Has Milan’s season begun? Well, let’s look down the list. Inability to defend from set pieces? Check. Christian Abbiati batting shots away with all the power of a bored kitten? Check. Conceding headers? Double Check. Terrible start under Massimiliano Allegri? Triple Check, as they’ve amassed one point from the last three campaign openers. Fans left to mutter ‘when are they going to buy a new defender, because Cristian Zapata cannot possibly be first choice?’ Check.
It’s the same old story and now becoming painfully predictable. The problems are there for all to see and still the club scrambles around for a creative midfielder or forward while the back four languishes in a state of disrepair. Massimo Ambrosini – a midfielder, at that – used to be the only Rossoneri player who could actually defend in the air and now he’s gone too. Keisuke Honda can wait until January, what this team needs is a centre-back. Make that two, because none of the available men deserve a regular starting spot. Allegri will still get blamed and fired, of course. That never changes either.
At least Hellas Verona decided to shake things up a bit with some surprises in store. Luca Toni may be 36 and attempting to grow an Andrea Pirlo-style beard, but he’s still the biggest aerial threat in Serie A. Coach Andrea Mandorlini finally won a top flight match at his third club, while Jorginho and Martinho are names to watch this season.
The biggest surprise was in the stands, as the Stadio Bentegodi crowd shook off its appalling reputation for racism with a bit of ingenuity. Arguing their monkey noises are not inherently racist, but aimed at irritating the opponent (the less said about that theory, the better) the Hellas ultras tried to discover what would most wind up Mario Balotelli. It turns out that ironic applause is more disconcerting than straight-out abuse for someone of such an impressive ego. Verona fans might’ve changed tack for the wrong reasons, but hopefully it’ll draw out the more inventive side of the Italian ultras movement. As the banner at the Bentegodi read: ‘Why Always Him?’