A Good Start To A New Era?
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.
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.