Amid the doom and gloom of Milan’s stumbling beginning to the campaign, Massimiliano Allegri could rely on a shining light in Stephan El Shaarawy. The Pharaoh proved a rare mark of consistency, scoring frequently throughout the lean spell.
Since a 1-0 victory against Genoa – the winner from who else but the Italo-Egyptian – the Rossoneri have lost just once, at home to Fiorentina. They’ve picked up 17 points from a possible 24 to revive Champions League aspirations. El Shaarawy accounts for eight of the 19 goals scored in this period, proving a key contributor – with 13 goals overall, the current capocannoniere – and team leader at the tender age of 20.
In recent weeks the mo-hawked one has received help in the goalscoring department. And crucially, from players who are critical to Milan continuing their revival.
Giampaolo Pazzini’s summer switch from the blue to the red half of the city left some scratching their head. It cost Antonio Cassano and cash. A Week 2 hat-trick at Bologna dispelled some doubts, but they resurfaced following subsequent unsatisfactory performances. The doubts looked more accurate than his finishing.
Pazzo struggled for form and was relegated to the bench. Goals in successive matches against Chievo – his last start before Sunday – and Fiorentina helped steer him back on course and when given the chance against Torino he also took advantage. Pazzini looked to get away with a foul in the build-up for his goal but that doesn’t lessen the finish.
Earlier in the contest, Robinho danced with panache past a bamboozled Valerio Di Cesare to net just his second of the campaign. It was trickery and a finish of a player exuding greater confidence than earlier this term.
Continually linked with a January move to former club Santos, President Silvio Berlusconi confirmed returning home is on Robinho’s mind. He let slip the player is ‘changing his mind’ about leaving. And while the Brazilian club have confirmed talks, the player insists he will stay if required: “Milan do not want to sell me and I have no intention of arguing with a side that opened its doors and gave me a chance.”
After kick-starting his season with the winning penalty against Juventus and goal on Sunday, plus Milan’s insistence he will remain, it may convince of his importance at Milanello.
Two players below their best are Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antonio Nocerino. Never the most prolific midfielders yet their ability to ghost into dangerous positions adds another piece to the Milan repertoire. Both broke their season duck in the past fortnight. The Ghanaian scored with a wonderful effort in Catania, while Nocerino capitalised on Torino custodian Jean-Francois Gillet’s error. His 10-goal haul last term may be a career anomaly, but he has the ability to chime in with crucial strikes.
Then there’s Bojan Krkic – still adjusting to life in Milan – and Alexandre Pato. Currently injured and with no end to those issues in sight, if and when the Brazilian can return to his best it will further alleviate the pressure on the Pharaoh.
With the Mario Balotelli chatter only increasing as January lurks ever-closer, the likes of Pazzini and Robinho have three more opportunities before Christmas to prove their worth. For the latter it may rekindle his Rossoneri desire. Milan host Serie B side Reggina in the Coppa Italia, then struggling Pescara, before finishing the year with a test at Roma. Perhaps El Shaarawy can slip some of his golden touch into his teammates’ Christmas stockings. If they continue to take the burden from his young shoulders their quest for a Champions League place won’t be as daunting.