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Saturday September 23 2017
Centre-back shortage at San Siro

There is a lack of decent coverage for centre-backs at both Milan and Inter this season, writes Richard Hall.

Just because something is much better than it used to be, doesn’t mean it is perfect. Just because it isn’t perfect, doesn’t make it bad either. The problem with things that work and could be better, is that there is normally something more pressing to deal with and thus it gets ignored.

As Milan and Inter continue with their strong starts to the season, they share a similar issue: the centre-backs. There is no doubt that they are better than they have been for some time, but they may still be the hidden Achilles Heel if these sides are to develop into serious title contenders.

If at first glance you look and note that Leonardo Bonucci and Milan Skriniar both arrived this summer, it is fair to say that (especially in Milan’s case) they have upgraded with their options. The season has started well for both teams, the Nerazzurri are unbeaten with four wins out of five and Milan have only lost once, albeit heavily. With the black and blue half of the city worried about whether Andrea Pinamonti or Eder can really step up if Mauro Icardi gets injured and the red and black side worried about what they would do without the indomitable Franck Kessie, why worry about centre-backs?

Let’s start with Inter. Jeison Murillo divided opinion, it is true, but he was liked by most and was a credible and developing player before he was allowed to depart for Valencia. The return of Andrea Ranocchia perhaps did not divide opinion, as his personal battle of talent versus confidence was well known by Inter fans, and the nerves always win. That left Joao Miranda, a veteran in today’s game but still superbly capable, his decision making and positioning would allow him to get in any Serie A team in the early 1990s. The second is the aforementioned Skriniar, a youngster who is hard, quick and intelligent, a real find.

The first point here is who do Inter turn to if either of these have a poor run of form or get injured? After discussing the fallibility of Ranocchia, who is there? Zinho Vanheusder? Fedrico Valietti? In Inter’s last two games, they have looked like another option may well be needed. Skriniar is talented but (as we saw with Murillo) he leans so heavily on Miranda for guidance that when the Brazilian has an off day, so does his younger partner. Look at the match against Bologna when both players struggled to cope with long balls down the middle - confidence from one spreads to the other.

Milan in comparison looked like they were in much better shape when it came to centre-backs. After all they have Bonucci, Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio. Even if they are stuck, they can call upon Gabriel Paletta and Cristian Zapata, albeit the last two would be in desperation.  This was fine until Lazio destroyed them at the Stadio Olimpico 4-1. In that match, the full-backs also didn’t help, but Musacchio and Bonucci were culpable too and this made Vincenzo Montella switch his formation for the next game to a back three.

If you dismiss what was almost a practice match against Austria Vienna, the next challenge against Udinese saw Bonucci, Musacchio and Romagnoli form the base of the defence in the three. Despite Romagnoli’s terrible back pass that allowed Kevin Lasagna to score, he was perhaps one of the best players on the day. Both he and Bonucci were especially good at making space to receive Gigi Donnarumma’s nervous passing, but despite the fact they are new as a three, they also have little cover.

Against SPAL too there were mistakes and there are still questions about Musacchio, as whilst he has settled quickly, he often gets caught out of position. Paletta and Zapata perhaps can cover, but is this enough?

There is no taking away from Milan and Inter’s progress, you can feel it in the stands, you can feel it in the city, but the question perhaps is how to move this excitement into credible ambition. If they want to challenge beautiful Napoli and ruthless Juventus then these are the details, however marginal, that they need to address. The centre-backs will not stop either team from having decent seasons, but they will need more if they are to truly challenge.

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Have your say...
@anon king 'unknown youngsters' are you being serious, bar Silva the players we bought are proven, Bonucci is WC, Musacchio has been doing the business for Villareal for years, Hakan was one of Bayers best players, RicRod has been consistently good for years, Conti and Kessie have just had the season of their lives, Biglia was Lazio's captain and a class player and Kalinic is a proven Serie A goalscorer. You call out Viktor yet your the one who is clearly clueless from that comment.
on the 28th September, 2017 at 11:37am
@Troll Hunter: That "i miss marco branca" is that guy on the SempreInter forum and he is absolutely Hilarious. My favorite line is this: FACT-In half a season for Inter Tomasso Rocchi scored more Serie A goals than Palacio and Gabigol did combined the entire last season....LMAO ! or "If Inter tried signing John Carew then anything is possible! LMAO !
on the 26th September, 2017 at 9:54pm
All that money spent when all we needed to was rid ourselves of Montella. He is useless. Instead of spending nearly 300mil on unknown younsters and bonucci we should have spent the money on bringing a world class manager with world class ideas. Montella is so far away from the kind manager we need that it is untrue.
I've been gone awhile but great to see the football expert viktor is still here preaching his stupidity.
on the 26th September, 2017 at 4:01pm
@Anonymous

Ahh...from clarity to clarity, say no more, you litterally just prove my point. God bless the youtube era.

Peace out.
on the 26th September, 2017 at 10:47am
@ Inter2010

Yes, they're weakened without Neymar, but they played like crazy i mean they approach the game as it's a final stage on their own turf (stop pretending Barcelona aren't strong enough on Camp Nou),they're really motivated against HALF TEAM Juve if compared to last year.

I know where this conversation is going to,YES,Juve defense aren't stronger with those three to cover up Bonucci's hole but you seem lack of knowledge the quality of Howedes. With Rugani/Howedes:Juve need NO Bonucci!
on the 26th September, 2017 at 1:47am
Whatever makes you feel you are smart viktor lol or feel better about oyur loser player
on the 26th September, 2017 at 12:48am
@Anonymous

"Hahaha no juve fan misses bonucci . He was the easiest to replace."


That sentence says it all...I'm guessing you are not a day over 15. Yes mate, Bonucci was the easiest to replace an noone misses him.. lol

Im over talking with you, you seem, well, not fully functioning.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:22pm
@Rusdi,
It's the only match that matters so far. Besides, I brought up Barca game as comparison to last year game. Juve managed 2 clean sheets and now conceded 3 goals, while Barca's attack is arguably weakened w/o neymar. Rugani playing wouldn't change anything in that match either. Do you seriously think Benatia, Rugani, and Howedes are better defender than Bonucci?

He might be a bit overrated, but it's hypocrite to say that the defense got stronger replacing him with Howedes.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 10:12pm
Allegri beat Barca 2-0 with Zapata-Mexes as CB so how hard can it be to beat Sampdoria with Bonucci-romagnoli on your defense ? oh yea that's right...ALLEGRI was coach of AC Milan ! Thank you Barbara for ousting him from your team, like it's his fault that Bonera was your best CB :P if a defense of Bonucci-romagnoli concedes 8 goals then either someone is overrated or the coach is.....maybe a bit of both applies?
on the 25th September, 2017 at 8:06pm
Hahaha no juve fan misses bonucci . He was the easiest to replace. I would rather be bored at winning than be bored at losing btw. Juve are the 5th best team in the world on paper and the past six years can show you why.even though vidal is an idiot i miss him because he was actually a good player. But now with matuidi and bentancur arrivals im a bit more optimistic especially with bentancur getting better each game.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 2:16pm
seriously i don't get the fascination with bonucci and milan from fans who claim to support other clubs is it too difficult to support your own club. Do you get some unhealthy kick about putting down other teams. There is always room for reasonable criticism but at least have some evidence or facts to back it up otherwise it is embarrassing.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 1:30pm
@ Bystander

Don't take Barca-Juve game as the foundation to judge how good or bad Juventus defence this season because as we already know and admitted by Allegri, he played wrong system against full team Barca with half of Juve's players didn't play in the game and he chose to play openly with Barca on their own turf (it's plainly suicide).

This is less important but you should know that Rugani didn't play. It was Barzagli.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:47am
@Anonymous

Lol.. keep posting your nonsense.. What do you know what I watch and not watch?

It's early in the season, calm down.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:35am
I'm not turning on Bonucci or indeed Montella just yet but they need to act their acts together quickly. At this rate I don't see Montella making it to Christmas. At any rate i cannot see Milan ever challenging for the title under his management. At least until he starts placing more importance on the "system".
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:29am
younger players for the squad's failings.He seems more focused on being seen to be the big man rather than doing his job which is a) defending, b) defending, c) defending d) playing the ball out of defence and e) hitting the occasional diagonal ball. He showed no leadership skills whatsoever on Sunday.At crucial parts of the game where Milan were struggling to hold onto the ball he was launching predictable balls to offside full backs.When it came to defending I'm not sure he won a single header
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:26am
Zapata epitomises the problems at Milan. He boasted once that when he's focused he's unbeatable which begs the question: why the hell is he not more focused. He has no business being in the squad and it is farcical that he survived the summer overhaul. I have kept my reservations about Bonucci to myself because I didn't want to jinx our marquee signing but I've got a very bad feeling this is turning out like I feared. Bonucci was one of the many cowards after the World Cup 2014 that blamed the
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:22am
know what their role is. The Milan players didn't have a clue. That's why they were slower to every single ball, that is why they every move and pass was forced and why they lost. There was no structure, no plan, no direction. You better believe the system matters. I rarely criticise players. The right manager can win with any players. We will never know what level a player is capable of until they play for a proper manager. However I will make an exception for Zapata and Bonucci.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:18am
Everyone agree that Milan is better than Samp? Everyone agree that Bonucci is better than say Silvestre? Everyone? Ok so why didn't Milan beat them? Actually why were Milan played off the park by them? Montella had a better team and lost. Miserably. If that is the case what exactly is the level of this Milan team? It's sure not the level they produced v Sampdoria so is there really any point in deciding which player is better than which? Whoever they are no player (nobod) can perform unless they
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:13am
The focus seems to be on whose better between Milan v Juve/Bonucci v Rugani. Juve fans are obviously having fun and I guess for them this is one of the few ways of passing the boredom of endless Scudetti. Not a criticism of course. It's not their fault that the rest of the teams in the league can't get their acts together. Hopefully Napoli will make this season a little less boring. As for Milan fans the question is not whether we're better than Juve but whether we're better than Sampdoria.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 11:10am
@Anonymous
the phrase "i miss marco branca" comes to mind...
on the 25th September, 2017 at 10:44am
osal. Just like I hate De Sciglio's move. But, considering Juve got 24 years old Italian senior player for 14 Millions, It sounds fair. But a 30 years old defender who plays average so far with 7.5 Millions Euros salary and 41 Millions transfer, well.. that is kinda... Good luck AC Milan! :)
on the 25th September, 2017 at 6:03am
@Viktor

No, but surely Rugani beats Bonucci in terms of "HOW TO DEFEND EFFECTIVELY".

I heard many times that AC Milan fans proudly said, "WE HAVE THE BEST DEFENCE IN THE ITALIAN LEAGUE NOW!" Well, prove it! Stop making an excuse like "we have a brand new team 8/11 players... blah blah blah...

Well, ofcourse any Juve player would gladly take Bonucci back, but NOT with Marotta. This greedy player who produces fatal blunders and average play wants 8 Millions salary. Ofcourse Juve reject his prop
on the 25th September, 2017 at 6:02am
Bonucci might not be the best CB we thought he was. Means that the key of Juve defense supremacy is based on the system, not individually. Bonucci has made his weaknesses exposed in Milan. But I think he's still an upgrade of what Milan had in previous seasons.
Juve's defense has not really been tested yet in serie-A this season. If you want to make comparison, take Barcelona game as example. Without Bonucci (and Chiellini), 3 goals past them rather easily. Rugani & Benatia's level is way below.
on the 25th September, 2017 at 2:43am
Suprise suprise just watched the goals and guess who i laughed at getting owned for both goals by nobodys. I would have gotten a more physical defender to play with romagnoli tbh. One that knows how to defend amd at least in the top 30 cbs lol
on the 25th September, 2017 at 12:52am
With Zapata passing to Zapata I hope they keep an eye out for any out of the ordinary betting plunges. Wouldn't put it passes Milan betting against their own team. I mean he was specially brought in as well.
on the 24th September, 2017 at 10:47pm
Also bonucci was the weakest link in the juve defence and dont tell me otherwise because you did not watch every game for the past 6 years to see the levels of rubbish he produced. This was very evident in the first 3 yrs of this 6 yr winning period . To be fair he did improve for the last 3 but he is just nothing special and cannot defend and also a cry baby whining loser.
on the 24th September, 2017 at 8:45pm
Ricky alvarezzz !!!!! Hahahahaha hahahaha im only responsible for 2 posts btw and you must be the only idiot that thinks mr back kick special move is good. If there are other idiots dont worry his mediocrity will win your hearts over very soon. Tbh honest i just hate players like himself and vidal and wish them the worse luck in the world . Hahahahah 
on the 24th September, 2017 at 8:34pm
Around 170m spent on around 200 players.Should have just spent that on 4 top players and left it at that.
on the 24th September, 2017 at 7:45pm
@Rusdi

Are you actually consdering rugani a better player then Bonucci???????????



Yes he is promising but so is romangoli.. we have a brand new team 8/11 players.. what do you expect, not to concede any goals??


Stop your nonsense, any juve player would gladly take bonucci back, he was suppose to be your captain, or have you already forgot??
on the 24th September, 2017 at 7:15pm
Paolo- Milanisti went on and on about having the best defence in the league before the season started. It's amateur at best. So you get all the trouble coming your way.
on the 24th September, 2017 at 6:41pm

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