So thanks to birthday boy Stephan El Shaarawy, Max Allegri’s Milan get to fight another day. Football is about results and perhaps this can build some confidence to lift the team out of its deadly funk. However, my sympathy with the Coach fell apart when he declared: “This was a response to the critics.” If that performance was your show-stopping comeback, then you’d be better off keeping your mouth shut.
It was a terrible game against Genoa. The Rossoneri created even fewer opportunities than in recent defeats to Malaga and Lazio, when at least they looked to have some ideas, albeit ones that petered out as soon as they got near the opposition goal. Alexandre Pato seemed to realise he had more chance of falling over than actually beating defenders, while El Shaarawy was a lone desperate figure working harder than the other 10 players combined. How lacking in character and determination is this team when a boy who turned 20 this weekend shows more maturity and leadership than anyone else?
There was a moment on Saturday night that represented Milan’s campaign in a nutshell. Urby Emanuelson cut in from the flank with a deft first touch on the outside of his boot, dribbled past a defender to get the crowd on their feet... and then shanked it into Row Z. Watching the Diavolo this season is like being in a kinetic motion desk toy, except the little silver ball on either side is a perpetual clang of disappointment.
Only three players have scored in Serie A for Milan this season. Of those three, only El Shaarawy has found the net in more than a single game. It’s entirely evident where the problems lie and it feels as if they never found a Plan B after two years of just giving it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Where are the goals from midfield? Antonio Nocerino is constantly on the bench, Riccardo Montolivo plays too deep to threaten and Nigel De Jong only goes up for set pieces. Allegri said the 3-4-3 system was meant to put more crosses into the box, but repeatedly against Genoa nobody was there to get on the end of them.
I realise this is a new system and will take time to gel, but Allegri is doing nobody any favours by puffing out his chest and insisting this performance was “a response to the critics.” A lucky win at the end of a toothless performance is hardly going to convince doubters they were wrong about this shambles of a Milan side.