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. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
i believe that el sha and balotelli will make a great partnership together , el shaarawwy said that him and mario get on well , time will help them develop a friendship and should help them share opportunities in front of goal not to just shoot and hope for the best , hopefully we will see results for the rossoneri and the nazionale , i think that in september they will have formed a great partnership from pre-season and the confederations cup .
on the 4th April, 2013 at 11:34am
Great article. In order for El Shaarawy and Balotelli to play well at the same time they need to work at a partnership. They need to be looking for each other constantly.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 11:31am
El Sha is having to be a bit more selfless but I think he will find his role. after all, he is great and coming in from the left - that's whow he scored a lot of his goals pre-Xmas. They also need niang to chip in with some goals. he has NEVER scored!
on the 4th April, 2013 at 10:20am
Nice article. I think a dip in form is inevitable for El Shaarawy considering his young age. The reason Balotelli was bought in was to help share the workload and take some of the burden off of El Shaarawy, and that's what he's done. I don't think we have to worry about him just yet. Him, Balo and Niang will form an exceptional frontline for Milan in the future
on the 4th April, 2013 at 10:04am
pharone scored some wonderful goals but a lot where tap ins balo is nos scoring those. on another note el pharone has 2 assist and a goal in those 7 matches a goal being in the most important match against inter. Elshaarawys 2nd half performance last week was immense but he s gonna have to mix it up a little. they can definitly co exist and shine but balotelli is a star he has it all elshaarawy is the rivaldo to a ronaldo (balotelli) in 2002 with all due respect to the aforementioned brasilians
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:53am
I'd be interested to see how they'd play as a front 2 with someone like Kaka or Hatchim Mastour behind.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:42am
I have to agree with you on this is indeed early dat yet.the youngsters need time to synchronize.there is no doubt dat the fact they are friends off the field will also help their understanding.what i believe they need is a coach who can help them build that understanding. Is Allegri the man to do that? Personally i am not sure,but then again i like to give people de benefit of doubt.since taking over the reigns of coaching duty 3seasons ago i have not been to impressed with the style of play of my Milan.lets just see what he will do different next season.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:40am
This just reminds me of the Pato-Ibra conundrum. It is not a case of that El Sha-Balo cannot work, it is the fact that teams understand how to reduce El Shaarawy's threat. You cannot deny that he does seem to have a very predictable playing style, that when you nullify his pace - is easy to stop. He would be more dangerous in a second striker position, where he could roam more freely (a bit similar to his position at Padova).
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:38am
Good article. I can't believe people are questioning their compatibility. It seems like another myth that is being spread about Balo. My feeling is that SES and Balo but you are right we need to wait to see. SES does seem to prefer playing on the left of a front 3. Balo I think needs to focus on becoming a centre forward. But for these two to maintain their progress they will need to mix things up a bit. Serie A defenders do seem to have figured out a way to stop SES from cutting inside....
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:36am
He has looked too timid to me. Instead of running at defenders, whipping in crosses, playing through balls, etc he just seems to check his runs, and play a sideways/backwards pass. I don't know if it is a lack of confidence, or his coaches have told him to be less direct. The same thing has happened with Insigne at Napoli. These players should be allowed to express themselves, & not be bogged down by tactics.
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:24am
Both players are still playing well, the fact that ses is not scoring is not a massive concern as long as both play well and one of them is scoring. Ses can develop his game in other ways and is always a danger. I think they will be an important partnership for Milan and the azzurri. Forza Milan
on the 4th April, 2013 at 9:06am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.