Tuesday, December 15, 2009

being bullied

Gennaro Ivan Gattuso

Gattuso arrived at Milan in 1999. It was the brink of a new millennium, a new era and would mark the start of a terrifying player in the legendary red and black. Known for being a 'terrier', the small yet intimidating hard-man has frightened some of the best players since his arrival. 10 long years of service, cannot be over-looked. So, maybe him receiving a contract extension till 2012 is justified and a worthy reward. Not really.

I have problems with this deal. Firstly, the manner in which it was received. Gattuso went about like a spoilt brat, creating a scene in the media over his lack of playing time and about him being treated like a newbie especially when he is a senior member. Mr. Gattuso, chances are provided based on merit, not on seniority. Such is the case in all the big clubs across the continent. His lack of playing time is down to two main reasons, one - he was injured. Two - he isn't good enough. Gattuso has been anonymous for the Azzuri since the World Cup, forcing Lippi to look at alternatives. And for the last 2 seasons, he has replicated that form for AC Milan too. The ex-Rangers man was a destroyer. Please note, was. He used to run around hacking people down averaging 32 tackles a game, which made him one of the most feared defensive midfielders in the world. It also attained him world class status. But this was a good two years ago, when he had the legs for the job. Now, he simply trots along hacking players down and winning cards in return. Very often, he watches players sprinting by while he is reduced to a mere spectator. Yes, he still is destructive, but in a different sense. He no longer plays the role of Pirlo's bodyguard with the formerly superior level of professionalism. And in Leo's new system, you need someone who is more than just a bodyguard. You need a box-box midfielder, a role Ambrosini plays with almost utmost perfection. Leo's selection is therefore justified.

We talk about building a new team, a futuristic one. How is offering a new deal (even if its at reduced wages) to a 31 year old, building a team for the future? We have a ready made replacement in Flamini, who we acquired at no cost. Yes, Rino is iconic for this club. Yes, he has been instrumental in previous triumphs. But he isn't going to scale any new heights and even a blind man can see that. The modern game needs legs, and also a dose of quality; both of which are missing in large quantities. AC Milan need to start living on today's realities rather than on past glories. Gattuso might have bullied his way to a new contract which keeps him at the club for another 2 seasons. Question is, can he be the bully that we need on the pitch? My guess, and that being a calculated one is, no!

Monday, December 14, 2009

dream come true

Fabrizio Miccoli

AC Milan 0 Palermo 2

A 12 year old boy used to stand by the sidelines, and throw the ball back into the pitch so that Marco Van Basten could get on with the game. This boy used to dream of scoring at the venue located in the San Siro district of Milan. And what do you know, the boy finally did see his dream come to pass last night. His name is Fabizio Miccoli.

Palermo had gone through a positive period in the summer. After signing players of incredible promise, the side from Sicily looked like one to reckon with. So when I saw Favalli in the line up, you could imagine my shock. He had to defend against the likes of Miccoli and Cavani, who would leave a smoke of dust for the 38 year old to sweep up. Abate was given the nod, and Pato was given some much needed rest. Palermo started the game strongly, and their slick football should have yielded fruit if not for Cavani. Milan then got into the game and created several chances, but no end product. Our attacking formation was translating into action. Palermo continued to scuff their chances, ingloriously. It was beginning to appear as though the ref was Palermo's 12th man on the pitch. The lack of a world-class striker in our team was becoming increasingly evident as the game wore on. Zambrotta and Ronaldinho had a very positive half. Abate struggled to get into the game for 45 minutes.

Zambrotta's form then went for a walk in the second half, and it started with the first goal. Miccoli was given enough space to drive a Hummer through, and the diminutive forward made no mistake on his finish. Borriello missed a free header situation, which compounds my belief that he simply isn't good enough to perform at this level. He isn't our 20 goal/season striker, and is at most capable of cameos. The second goal was because of the inability of our sluggish defense and its incompetence to deal with the pace, guile and flair of the Rosanero. What should have been Pastore's goal was seized by the Aussie, Bresciano. Highly rated Uruguayan Cavani, was busy impersonating Borriello at the other end of the pitch. What was Leo thinking when he brought on Inzaghi for Seedorf. The Dutchman was actually putting in a decent performance but Leo goes loony. And as obvious as can be, the attackers were constantly running into each other and coming in each others way. Credit to Palermo's rear guard though. Bovo and Kjaer were impressive, rock solid. Pato's miss summed up the night for us.

Before I get to the melodramatic conclusion, I would like to congratulate Inter and Mourinho on winning their 25th consecutive league title. Gibberish? Yes, but you get the sarcasm. Now we embark on a period where we face the likes of Fiorentina, Genoa and Juventus. Inter too. And if we aren't keen on breaking a disgraceful record in Italy, we need to recruit, and recruit big. Otherwise, it wont just be Berlusconi's face being broken.

AC Milan - /
Palermo - Miccoli 49', Bresciano 61'

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

grazie madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo

FC Zurich 1 AC Milan 1

Shame isn't a part of AC Milan's dictionary. I realized this after watching the game between the Swiss minnows Zurich and the so called European giants AC Milan. After having lost disgracefully at home to the whipping boys of the group, one would naturally assume that Milan would travel for vengeance and pride. But that wasn't on the agenda. All eyes were on Ronaldinho. There was a lot of talk about his rebirth. And rightly so. We have won 5 games on the trot domestically, and he has a large hand in it. He also heads the assist table in the Serie A. Borriello was another who had the limelight on himself. He simply had to prove his European pedigree.

The game started, and Zurich began strongly. They played like a side that had nothing to lose. Our players was caught napping on Nikci's shot. We were playing a high line of defense, and would inevitably get caught by the pace of the Swiss. Our only resolve to score was to counter, which was a baffling strategy. We were superior in every department then why not choose to control? We were giving up the ball comfortably and weren't trying to win it back. Only if the Swiss got bored of keeping the ball would we try to improve the possession stat. Gajic's magnificent strike gave Dida no chance. Down, bottom corner. Unlike the Rossoneri, Zurich were getting their shots on target. I find it incomprehensible that we couldn't break down a mediocre defense that wasn't even putting 11 men behind the ball. Ambrosini missed a free header from a Ronaldinho corner, which is very uncharacteristic. Kaladze was cleaning up for Nesta. Huh?! We were just not able to construct an attack. Borriello was incredibly wasteful with the service provided to him, especially in the second half. Rochat brings down Borriello in the box, sees red. Maybe he should have let the Italian shoot. Going by what we had seen during the game, he would've probably missed. Another opportunity from a set piece went missing, as Kaladze headed wide. Dida was reduced to a spectator in the second half, and for that I am grateful. He wasn't one bit assertive in the first half.

If we did go through, it is because Madrid decided to stamp their authority in France. Ronaldo put in a performance that should give people the understanding that he still is probably the best player in the world. Marseille were reckless with the opportunities provided to them, but Madrid made a meal of those that came their way, deservedly grabbing first place in the group. We have become a blur in Europe, something is amiss. Formation, players, coach? What is it? Well, we have till Feb to figure it out. For now lets just say, thank you Madrid.

Scorers -
Zurich - Gajic 30'
Milan - Ronaldinho 64' pen

Sunday, December 6, 2009

the race is on

Ignazio Abate

AC Milan 3 Sampdoria 0

Sampdoria are no pushovers. This team was atop the league table during the first few weeks of the season. It was the only team (before yesterday) that managed to beat Inter. Sampdoria can also boast of possibly the most lethal striking partnership in the league. But a humbling wasn't something either of these teams expected. Fortunately it was an experience the visitors had to take home.

Catania was proof that Milan are a winning machine, and that we don't choke under pressure. But, playing one of the better teams would provide a clearer picture of the potency of this side. Honestly, we couldn't have asked for a better way to get the game rolling. In the very 1st minute, Ronaldinho floats a cross into the box, Borriello only had to meet the ball with his head. The rest is history. Pato too started brightly. However it was Seedorf who got the second for the home side. Leonardo's side played an expansive game, crisp passing to the feet. After a good build up, Seedorf shot from distance after Ronaldinho sent him a flat pass. There were no signs of complacency, as Milan pressed ahead for the third. And surely found it, courtesy Pato. We continued to keep the ball, and looked very comfortable on it. 30 minutes into the game, and Sampdoria start plotting their attacking moves. Abate replaced Ronaldinho, and the enthusiastic winger was on fire down the right. He set up Pato, but the starlet was lethargic with his finish. As the first half was drawing to a close, I glanced at the stats. We had 61% possession!

There was a lot of place to play in, but penetration become something of an issue in the second half. A lunge from Zambrotta prevented Ziegler from getting his name on the score-sheet. We continued to attack relentlessly, showing no signs of fatigue. Perhaps, we are a 'one game a week' team? The man in green had a lot of tidying up to do. Huntelaar received a hero's welcome from the Rossoneri faithful, as he replaced Borriello. Pato was pushed into the left to accommodate Abate on the right. He wasn't feeling at ease with his new position, and wasn't having the best of games in the second half. Huntelaar seemed isolated. He drowned in a sea of blue shirts. He simply isn't capable of playing as a lone striker. Its high team Leo realized that. We resorted to pacy counter attacks to score our fourth. Sampdoria were seeking to earn some respect as they pressed ahead for their first. Lets talk about Abate, who impressed me the most. Many have labeled him as a defensive winger. This lad runs his socks off every game, and looks dangerous whenever he pushes up. He is ever willing to attack and cause damage. Defensive winger? Huntelaar treated the fans to his dribbling skills, and later set up Seedorf. The veteran just had to sky the ball, characteristically. The team from Genoa saw more of the ball in the second half. Pato had a burst of energy out on the left, which had the visiting defense scrambling. It also brought a few smiles to the Presidency.

It wasn't really a demolition as many would like you to believe. It was so only for the initial 25 minutes. But after that, and for the rest of the game, it was domination. But I will hold on to my horses, because this could be a false alarm. After all, Del Neri had a few of his stars missing. Angelo Palombo and Marco Rossi had to sit out this game. After a 3-0 thrashing last week in the derby, I wouldn't fancy their confidence to be sky high. But its a fantastic result, especially after Inter lost to Juve right after. It throws the race for the crown wide open. One thing at a time, though. We need a lot of this form in Europe as we go to Switzerland. And its no holiday.

Scorers -
Milan - Borriello 1', Seedorf 21', Pato 23'
Sampdoria - /

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Catania 0 AC Milan 2

After the disappointing result in midweek, Leonardo had to get his team back on track. This was turning out to be a roller-coaster season for the rookie coach. His team were going into games at home guns blazing but adopted a more timid approach in Europe. Catania had been struggling domestically, and they knew that if they needed to survive this campaign and still stay in Italian top flight, playing ugly was the only way. Gianluca Atzori wanted to stifle Pato, and had highlighted him as the danger man.

The Elefanti are known as a team that presses a lot, and got that bit of their game into action from the start. They also were maintaining a a high tempo, a style of game that Milan struggle against. Pirlo was missing due to suspension, so chances weren't going to be generated from midfield. A work dog like Ambrosini and an anchor man in Flamini weren't going to produce the much needed magic. So you don't need to be a genius to understand that the game was going to be dogged and brutal. Catania's 4-3-2-1 also shows what their mentality was going to be. Pato was playing deep and wide. Ronaldinho too had to drop deep to collect the ball. Catania had employed a destructive midfield, but a fairly effective one. AC Milan couldn't penetrate the sturdy rear guard from Sicily, and had to depend on counter attacks for the elusive goal. It was a very disappointing half, and Catania's philosophy of preventing Milan from playing was painful to the eyes.

The game opened up slightly after the half. AC Milan were relying on their quick counter attacks. They were also using patient build-ups to secure an opening. Tactically, from a defensive perspective, Catania must get a 10/10. But this brand of football will not win over the fans or rain in the TRPs. Morimoto was causing Silva some trouble. Catania decided to attack Milan later in the half, which makes a lot of practical sense. The aging legs of Milan wouldn't be able to hold out the exuberance of Catania after a laborious game. That was the logic that Atzori was exercising. Pato had been painfully poor throughout the game, but unfortunately there was no one to replace him from the bench. Abate however impressed throughout the game. Seedorf's shooting had been woeful. He got himself into promising positions and had gutted his shots. Over the course of the game, we had certainly lost the battle in the middle of the park. Inzaghi was brought on for Borriello, and had a fantastic chance, but he blasted over. The old man spent more time complaining than playing. With Pirlo missing, Seedorf had to step up and handle the creative reigns, but he just didn't. Huntelaar was brought in, and what a performance he turned in! He scores in the 93rd minute, and again a minute later with a world class lob! As many have been saying lately, truly 'a touch of Klaas.'

There were positives. Its these kind of games that we need to start winning to be able to challenge for the Scudetto. And depth/options provides the gaffer with decisions,, and if taken well, can assure results. Huntelaar has overnight become untouchable. But that is a good thing, he is a world-class talent. This cameo was needed, most definitely. Ronaldinho has been showing signs of a becoming a superb attacking player. He has been in some remarkable form lately. And we would need all of that when we welcome Sampdoria this weekend. The Blucerchiati are a different league, and we will have to focus a lot on defense. Courtesy Pazzini and Cassano.

Scorers -
Catania - /
AC Milan - Huntelaar 93', 95'