After a shaky start with no win in the first 3 games against difficult opposition, it looked as though Massimiliano Allegri’s side would have to up their game to retain their Serie A crown. However, after a thrilling comeback against Lecce last weekend and a comprehensive win over Palermo before that, Milan look as though they are taking steps towards regaining some of the form that saw them lift the title last season.
The early frontrunners emerged as Juventus and Udinese, who both took points off Milan. Udinese put in a confident performance at the San Siro, but the home side showed vulnerability with Abbiati spilling a cross to give Udinese the lead, and AC presenting them with chances to win the match in the final stages. Again, this time in Turin, Milan looked as though they could be undone – a far cry from recent title winning seasons where they built their victories on a sturdy defence. An unbeaten Juventus side pressured them early, forcing chances, with Vucinic proving a handful. The breakthrough came near the end of the match, as Milan looked far from worthy of hanging on to a clean sheet. In games like these, where in the past the experienced heads in the team would have emerged to see the side through to a result, no-one really took control of a Milan team who looked slightly out of sorts.
However in recent weeks, after the international break, Milan seem to be hitting their stride and re-igniting any ambitions they had of challenging for the title. It wasn’t just about picking up results and their performances on the pitch, but their mentality as well. After an impressive 3-0 win over Palermo, where Cassano, Robinho and Zlatan all demonstrated their capabilities, Allegri came out and stated that he thought his side were finding their best form and are keen to improve from here. You could see a difference on the pitch as Robinho in particular relished the role in behind the front two and seemed to be enjoying playing attacking, flowing football. After his return from injury, the Brazilian expressed his joy at scoring and stated that Milan hope to win all the remaining games this season. This does seem an ambitious aspiration, but you sense that the Milan players are back thinking about winning and constantly improving.
Their most recent fixture away at Lecce however was not as straightforward as they would have liked, with the home side putting three past Milan before the break. Although the second goal, a penalty converted by former AC player Massimo Oddo, was a blatant dive, Milan’s poor defensive display and unnecessary sloppy errors justified the half time result. But then, with Allegri bringing on Aquilani and Boateng, the away side looked in the mood for retribution. Sure enough it arrived in emphatic style, with Boateng scoring an incredible 14 minute hat-trick to set up a grandstand finish. The 4-3 comeback was completed late in the game from a header by Mario Yepes. Although it was the game of the season so far as far the neutral is concerned, and showed off some of Milan’s attacking qualities, it once again highlights frailties in their side.
In a Serie A campaign in which no team has really set out a benchmark standard as the ones to beat, it is possible for the Rossoneri to take advantage of their momentum and move up the table. They will have to maintain some sort of consistency in coming weeks, with hotly contested battles against the likes of Parma, Catania and Roma coming up. Add this to a Champions League tie with Barcelona at the end of November and it’s going to be a difficult period. However, I think they have a squad with good attacking options and players like Boateng, and Cassano who have proven that they can put in big performances. Milan really should be in the frame when it comes to deciding the title at the end of the season. The one thing they will need to work on is their defensive line and making sure they can see out games, even if they are not playing at their best. Like we’ve seen before, it’s not the 3-0’s and the goals against the weaker sides that win you titles, especially in Italy.
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