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AC Milan – SS Lazio player ratings

By | Posted on | September 9, 2011 | 4 Comments

I’ll try to do the rating for our players this season. First off Milan-Lazio.

Abbiati 6 -  nothing significant to point out.

Antonini 6.5 – worked a lot in defense and offence. Showed a lot of grit.

Thiago Silva 6 .5 -  showed his aerial skills at the start and one-on-one skills at the end.

Nesta 5 – major offday. Bad marking during both goals, took out Gattuso and some dangerous passes. Only managed to handle Cisse at the halfway line with a foul. The open goal clearance was as impressive as ever but today I’ll write that one on luck.

Abate 6.5 - good stuff on both ends.

Ambrosini 5.5 – got himself in some nice positions when teammates didn’t notice him. Meanwhile a little lack of agression and marking in the defensive phase. As a captain should have sorted out the midfield situation in defense problems.

Van Bommel 6 – showed himself to Cisse and locked up Klose. Smart and dangerous play mixed like always.

Aquilani 6.5 – great work getting himself one-on-one with Bizzarri, great pass to Cassano during the first goal and nice corner during the second. Bit lacking in defence.

Prince Boateng 5.5 – bad decisions mixed with bad attitude. Hard player to rate as his unorthodox style sometimes works in our favour and other times it doesn’t. To me it seemed he was a surplus in our scheme.

Ibrahimovic 7 – another empty net goal for him and great assists to Aquilani + Boateng to create chances. Unfortunately finishing was lacking from teammates as well as him. Pretty much maximum you can ask from a guy playing 90 minutes the third time this week.

Cassano 7.5 MOTM – how about a header from the corner? Assist to open goal. Goalpost and other near misses. All over the game. Could whine a little less but they don’t make cassanos who don’t whine so we should forgive him.

Milan 6 – lacking as a defensive unit, but that is expected in the first game of the season. Finishing should be better as well. Overall mediocre display whee pros and cons even out each other.

Allegri 6 – understandable line-up as well as subtitutions. Players could have brought him victory but didn’t.

Gattuso – Pato – Nocerino n/a. Would have expected more from Pato.

(n/a=not applicable; MOTM=man of the match)

Give me your ratings and criticism in the comments.

 

Superpippo

By | Posted on | September 6, 2011 | 4 Comments

As we all know Filippo Inzaghi wasn’t included to our Champions League list. And though he has the chance to make it in January (in case we progress as expected) there is a certain end of an era vibe. How many nights have Milan been in danger yet we kept the faith? With hope on those skinny shoulders  something might happen:

 

That in mind I found myself lurking for the best videos to relive the moments of magic, goals and victories that Superpippo gave to you and me during the European nights.  Here is my top five:

5. CL quarterfinal 2006/07 Bayern – Milan 0-2 – nice quality video with top-notch commentary of a rare out of the box goal for Pippo(I think he has only 2 during his Milan career).
4. CL group stage 2010/11 Milan – Real Madrid 2-1 – the essence of Pippo. Quality is low like his tehnique, but the emotion is nuclear like his celebrations.
3.  CL quarterfinal 2005/06 Milan – Lyon Olympique 2-1 – time was ticking away as Lyon had an away goal against us and Sheva’s shot bounced off both posts. Luckily Pippo knew what to do.
2.  CL final 2006/2007 Milan – Liverpool 2-0 – rematch of 2005 final and the second final in Athens. Hero of the day.
1.  CL quarterfinal 2002/2003 Milan – Ajax 3-2 – you can feel everybody taking a breath as Pippo lifts the ball over Lobont and how everyone releases the tsunami after they realise it’s going in. Top commentary, build-up, goal, timing, player – everything is perfect. (I know Tomasson got into the books with that but the moment was all Pippo’s).

Stay strong:

What would you change in this top 5? See also – Fillipo Inzaghi’s Top 10 Goals for Milan  from DVD set ‘I 3000 gol del Milan’.

Ibra’s Importance

By | Posted on | June 4, 2011 | 2 Comments

A lot has been said about Zlatan Ibrahimovic since the season ended, various comments and thoughts about his performances, however despite being a divisive figure in many ways, one thing everyone can agree on is that the first half of his season was better than the second, but what should we make of his season overall?

First of all, anyone who considers this season anything other than a success for him should stop reading now. He’s had a good year, and although he was much better from August to January than January to May, he still chipped in with crucial assists during his ‘bad period’

Ibrahimovic’s importance comes not so much the games which he’s won for Milan with his goals, or helped Milan win with his assists,  but his importance was shown by the way he managed to instill a winning mentality in the side, something that was lacking since most of the senatore’s who’d tasted success lacked motivation (particularly against smaller sides and perhaps this goes towards explaining their inconsistency), and most of the younger talented players hadn’t tasted real success yet, this is why Ibra was our most important player this season.

If there was an award for Milan’s best player of the season, I’d give it to Thiago Silva, no doubt he was essential, and he was a rock throughout, for his consistent performances this season, the way he’s matured and his dogged and determined defending, he should win it, and in face, I would actually have Robinho second, ahead of Ibra in third, because I think the Brazilian’s performances are underrated as a result of his erratic finishing (which often leads to people forgetting all of the other things he does so well)

However, if deciding on who’s been the most important, I would say Ibra. This winning mentality has given the side a new-found determination, and it’s not something that’s easy to get. Some games Ibrahimovic dragged the side through on his own (mainly earlier on in the season) and he scored some wonder-goals along the way but the most telling factor that he succeeded in bringing this winning spirit in, are the games Milan won without him.

Near the end, without Ibra, or in big games like the derby, l30nardo was well and truly thumped by Allegri, and that was as a result of (not only) better tactics on Allegri’s part, but also the determination of the players to effectively bring home the scudetto despite the absence of one Zlatan Ibrahimovic

It’s been said that Ibrahimovic and Pato don’t really get on too well, and I’ve heard eyewitness stories from people at games that Ibra acts like a dick towards him amongst others in the warmup and so forth, and maybe this is true, who am I to question these people, BUT I feel Pato has a lot to learn from him nonetheless, maybe not so much on the character front, but in becoming a winner himself, and this scudetto is probably the first step in the right direction for that, and as a player, there are some qualities Ibra would do well to pass on to the duck too.

A lot has been said and done about Ibra this season, he’s split many people’s opinions, and I think it’s a shame that some people will fail to give him recognition, either out of spite for people who they feel give him too much, or simply because they don’t like him, but whether you think he was our best player or not this season, it’s clear to me that Ibra is very much like some of our senatores…. he’s a champion!

Two Champions

By Hefin Davies

Pato vs Ibrahimovic – Who Has Had The Better Season?

By | Posted on | May 18, 2011 | 25 Comments

When Milan signed Ibrahimovic in late August, almost everyone thought that Milan’s strike partnership for the season would include both Pato and Ibrahimovic together in the starting line-up. Of course, Robinho hadn’t arrived by then. But even when he did, Alexandre Pato and Zlatan the man looked destined to lead Milan’s front line, supported by either one of the two smiling Brazilians, ‘Dinho and ‘Binho.

The three protagonists of Milan's attack

The three protagonists of Milan's attack

Now that the season is practically over, Milan is faced with a dilemma. In fact, this issue started mid-season after Pato returned from his long injury lay-off. By then, Ronaldinho was already gone, and Robinho had established himself as a vital part of Milan’s attack due to his work-rate and fancy footwork. Despite that, Pato was paired with Ibrahimovic upfront, and needless to say, the outcome was much less than desired. However, this isn’t a discussion of whether the two strikers are compatible or not, it is basically a comparison between the two of them this season. Since Milan’s formation includes one leading striker supported by Robinho, with Cassano as his cover, there is one spot left for one of Pato and Zlatan. Pato has emerged this season as a center forward, the same position that Ibra occupies. So unless Massimiliano Allegri is ready to scrap his formation to accommodate the two together, which is highly unlikely, only one of them could be the focal point of Milan’s attack. So who has had the better season, the lethal Brazilian or the big Swede?

A look at both strikers’ statistics this season would reveal the following:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 42 appearances in all competitions (3 as a sub), 24 goals, 11 assists. (0.57 goal/game ratio)

Alexandre Pato: 23 appearances in all competitions (7 as a sub), 15 goals, 3 assists. (0.65 goal/game ratio)

Incompatible Pair? Hardly, they complete each other

Incompatible Pair? Hardly, they complete each other

Ibrahimovic has played almost double Pato’s games, due to the young Brazilian’s injury problems, yet Pato has the better goal/game ratio. But Ibra has the better assist ratio with 0.26 assists/game, since Pato has 0.13 assists/game. What is notable is that the difference in their goal and assists ratios isn’t huge, but comparing their shot ratio, Pato emerges as a clear winner. Out of 70 shots all season, Pato had 32 of them on goal, 15 of which were scored. That is a staggering 0.47 goal/shot on target. Which basically means that every two shots on target by Pato, one of them will be a goal. That is an outstanding achievement and proves how clinical Pato is, which is even more impressive considering his age and the fact that he never got a consistent run of games due to his constant injuries. On the other hand, Ibrahimovic has had 140 shots this season, which is exactly double that of Pato. Out of the 140 shots, 70 of them were on target, and 24 were converted into goals. So that means that Ibra’s goal/shot on target ratio sits at 0.34, which isn’t bad at all, but isn’t quite where Pato’s is.

But of course, statistics only tell half the story. One shouldn’t undermine the importance of Ibra on the team. His Charlie Sheen ‘winning’ attitude has brushed off on other players. It affected youngsters who hadn’t won silverware before, and seniors who had tasted success but struggled in recent times. Ibrahimovic’s signing inspired the team and provided the players with much needed self belief. In addition to that, Ibra practically carried the team’s attack in the first 4 months. Milan endured a difficult start to the campaign, and while most players were still starting their engines, Ibrahimovic made sure Milan had something to play for till the end of the season. His physical presence upfront was immense for Allegri’s side, as Ibrahimovic scored for fun while the mister was busy building the team. No one could forget Ibra’s genius solo goals to win 1-0 games.

On the other hand, Pato enjoyed a great finish to the season. He stepped up when Ibra suffered with goal drought and attitude problems, and carried Milan’s attack without any problems. His start to the season was good with a brace vs Chievo coming to mind, but injuries cut his season short. Nevertheless, he maintained a great clinical record, scoring in most games and just after returning from injury. Pato also delivered when it mattered. He scored when it was deeply needed, with a man of the match performance along with a brace vs Inter, as well as vital goals vs Chievo (2nd leg) and Fiorentina, to name a few.

Ibrahimovic has definitely enjoyed the better start to the campaign, as Pato’s injuries didn’t help his cause. But even if the Brazilian was fit, it’s highly unlikely that he would have had the big effect that Zlatan has had on Milan’s season until the Christmas break. On the other hand, while Ibrahimovic was busy getting red cards for fun at the end of the season, Pato was enjoying a great spell of form until injuries once again hindered his progress. It is undeniable that both players played their roles in Milan’s success this season. Both of them stepped up when the other was struggling, so in a way, they completed each other.

Needless to say, this comparison counts for almost nothing, since no one knows what will happen next season. Maybe Allegri will accommodate them together, and even if he didn’t, both men are likely to be protagonists for Milan in the next campaign. With Pato’s injury troubles, and Ibrahimovic’s habit of losing his nerves and shying away in Europe, both men will be needed for Milan to reach silverware. They both enjoyed good seasons individually and on team level, and it’s arguable which one of them outshone the other. However, this shouldn’t concern any Milan fan, as Milanisti should be grateful to boast having two of the best strikers in the world as a part of their team.

Teammates: Success for either of them means victory for the other

Teammates: Success for either of them means victory for the other

Seedorf – A Trophy Collector Who Could Have Been A Midfield Icon

By | Posted on | May 18, 2011 | 8 Comments

I have been very much intrigued and disappointed by one of the most respected names in European football, Sir Clareance Seedorf. Yeah, he got knighted last month for his on and off the field achievements. Seedorf has been playing for Milan for more than a decade and he rarely missed a game due to injury, a physical phenomenon that collected the highest number of caps for the Diavoli among the non Italian category.

Whenever he is shown on TV commentators scream about his 4 CLs with three different teams achievement. Fair enough, he won them but there is more than what meets the eye. He is one player who had every single characteristic of a great midfielder. When he was at his peak he had power, strength, footballing brain,  every inch of his body is filled with footballing skill, he can play joga bonito or your scrappy midfield game, he’s versatile and can instantly fit any system. If an alien recommend me a body to create/adapt/evolve a new generation football player I will surely put Seedorf at the top of the list.

Seedorf Lotto Ad

But the irony is that if my young nephew asked me about the greatest midfielder I ever saw or loved, without any hesitation I would say Zidane or scream Rui Manuel César Costa again and again because he made me cry. With all his qualities Seedorf doesn’t make me sit on the edge every single moment when he is on the field even though he is very much capable of doing that. Ah football of the 90s I miss you.

Seedorf was a young prodigy at the great school of Ajax FC where he won a CL title in 1995 against us and got transferred to Real Madrid via Sampdoria where he feasted on a couple of league titles and another Champions League. I don’t have much thoughts on his days as a Blanco and I wouldn’t comment on it except that he won a lot yet he is not considered anything there. Then he transferred to Inter Milan, endured a not so good time at blue side of Milan and finally in 2002 he became a Milanista. Under Carlo Ancelotti he was a part of that great squad, one of the most versatile and greatest teams of the last decade, a formidable defense boasting some of the greatest names in football history, with Dida, an attacking force of Sheva, Pippo and Crespo. But the real strength was that beastly, godly, aesthetic midfield because it was adorned with two supreme number 10s: Rui Costa (at his twilight) and Seedorf, Kaka, class A destroyer Gattuso, solid Ambrosini, lightning wingback Serginho and a technically gifted Pirlo who was castled in deep midfield and could distribute the ball in his heyday as well as anybody (I am not a fan of Pirlo because he hasn’t done anything worthwhile after opponents started chasing him out of his comfort zone). That team was built to fight on any terrain against any opponent, anytime.

Sadly, we underachieved a lot and I still hold some grudge towards our former coach big Carlo; such a nice man but he lacked that killer instinct to unleash reign of fire on anything and everything in Europe. I don’t want to be ungrateful for 2 Champions Leagues and one Scudetto at a time when it was infested by the Juve – Inter court referee duel, but a dropped CL in 2005, the Deportivo debacle and Europa League doesn’t make make me too happy. I digressed from the original subject, but you can’t blame me because I was always enchanted by that team.

So here is Seedorf, who seems to play decent football when we are in the semis or finals of a major championship. Some call him a Big Game player; others, like me think ‘it’s about time Clarence, it’s about time’. If you follow him day in and day out like me or the Curva Sud you know how bad, frustrating and infuriating he can be all year long, lacking mobility, dedication or intention to stamp his authority on the game. I was never angrier than when he was the laziest player in that infamous Maldini farewell game against Roma. For a player who wears number 10 and starts every single game for one of the greatest clubs, he has been mediocre to hapless week in and week out for many campaigns.

But there is this aspect of him which is known only to us Milanista’s and which is so unique in this guy. Push him to the limit and he will deliver, as soon as he sniffs a title he goes for the jugular. In the 2007 CL semifinal against Bayern Munich he combined well with Kaka to bring us closer to our 7th Champions League. When Ronaldinho was brought to Milan, Seedorf wasn’t the indispensable partner of Kaka anymore so what does he do? Play a screamer of game against Inter in the derby in Pirlo’s role, where he adapted and excelled like a true star. When asked about his completion with Ronaldinho, he claimed he is much more of a central midfielder. After he fought back for his starting position when Dinho was out nursing a knee injury we started to see the usual Slowdorf back in games.

Seedorf Schooling Cambiasso

Seedorf Schooling Cambiasso

He is one player who has kept his place even with so much transition in the coaching position. Ancelotti loved him, Pirlo and him were his boys. Carlo overlooked their mistakes and burned Gourcuff for them, after all the coach won titles with them. Then came our caretaker coach, Leonardo, who had a rough time with Zambrotta and Gattuso but Seedorf the charmer was still unquestioned. Then the field marshal (ahahha) Allegri was given command to bring trophies, who is the coach with the lowest bias, who favors consistency and hard work over anything. Seedorf had a tough time regaining his starting position, but he managed it well. Being his last year of contract, he stepped up big time in the final half of the season and made up for the disastrous first leg against Spurs with a resounding second leg. But it was not good enough for another CL run. That was the day we saw the rise of the majestic Dorf. He started to be one of the influential players in midfield, he surprised me with his dogged performance and ability of holding the ball even under heavy pressure, a few effective tricks here and there, wily through balls and free kicks. He became one of the creative outlets of this solid Milan midfield. With every passing week he started gaining respect and love from Milanistas. Milan fans are so fickle at adoring their heroes; one good game and everything is forgiven, even the skeptic like me is thrilled and pumped up after his strong showing although I know a contract form him means more of that inconsistent Seedorf. But I hope he leaves Milan as a hero or we resign him at a lower wage and keep him on the very edge. He recently poked Milan for not assuring him another two year contract. Aah Seedorf, you are such an interesting player.

I never mentioned that Clarence is too old (around 35) and we never had enough cover to provide him some rest and it’s not his fault that he starts 30 odd games every year and he is bound to have many bad games at this time of his career. These are valid points but the fact of the matter is that he rarely plays with conviction. He is a mix of a champion and a culprit and he has complete control on whom to summon and when. Champion summoning usually happens when he is near some personal (contract / starting line-up) or team (Champions League / final half of the season only if you are top of the table) glory. He is a man who doesn’t settle for mediocrity (according to the Clareance standard), like CL qualification, farewell games, cutting down the lead of the opponent. He is capable of playing great games unlike many other yesteryear heroes such as Andrea Pirlo who works 10x more than Seedorf yet italian is not capable of putting up a show against tough opponents, able to stamp his authority on a game or entitled to the world master or controller or a hard game. Pirlo has digressed into a sniper who is able to deliver few lethal shots once in a while and the team should make them count. Seedorf can take the game by the scruff of the neck to unleash a masterful show whenever he wants. I think he has figured out everything; he wants trophies and to keep playing and anyone or anything that comes in his way will be shown who he is (like the lioness when somebody attacks the cubs). He will even take a pounding to prove that point. A great player who could have been the greatest, but I am delighted to have him at least this year because he has been so good.

Maybe I am writing this post to reduce the guilt I have for ridiculing him day in and day out for all those sub par performances but when great memories are revisited he will always be remembered for the part he played and that evergreen blissful smile.

Seedorf Smiling

Seedorf Smiling - Courtesy UEFA

One thing I have to admire is his statesman like demeanor (except for kicking water bottles when he was subbed for Pato in 2008 – see what I did there). He always calms agitated players: Gattuso screaming at Poulsen, Gattuso having a go at Pato. Always there to talk with officials, mediating or soothing a highly volatile situation.

The man commands respect for his character. I see him as a Milan director in the future if he doesn’t run for UEFA, FIFA or the US presidential role. Thanks Seedorf for all those bittersweet memories. I will not forget you. Have a great future, I will not miss you as a player but I will surely miss your smile.

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