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Monday January 6 2020
Ibrahimovic just what Milan need

The statistics from this season show just how desperately Milan needed a forward like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Christopher Bland.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has completed a long-awaited return to Milan and could he be just the clinical striker Stefano Pioli’s side need? Given that one of their top scorers is full-back Theo Hernandez on four goals, and the other is struggling Krzysztof Piatek, who has seen three of his four come from the penalty spot, it is a gamble that Milan will be more than happy to take.

Milan tend to attack narrow, relying upon patient build up play with the likes of Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu who are given a license to drift from the wings in a 4-3-3, with struggling Piatek spearheading the attack down the middle. A tendency to cross to the Polish striker is indicative of Milan’s current style, who can often lack the tempo to break teams down and appear one-dimensional at times.

It has particularly been a theme against sides who operate a low-block defence, often struggling to break down the likes of SPAL and Verona, but even when they have created chances, Piatek and co have been guilty of missing a high volume of them.

However, there have been signs of improvement in recent weeks with chance creation increasing and the full-backs given more license to push on, and Theo Hernandez in particular will relish the opportunity to have the Swedish striker to pick out in the middle, whose aerial ability is undeniable.

It could see a change in style from Milan to try and build the tactics around Ibrahimovic, as his hold up play could be utilised to get the best out of Rafael Leao. Ibrahimovic’s lack of pace does mean that sides will be able to play a high line and try and box Milan in, but by having the likes of Leao available on the break, it could see the spaces being utilised in behind, and allow Milan to have a different style of attack, rather than their often slow, one-paced build up play reliant upon the likes of Suso and Samu Castillejo to break teams down.

It will be interesting to see how Milan’s tactics change in the coming weeks around Ibrahimovic, but it does open up some interesting options for Pioli.

Piatek has been linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur following Harry Kane’s injury, however the added competition and depth should help shift the burden off the Poland international and help him return to the form of last season he showed for both Milan and Genoa.

Ibrahimovic’s scoring record at LA Galaxy showed no signs of slowing down, and in his most recent season he netted 31 goals in 31 games. Although the quality of MLS could pose an argument as to just how much these statistics mean, they are still impressive numbers, suggesting he hasn’t lost his scoring edge.

Furthermore, looking back at his most recent seasons for Manchester United and PSG since 2014-15, one thing that does stand out is his ability to both create and convert chances for his team. He has out-performed his xG in all seasons, including an impressive 9.63 more in his 38-goal season in 2015-16, and this could hold the key to an upturn in form when considering Piatek’s struggle to convert.

Milan have only scored 16 goals all season, and are under-performing their xG by 6.55, and striker Piatek has been one of the worst offenders. Only one of his goals has come from open play, and his xG of 7.46, an under-performance of 3.46, has massively contributed to Milan’s struggles.

In simple terms, if Ibrahimovic is still operating at the class he has shown in recent years and Milan are able to create opportunities at the same rate for the Swede, his past history shows he should be able to take these chances, and subsequently boost Milan’s up the table quickly.

There are no guarantees that Ibrahimovic is still at the impressive level he was previous to his injury at Manchester United and subsequent exit to America, but his scoring record hasn’t slowed down with 53 goals in two seasons. It comes in with the caveat of how strong MLS actually is, but if the Swedish striker is still performing at this impressive level, he will quickly contribute towards an upturn in form for Pioli’s side.

Have your say...
@maldini heir
Pato, El shaarawy, Niang, cutrone were not given game time esp Cutrone.
Balotelli is rubbish, all he did was come in and El Shaa was suddenly banished to the bench which made no sense as he was scoring. Kalinic also rubbish.
Andre silva is without shadow of doubt the most overrated player in the world.
Menez was amazing should never have left.
Piatek has played and he is useless.
Actually if we had a LW they all would have scored, sorry I didnt see that before but i do now!!!
on the 11th January, 2020 at 7:45am
how long before Ibra quits before his contract expires ?
its great hes back...mans a legend but this is just fan service. A stop on his farewell tour.
milan is cursed. the harder they try to get back to top the harder they fall on their faces.
on the 10th January, 2020 at 9:36pm
With Ibra coming-back I hope Piątek leaves that mess, as Cutrone did. While I'm on Cutrone side as he was developed by AC.
on the 10th January, 2020 at 10:56am
In my director of football list I forgot to include Riccardo Bigon, the rebuilder of Napoli and the person responsible for creating Sarri's great squad. Now he's building a competitive side with modest Bologna. I bet he gets hired by Juventus down the road when Paratici is found to be wanting, as I think he ultimately will be.
on the 10th January, 2020 at 4:12am
I still think Giampaolo could have worked out. If he'd had two proper wingers. Or if he'd at least tried Jack at LW and maybe given Castillejo an extend run at RW until finding another solution this summmer. I'm nervous about who will come after Pioli, as at this rate it doesn't look as though he will be extended beyond the end of the season. Good coaches are going to start flat out rejecting our bench. Who could it be? Prandelli? EDF? Inzaghi would surely be out, with Lazio in the CL.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 7:35pm
@Maldini's Heir. You do have a point about the constant change. It's a weird cycle of: if we're not successful we change, which brings instability, which brings no success, which brings change. I suppose directors need balls of steel to be willing to give a coach/players a chance when the season objectives have not been reached in a situation where they should have been on paper. Or after starting a season with 4 losses in the first 7 games as Giampaolo did. The pressure must be extraordinary.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 7:26pm
@ AC Milan Fan In relation to Gattuso we will only be able to judge at the end of the season. And even then we don't know what would have happened if he'd stayed at Milan. Ferguson was about to be sacked if he lost to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in 1990. That is the fine line between success and failure. By constantly changing the side and the manager we never give managers or players a chance to change history.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 1:27am
PS If Messi left Barcelona he'd be less effective. Just look at his record for Argentina. Had Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini not all played together they may not have been individually successful (that was certainly the case for Barzagli and Bonucci with their failures at Wolfsburg and Milan). The same players can play at completely different level in different conditions. Look at the Atalanta contingent at Milan.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 1:23am
@ AC Milan Fan In relation to Leão, this just shows how backwards Pioli and Italian football is generally. In another league he'd be playing LW but Italian teams are almost allergic to pace. I honestly think if El Shaaraway, Balotelli and Niang were entering their 6th season with Milan we'd be doing better. That was our strike force last time we finished in the top 3.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 1:19am
@ Jeremy If Piątek was the first striker at Milan to struggle then I might agree with you. But he's not is he? He joins Robinho, Bojan, Pato, Balotelli, Pazzini, El Shaarawy, Niang, Matri, Menez, Destro, Luiz Adriano, Bacca, Lapadula, Cutrone, Kalinić, André Silva and Higuaín as strikers who have played for and failed with Milan since we sold Ibrahimovic.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 1:16am
@ AC Milan Fan The issue with Cutrone is not whether or not he was the best CF in the world. We don't need the best CF in the world. We need stability. It all comes back to stability. Every re-start, every signing, every new manager, brings disruption. That is the number one issue with Milan. How many players did we go through in the last decade? It must be nearly 1,000.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 1:08am
@Maldini heir Why did Ancelotti join Everton? Let me help you with that; because for the last 6 months you have banged on about a LW, thats all you keep going on and on and on about. Ancelotti sees what everyone else can see that the team is poor, top to bottom, so while you bang on about a missing LW the rest see a hopeless midfield, a goal scorer who doesn't score and a defence thats worse. I would say Ancelotti is a smart man. This teams beyond help, a complete overhaul is whats needed.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 7:59pm
@Maldini's Heir Cont'd. Fix the Director of Football issue and hiring the right coach and finding the right players will then fall into place. Napoli has Giuntoli, Juve has Paratici, Inter has Marotta, Atalanta has Sartori, Lazio has Tare. What we really need, in sum, is proven DoF and not some rando novices like Boban and Maldini, or dilettantes like Fassone and Mirabelli.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 7:21pm
@Maldini's Heir Cont'd. He did a great job last season, and in that sense perhaps he should have been given another season, but in the end I think the club's instincts were correct in that he doesn't have the tactical ability to take the club to the next level. Underlying that is issue of not having the players to go to the next level. Underlying that is, as you mentioned, a multitude of poor transfer campaigns. First and foremost Milan needs a world class Director of Football.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 7:14pm
@Maldini's Heir cont'd. You said it all about the LW. Leao is really interesting, but I actually think he is a CF. Rebic was a completely random desperation signing. I feel so sorry for him. Then finally there is the other fail-twin, Calhanoglu. So great to have Jack back. He should be playing LW, as he can. Losing Cutrone isn't that big of a deal I think. Returning to Gattuso, I think this spell at Napoli will show that Milan was right to doubt him.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 7:11pm
@Maldini's Heir. Not really gonna disagree with you, although it's really tough to project how this year would have gone with Gattuso. Like you said, the biggest deficiencies in the squad were not address, namely BOTH wings. Sorry, Suso is garbage. For the last season and a half I've watched a slow predictable player (and actually rather ungainly on the dribble) make miserable pass attempts with his right foot or cut over to the left and get blocked.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 6:59pm
surprised when it doesn't work out. Another January and more signings, more transfers, all so we can figure out how to beat Sampdoria. In this context Ibrahimovic is another classic signing that fails to address our main problem (a lack of pace and service for the strikers), creates more problems (further undermining Piątek). It's beyond hopeless. Why has Ancelotti allowed go to Everton?
on the 7th January, 2020 at 12:15pm
same fate seemingly with nobody at the club questioning why player after player fails to perform. Pioli seems to have alienated Kessie and Paquetá thus creating new problems that had been solved last season. And this just about sums it all up. Every single transfer window for the last - what, 20? - Milan have focused on completely the wrong signings, creating more problems, solving none, and handing these poor unfortunates to some inexperienced or sub-standard manager, and then we all act
on the 7th January, 2020 at 12:12pm
9th. We sold the new fan favourite, Cutrone. We signed a load of random players. And we didn't fix the problem down the left hand side where Çalhanoğlu is still our makeshift LW and there is a lack of pace in the team. So we failed to address the biggest weakness in the side while causing unnecessary disruption to a side that was getting established. This season, remarkably, Kessie, Paquetá AND Piątek have all forgotten how to play football joining a long list of Milan signings who suffered the
on the 7th January, 2020 at 12:06pm
Milan finished 1 point off the Champions League last season and our highest finish since 2013. We had the 3rd best defence in Serie A but struggled for goals although Cutrone was establishing himself in Serie A and as a fan favourite and in January the team got a boost when we signed Paquetá and Piątek. The biggest issue was our lack of pace particularly down the left hand side where we had a makeshift LW with Çalhanoğlu. We sacked Gattuso and replaced him with a manager whose team had finished
on the 7th January, 2020 at 12:03pm
lol. milan must be crazy to think a 38y.old could transform their season. smh.
on the 7th January, 2020 at 11:44am
Congratulations! Ibra was no adacadabrra.. And Milan still sits at the bottom half. - Game Over -..
on the 7th January, 2020 at 9:42am
Win Win for Ibra. He pops a few goals, says he still got it. He doesn't he blames the coach and team. End of the day, Milan will still just miss Europe and would be forced to sell.
on the 6th January, 2020 at 9:46pm
Milan has been bad for the best part of a decade i remember the last days of allegri at milan even he didn't get much out of the team at the time. They spent hundreds of million still no improvement, hired a bunch of coaches still no real improvement, changed sporting directors no real improvement. Last thing to do would be to sack the entire team and start afresh. You could have a ronaldo or messi or kaka in their prime in this milan side they would still suck.
on the 6th January, 2020 at 9:29pm
I will continue to say.. Milan need a world class coach, a serious project mixing in quality youngsters with some experience to help along the way. Instead we have another cluless manager, a team of half wits, midfielder is non existent, strikers are terrible and defence is average at best. We brought Piatek, why? Cutrone was 1million times better. We have less creativity ever before. This Milan is simply rubbish. Ibra is class but I am certain this Milan will finish him.
on the 6th January, 2020 at 6:39pm
I think it's a circus honestly. Ibra coached by Pioli?
The only reason it's worth a shot is because Milan have nothing to lose.
But how embarrassing will it be for all parties if Ibra doesn't manage to make an impact and Milan remain firmly mid-table?
on the 6th January, 2020 at 5:48pm
Don't think Ibra will make much differance he will score the goals to keep AC in seria a that's about it, they need more than a 38 yr old to get anywhere near a European spot, I don't understand why they think that by going back in time is a good idea unless they have realised that the Milan current squad is poor and don't know what to do and are looking for a quick fix.
on the 6th January, 2020 at 4:37pm
I thought Milan needed a coach.
on the 6th January, 2020 at 4:34pm
AC Milan has only 16 goals which by the way is the same amount of goals Brescia has, not to mention 4 came from Penalty kicks and 1 was an own goal the team has only 11 goals from open play AND Milan's highest goal scorer is a full back. If i were ac milan i would be glad to get anyone that can shoot the ball on net let alone someone that can score as this is one of the most pathetic attacks in Serie A. History will not help you to score goals in the future - whats milan done the last 8 yrs ?
on the 6th January, 2020 at 2:54pm
Ibra has to prove his point. Lead them to europe or europa league or to a relegation battle? Show me you are the man.
on the 6th January, 2020 at 12:11pm

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