult to play in and it can be dangerous but Qatar’s bid has included expensive plans to keep stadiums cool from the start and the hosts have started testing the system too. Indications are players will be even more comfortable than other World Cups and fans might even enjoy the same cooling while inside stadiums too (due to costs and feasibility it may be that cooling will be limited to pitch level).

 

There are plenty of other reasons to want Qatar stripped of the World Cup. There are bribery allegations, working conditions are way below normal if not down right inhumane and have led to slave labour accusations. Security considerations are important as well as the middle east region is not and has rarely been the safest and this can get even get worse by 2022.

It must be noted that this doesn’t mark the first time a World Cup is awarded to a controversial host or staged in questionable circumstances. History notes World Cups being staged with brutal military leaders in the background and hosts being awarded via controversial voting.

Weather should not be politicized, however. If the World Cup needs to be moved it should be because of concerns briefly stated above and recent reports that the FIFA bribery report will never be public may make that less likely.

Sep 022014
 

The summer started relatively well, by some standards at least, with the capture of Alex and Jeremy Menez from PSG on free transfers. The permanent transfer of Adel Rami from Valencia followed after some petty bargaining – for a supposed long agreed redemption fee – that made Milan look bad in the eyes of many. Some more good news followed when it was made sure that Alessandro Matri, and his free kick wall escapes, was one of many that were not going to be part of the 2014-2015 edition of the team, a loan to Genoa easily a better option than keeping him. The loaned out list kept growing throughout the summer and included Valter Birsa, Antonio Nocerino, Didac Vila, Gabriel and others. Kevin Constant found a team in Turkey and left to the seaside of Trabzon and for once didn’t refuse to leave. After some hand wringing and delay Robinho found a loan destination too. Kaka exercised his option and left for the MLS via Sao Paulo. Milan also lost or arguably gave away Alberto Paloschi by ceding their share to Chievo for relatively little money. On the goal keeping front Adriano Galliani baffled many fans by signing Michael Agazzi from Cagliari via Chievo. At first he was supposed to be the back up to Christian Abbiati but more was to come on the goal keeping front when someone inside the team realized better options were needed and Diego Lopez came from Real Madrid for free and signed for four years. Madrid surprisingly let one of their better players go for free. Pablo Armero also arrived on a year loan deal with probably the same kind of realization but of course for the full back spot.

2014 Summer Mercato

No, Jonathan Biabiany is not a Milan player!

On the youth front some strange things happened, in the middle of the World Cup four 20 year old players - Davide Pacifico, Rodrigo Ely, Simone Andrea Ganz, Kingsley Boateng – were all sold, despite all being considered at least usable prospects, for next to nothing to small teams in an apparent acceptance that at least one generation of youth products were not going to be good enough. Two more youth products followed the exit path. Luca Iotti (18 years old) and Bryan Cristante (19 years old). The latter is considered one of the better Milan home grown products fetched 6 million euros on the last day of the summer window but the departure angered many fans and put Galliani on the defensive. The CEO was forced to issue a statement to say the player had wanted to leave to Benfica and had even refused a loan to the same team.

The Mario Balotelli saga was the bigger story of the summer. The rumblings had started long before the summer that he had no future in Milan and that management, top to bottom, preferred to sell. A buyer was finally found when Liverpool offered 20 million euros and Super Mario was off rather quickly. A mini scramble followed to find a replacement, all kinds of good to poor names were mentioned and there was even a mention or two of selling Rami to raise money for a bigger capture. The team finally settled for a long term Fernando Torres loan, all of 30 years old and a serial sitter misser ala Robinho. In the midst of getting him to agree to come and lower his wages in the process Wulfert Cornelius “Marco” van Ginkel (to mention his full name!) also arrived from Chelsea on a pure 1 year loan without any buyout options.

On the last day of the market following Cristante’s sale it was thought that Jonathan Biabiany was to arrive in exchange for four million euros and Cristian Zaccardo. The latter refused to agree a deal with Parma and the deal collapsed. The often farcical nature of Milan’s mercato was on full display since Biabiany was already pictured in a Milan shirt on the team’s official site and twitter account. Galliani quickly found a pseudo alternative and signed the left sided Giacomo Bonaventura from Atalanta for 7 million euros instead.

As the window has now closed the best we can hope for is a good, successful but also stable season where all players can be properly evaluated, the squad sits at 29 and the goal of reducing the squad size has not really materialized. The 29 players on the books plus those on loan will create another glut next summer and therefore summer 2015 will require more – almost certainly chaotic – player movement. Here’s hoping Galliani and Inzaghi are able to make proper decisions based on a good 2014-2015 season. Forza Milan.

Aug 312014
 

Keisuke Honda 7, Sulley Muntari 56, Jeremy Menez 64P – Alex 67OG

Milan’s starting lineup:
Diego Lopez; Bonera, Alex, Zapata, Abate; Muntari, De Jong, Poli; El Shaarawy, Menez, Honda.

With Mattia De Sciglio not available it was still was strange to see Daniele Bonera on the left side in place of Pablo Armero. Fernando Torres was in the stands not yet ready to suit up. Early on an outlet from the top of the box was picked up by Stephan El Shaarawy who ran down the left touch line, cut in and passed to the fast rushing Keisuke Honda who beat Etrit Berisha in the Lazio goal. A classic counter attacking goal. Game was too often start stop with few direct threats and little creativity. Milan’s midfield three necessitated El Shaarawy and Honda’s help. The pressing game was pretty good however and Lazio didn’t get too close to Milan’s goal or trouble Diego Lopez too much. Lazio took more control in the second half though and worked the ball around as Milan struggled to do anything other than counter attack, but it worked again when Sulley Muntari poked in Ignazio Abate’s cross. Jeremy Menez converted a weak penalty call a bit later and Alex was given credit for an own goal for Lazio’s first soon after. Armero and M’Baye Niang offered a different look but mostly just more speed and Lazio kept Milan busier and threatened. Lazio’s last chance was blown when Diego Lopez saved the Antonio Candreva added time penalty. Interesting to see what Pippo Inzaghi’s 4-3-3 will look like when Torres is ready.
Lots more about the game in the forums at http://www.milanmania.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=753

Jul 282014
 

The 2014-2015 Serie A schedule is now available. Milan’s start is different from many recent seasons, it features bigger teams. Not that playing smaller teams has helped much before and in any case it remains to be seen if this team will be ready to compete from the start.

The season starts with games vs Lazio, away to Parma and vs Juventus. The derby games are in November and April.

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