Neither AC Milan nor rivals Inter have made the best start to the new season, but there is little doubt who will be more concerned about it. Milan have now played three games at home this season, scoring none and conceding two. They have also lost their first two Serie A games at home for the first time in 80 years.
It is quite a sorry state of affairs for one of the greats of European football. Sampdoria and Atalanta, promoted this year and last respectively, and Anderlecht combined hardly represent the most challenging opposition Massimo Allegri could have faced as he remodels his new look team, but they have struggled nonetheless.
And it was quite something for Milan fans to take when they saw pictures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva both scoring for Paris St Germain in their thrashing of Dynamo Kiev on the same night that they were labouring to a goalless draw at home to Anderlecht.
Against the Belgians, Urby Emmanuelson played up front alongside Giampaolo Pazzini, and it seems a curious system to adopt, devoid as it is of any natural width. That seems to be doing for Milan, who failed to really trouble Atalanta either last weekend as they fell to defeat.
And all in the aid of slashing what was Serie A’s largest wage bill. Milan have reduced their salary expenditure drastically this summer, by a third to be exact, but Allegri should still be able to make more of his charges. Stephan El-Shaarawy and Alex Pato illustrate that he is hardly short of attacking options, not to mention Kevin Prince Boateng. But there is a failure to use genuine wide men like Emmanuelson properly and a creative failure at the heart of the Milan team right now. With Nigel de Jong anchoring midfield without much attacking threat offered from him, there may have been questions about whether he was a better option this summer than Lucas Biglia, who ran the show for the Belgian champions and was the best midfielder on the pitch.
Their signings were mostly free transfers this summer, such as Bakaye Traore, but one of them, Riccardo Montolivo, should be a useful player going forward. Brought in from Fiorentina, he enjoyed a great Euro 2012 campaign and his creativity should be what the new Milan are built around, ably assisted you would imagine by Antonio Nocerino.
But something needs to be done drastically to restore their fortunes. The team have lost most of its soul with so many big players – not just Ibrahimovic and Silva but also Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi – this summer. They have seen the number of fans renewing season tickets drop and there is not a lot to be confident about.
Allegri continues to clutch at straws amid the gloom. “In the first half we made a lot of mistakes technically and in the second half we had four goal scoring chances,” he said last night. “Of course you need goals to win games but we took a small step forward and I’m happy with what the players did.”
He must be the only man so calm right now at the club. But for those who matter, the owner and the fans, they will need more than that to keep the faith.