Milan’s struggles this season have been well documented, but underperforming individuals in midfield have masked a decent collective. Dylan Fahy writes.
The frontrunners in Spain, Germany and England dominate the top three outfits with the highest pass accuracy in Europe’s best Leagues this season. However, behind respective League-leaders Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United hover a struggling Milan. The Rossoneri have slumped to seventh in Serie A this term, but have sustained incredible passing exploits behind underperforming individuals.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side have managed to maintain an 86.3 per cent passing accuracy, with the peninsula’s perceived imperious passers Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio further behind. On top of their efficiency in distribution, the San Siro residents have the eighth highest average possession on the continent with 58.1 per cent – while only the Bianconeri can claim a higher medium among Italy clubs.
How have Milan stuttered to such an extent this season compared to the sides around them in these statistical tables then? The middle of the park has been a real sticking point for club, and a genuine lack of clinical assist providers has been evident. The exodus of players in the summer has greatly reduced their ability to create, and the remaining batch have simply not been able to live up to previous standards.
Aside from being the Rossoneri’s top scorer, forward Stephan El Shaarawy has also been the team’s main provider domestically this season with three setups alongside Urby Emanuelson and Robinho. There are an additional four players on two assists, but of those there are two full-backs in Mattia De Sciglio and Ignazio Abate and two attackers in Bojan Krkic and Giampaolo Pazzini.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, Antonio Nocerino and Riccardo Montolivo have amassed a single setup each in Serie A throughout the current campaign. The trio have been the spine of the starting lineup, and since Nigel De Jong ruptured his left Achilles tendon before the winter break and captain Massimo Ambrosini was recently dealt a month long layoff they have been practically irreplaceable.
Boateng has largely been employed as trequartista to limited success, and was one of the worst firing midfielders in Europe before finally scoring against Catania – later receiving a straight red card in the same game. Nocerino has lost the spark this campaign, after finishing the club’s second top scorer last term. His mistakes against Bologna, Lazio and Torino have all directly led to goals. Montolivo has been the brightest of the lot, and has showed unexpected leadership qualities, but has otherwise been blunt.
Milan’s headquarters on Via Turati has been rife with activity since the beginning of January. The arrival of Empoli youngster Riccardo Saponara at the end of the season looks to be an excellent move for the future. Speculation surrounding former playmaker Kaka in recent days does not fall in line with the new project, but there is no doubt that something has to be done to spark this team’s midfield to life.