Thursday April 4 2013
A Balo-par El Shaarawy

Is the January arrival of Mario Balotelli at Milan a factor in Stephan El Shaarawy’s recent problems in front of goal? Antonio Labbate writes.

Looking for a reason behind Stephan El Shaarawy’s lack of goals for Milan in recent times? Well, on this occasion, you can’t blame Mario Balotelli for that. Not yet anyway. The claim that the two players can’t co-exist is a conceivable and understandable theory to ponder, but it is far too soon to be making conclusions on a pairing that could potentially serve club and country for the next decade.

That is how highly rated the duo are and with some justification. Their individual contributions to the Diavolo at various stages this season underlines that they are the personification of talent mixed with potential. Yet it is their inability to instantly deliver goals in tandem which has raised doubts about their effectiveness in the same side.

The concern obviously stems from El Shaarawy’s goal drought which, if viewed on a purely statistical level, gives the impression that he’s somehow been affected negatively by the January capture of Super Mario from Manchester City. While Balotelli has smashed in seven goals in seven games, El Shaarawy has only scored once in the championship since Balotelli marked his Diavolo debut with a brace against Udinese.

The inconvenient truth though is that El Shaarawy was already catching his breath before Balotelli put pen to paper on his Milanese contract. The former Genoa man had, after all, only scored one goal in his five previous encounters prior to the new boy taking over the goalscoring responsibilities for the San Siro giants.

Having grabbed 16 League goals before Christmas, it was inevitable that El Shaarawy would start to struggle to ripple the net with the blistering consistency he had done. This, after all, is the 20-year-old’s first Serie A campaign where he has been guaranteed a regular starting shirt. That was going to take its toll both physically and mentally.

You also have to factor in the footballing decree that all forwards, no matter whether young or old, will go through difficult periods of scoring form. Udinese goal machine Antonio Di Natale has bagged just once in his last nine games, Edinson Cavani went six without a strike for Napoli recently, Roma’s Erik Lamela has only got three in his last 11 and Diavolo teammate Giampaolo Pazzini scored in just one of his first 10 Serie A appearances this season – albeit a hat-trick at Bologna.

If anything, the criticism and concern over El Shaarawy’s recent back-seat role simply underlines the progression made by a kid who last season only scored two goals in the top flight.

So is it wrong to say that the two can’t play in the same team? We don’t have enough sample data – games played together – to answer that with any certainty. In theory, though, they should be compatible in some way tactically given where the two are being fielded for club and country. El Shaarawy generally likes to drift in from a wide left position, while Balotelli is being used as a centre-forward.

Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether the two can give their maximum in those starting positions? That’s the key issue. El Shaarawy’s desire to cut inside means there is the danger that he and the roving Balotelli, who is not a classical centre-forward, will be asking for the ball in the same space. In order for their partnership to blossom, they will not just need to form an understanding but also a relationship. Both, ego permitting, will be required to make sacrifices to benefit the other.

“They are a pairing with great possibilities and prospective,” says Italy boss Cesare Prandelli. “But they are also very young and they are going to have to work very hard. They showed in the friendly against France that they can co-exist and we’re all curious to see how they will develop. I trust that Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri, who is a great Coach, will improve their understanding.”

It’s going to take time for that to happen and we may not see the kind of desired results Italian football wants until next season, but with a combined age of 42, time is something that Balotelli and El Shaarawy clearly have on their side. 

Have your say...
Also, calling Bayern a "half-decent" team is a bit inappropriate ...
on the 13th April, 2013 at 4:56pm
Boss, those people didn't refer to football so I don't see any relevance in your quote. But it was a nice try :)

Look at history.
Yes, speed is a fundamental ingredient but on it's own it doesn't "kill". That's the point I am trying to make ... again.

Glad you are watching a lot of European football. Fun stuff :)
on the 13th April, 2013 at 4:52pm
Zoli, to quote Freddie roach and the DVLA adverts "speed kills". I watch a lot of European football, and it is no great secret that Italian teams struggle to deal with fast physical teams. So I disagree with you, I think speed is fundamental.

As for juve celtic, that is the exception rather then the rule. Celtic are a very poor team. At the time i said if juve play against celtic against half decent teams, they will get punished. Then bayern kindly decided to prove me right.
on the 7th April, 2013 at 10:13am
I am going to see the Timbers vs Houston in a few hours. The MLS is "fast" but basically a bunch of young kids run their buts off on the field, with few people that have the brains directing traffic ... like Sandro Nesta.
But hey, I love it :)

on the 6th April, 2013 at 11:41pm
Boss, the Italian league is ranked 4th by people who know these things better then you and I. Does speed has anything to do with it? Probably, to some degree but not to the lame degrading level you try to sink it down to.

Point taken about domination and agreed on. What I referred to was that Juve is in the quarter-finals and Celtic is out. And that is based on a "real" rule book.

And please, again, try to see what I mean by those statistics ...
on the 6th April, 2013 at 11:36pm
Zoli, the way the game is played in serie a is to spend all day on the ball, and to jog around, no urgency. It is a slow league. Of course it effects the quality, it makes for boring viewing hence why the stadiums are always empty, and it leads 2 Italian teams being dominated in Europe. I've not had sight of your imaginary rule book, but generally teams that dominate tend to win, I refer you to the beatings of juve, Milan and inter this year, how's that for some statistics?
on the 6th April, 2013 at 9:35pm
If you call Milan garbage, sitting 3rd in the 4th ranked league ... well, you have very high standards, hats down :)You must see something most of the world doesn't.

Maybe some statistical study could give you a different angle ... (?)
on the 6th April, 2013 at 5:38pm
Boss, just because a league is, as you call it "slow" has nothing to do with quality.
The rule-book says, and not in the fine print section either, that domination is only rewarded by goals.
Agree? :)
on the 6th April, 2013 at 5:32pm
Viktoria, ses can dribble? Of course he can, that must have been why Sergio busquets tortured him in the barca game, i wouldn't have even noticed ses was playing if it went for his dodgy haircut.

As for serie a, I support juve, but ill be the first to admit the league is slow that is why the best team in Italy gets dominated by celtic. Serie a is full of one minute men lol i feel sorry for their wags
on the 6th April, 2013 at 9:59am
Viktoria, i am happy to take you up on your bet. If you still have the honour of being able to communicate with me in approx 5 years i bet ses will be the next washed up overhyped Italian striker playing for some garbage team. Milan r already garbage tho so its not like he plays for a good team. Ses has nothin but a dodgy haircut which obviously infatuates you.

In the event you lose, which u will, u can polish my football boots with your toothbrush after you've finished washing my car :)
on the 6th April, 2013 at 9:55am

Lol you think ses will end up at Cagliari? I bet you x €£ whatever you want that kids is going places. He got everything you want from a forward. Pace, stamina, grit, dribbling, shot, he got it all. Your just too ignorant and hold a grudge against seria a and the individuals it involve.
on the 5th April, 2013 at 8:19pm
@boss .. Lmao.... I agree with everything.but I see alot more in SES than I do Gilardino at his age mind you. I think their are better players that Italy have for the national team that are more compatible with balo...for milan they are fine.
on the 5th April, 2013 at 7:47pm
Juve fan... clearly you only watch juve play. And clearly like most juve fans... know nothing about football... How man goals does el shaarawy scored via penalty this season...
on the 5th April, 2013 at 7:42pm
Viktoria, i didnt say they can't play together, it's their lack of fast one touch passing and blistering pace that i criticise, but then the whole Italian league is slow so it's expected. Nevertheless, balo is good, ses is the next gilardino, he'll be at some even crapper hopeless team like Cagliari
on the 5th April, 2013 at 7:19pm
@juve fan - eh? el shaarawy hasn't scored any penalties this season.
on the 5th April, 2013 at 2:29pm
@juve fan

Before balotelli came it wasn't ses who took the pent kicks.

@boss you seriously think they can't play together? Then why is prandelli using em? I'm pretty convinced their gonna have a great future together


Off form? Second goal top scorer in seria a at the age of 21. There was no way he could keep up the consistency if he did he would end up as the all time goal scorer on seria a. He's been a revelation and I/we as Milan fans are extremely greatful for he's contribution.
on the 5th April, 2013 at 1:29pm

It's as simple as that.

They are going to win the treble every year.
on the 5th April, 2013 at 6:24am
First of all, its not balo who make SES off form. SES already Off form before balo arrived. When balo arrived, milan often use trident attack with balo as spearhead attack, SES and niang as left/right forward. SES duties is no longer as a pure goalscorer, he must provide supply to balo. Its milan tactic that makes SES unable to score like in the early season.
on the 5th April, 2013 at 1:29am
I think that SES and Balo should both play upfront but SES as a second striker (like Del Piero in the good old days) and Balo as a CF. But this depends on the team's formation. So may be Allegri should deploy 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2). Or any other formation that's suitable for 2 strikers with Milan's current players' abilities. Just an idea that came to my mind when I was watching Milan vs Chievo.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 7:46pm
The main point to consider is that the team is winning games with both of them on the pitch. Milan are playing well and are on a very good run since both of them are playing together. Even if SES hasn't scored much recently, his general play is still good, he works hard in every game. The future looks bright. Forza Milan
on the 4th April, 2013 at 7:17pm
So ses drifting in from the left and balo being in the centre forces them to play in the same space and nullifies their attacking threat? So how come when iniesta, xavi, Sanchez do it the barca strike still play great. Teams like barca play fast 1 2 passes in close proximity. Balo and ses are not capable of doing that so obviously can not play that well together in the same area.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 6:07pm
The answer to his drought is simple! How many of balotellis goals were PKs, 4 or 5 I think, who took them for Milan before he arrived?
on the 4th April, 2013 at 6:01pm
Guys, take it easy...Ballo missed, SES covered up in Inter...SES won freekicks and penalties which Ballo hit, I would offer up a thought that 3-4 off Ballo's goals could be said actually SES' means he would have matched up Cavani!!! No need to make this major dude, as long as SES plays well, causing freekicks for Milan and penalties for Ballo, why we bother with he's not scoring? Look at Niang...tearing defenders apart and opening up spaces that often lead to goals :)
on the 4th April, 2013 at 4:36pm
Both have qualities and the dynamism to compliment each other upfront for club and country.

They will constitute my squad of 23:

Buffon, Sirigu, Viviano

Abate, Bonucci Chiellini, Criscito
De Sciglio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Santon

Pirlo, Verratti

De Rossi, Montolivo, Marchisio
Poli, Aquilani, Florenzi

Balotelli, Cassano
Destro, El Shaarawy
on the 4th April, 2013 at 3:46pm
So far I like what I see between the two.
Of course there's always room for improvement, thankfully in their case a lot, just due to their age if nothing else.
And I think they play at a level where they can figure out with ease how not to step on each other's toes in that center when SES cuts in.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 3:45pm
People who analyze based on stats of goal scoring per capita should be perhaps better suited to a risk assessment job.
There are 11 players and no one individual is capable of carrying a team. Who cares about goal droughts as long as the results are there? Look at Milan a couple of years ago. They earned praise for their versatility that goals were coming from all over the place.
Just because someone doesn't score it doesn't mean they play badly - not exactly a well kept secret.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 3:37pm
But it you have a striking pair that are scoring together it works and who cares which one finds the net and who plays the assisting role. They look happy together which will work for Milan and more importantly in my eyes The Auzzuri
on the 4th April, 2013 at 2:34pm
Good Journalist or a desperate attempt to grab a headline. Attract the attention with the comment then follow it up with no its not really Balotelli’s fault. Something we all already know. The pharaoh is young and was carrying Milan with his goals early season, something that was going to dry up sometime this season. This with the fact that Super Mario is taking his share of goals since joining means that El Shaarawy goals were going to decrease once Mario joined,
on the 4th April, 2013 at 2:32pm
Though i am not fully convinced by this article. I agree with a lot of it. In reality we may need more time to adequately judge this partnership & time is on their side. They may need to get to know each others movements in order to establish a formidable partnership however for that to happen Balo & SES will have to adjust to each others qualities. Weather they can do exactly that remains to be seen. I do have my reservations but do hope they can prove me wrong for i rate them both highly!
on the 4th April, 2013 at 12:50pm

Niang is 17 years old and even tho he haven't scored yet he ja e proven himself way beyond expectations. All Milan fans are stoked about niang.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 12:32pm

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