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.
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)
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.
1. Signing Of Ibrahimovic
The two suspensions Ibrahimovic has recently received from the FIGC may have ruined everything Ibra did this season with Milan, but one must admit that once this guy was signed Milan suddenly became title contenders. His amazing solo displays in the first half of the season were more than enough to put Milan on top. He has been fundamental to Milan’s Scudetto winning season, and it’s his 8th consecutive league (Dutch – Italian – Spanish) title in a row. Not a coincidence at all.
2. AC Milan vs. Real Madrid
I know Real Madrid isn’t a Serie A team, but Milan’s match against them at San Siro was the start of a great season for Ignazio Abate. Many Milan supporters were upset that the fullback positions, which are pretty weak compared to the CBs Milan have, weren’t reinforced with better quality players. But, in the game against Real Madrid, Abate put an amazing performance (when compared to the performances he put before) to stop Cristiano Ronaldo (with the help of Gennaro Gattuso) and he never stopped improving from that game on. Soon, Milan had the formidable defense that won us the title.
3. Milan 3 – 1 Palermo (Round 11)
It was in this match that Milan clinched the very important 3 points to go on and top the league table. Allegri knew the importance of that match, claiming in his pre-match conference that it was Milan’s most important match of the season, and so it proved to be. The only downside of that match was the injury of Inzaghi ( who might feature in Milan’s next 2 Serie A matches) and the injury of Pato just before the derby.
4. Milan 3 – 0 Napoli (Round 27)
Milan were facing one of their competitors for the title and knew that it was bound to be a tough match. Yet, despite the great team Mazzari has made Napoli into, Milan’s Trio (Ibra, Boateng, Pato) proved to be too good for Napoli’s defense as they scored one each. This win gave Milan the confidence and the lead needed to eventually win the Scudetto.
5. Milan 3 – 0 Inter (Round 32)
Pre-match, no one thought that Milan would have it as easy as they did against their arch rivals. Everyone expected a very tough encounter (with the absence of Ibrahimovic), but a very very early Pato goal gave Milan the boost to maintain their lead, control the game, and eventually score two more to leave Inter happy they didn’t concede more.
In celebration of this week’s one-sided brilliant derby victory, as well as our city rivals shock 5-2 humiliation on home turf vs. the 10th placed club in the Bundesliga, we EXCLUSIVELY present you an extract from L30nardo’s new book expected this summer, titled “Goodbye Milano: L30nardo’s Guide to Coaching”. The books’ publishing company, 3 Derby Defeats ®, has put a price of 30 Denarii on each copy.
L30′s Guide To Coaching
1. Use 27 strikers/match.
2. Extensive attacking training, but peaceful attacking. “Attacking” is such an aggressive word, brings negativity, don’t want to spread that around the world.
3. Soft defending. Don’t press your opponents too much or it might irritate them. Remember, Karma is a bitch. What goes around comes around.
4. Happy positioning. Players should be positioned in a way as to create a smiley face. This way, it would bring a positive vibe to the team and help them win.
5. The art of conceding. Because games aren’t fun unless the total goals are more than our number of strikers.
6. Group hugs after conceding. It would help strengthen the teams’ spirit and morale. Also it would ease crying into each others shoulders. Remember, crying kicks the boo-hoos out.
7. No tackles while defending, it might hurt the opponents and this is not good sportsmanship.
8. Leave gaps in defense. This way the opponents get more chances, the football fans get entertained, and Julio Cesar earns his paycheck. Therefore, everybody goes home a winner.
9. Special bonus for Chivu after every red card. The bonus is bigger if it’s 2 yellows. and even bigger if it’s 2 games in a row.
10. Only maximum of 3 players have to be in the team’s defensive half. The rest of the players should attack (peaceful attacking) every area of the opponents pitch. Remember, offense is the best defense.
11. If the team can’t produce something useful with the ball, then give it to the opponents and open wide gaps so that the audience receive value for their tickets.
12. Never defend a lead, because comebacks are worth experiencing. Even if it’s for the opponents. Wish others what you wish upon yourselves.
13. Extra yoga and massage sessions after defeats. Helps relax the state of mind and gain positivity.
14. If the team wins, they deserve to be praised for winning. If the team draws, they deserve to be praised for trying. If the team loses, they deserve to be praised for participating.
15. Never shout.
16. Only shout if the score ends 0-0.
17. Scratch #16. Only shout if the game ends with less than 5 goals, each.
18. Each player is obliged to have at least 5 daily hugs from me. Makes it easier to smell the hair.
Also there’s a tutor video to help with the look on the touchline. It shows the ‘Hand on the Chin’ gesture to simulate being lost in thought. As well as the brand new ‘Fake Yell’ and ‘Talk To The Bench’ to pretend taking part in the game. Finally we have the good old ‘Follow The Ball With Your Eyes’ trick to help look interested.
We leave you now with photos of this week’s derby hero, Alexandre Pato:
Credit to Cristina for all the media.
After a scoreless first half, Milan came out determined after the break to earn a 3-0 win via a penalty converted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and goals in quick succession from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Alexandre Pato. A dominating and convincing performance in front of their home fans at the San Siro, Milan are now 5 points clear of rivals Inter who have moved into 2nd place.
Photo gallery: AC Milan (3) vs. Napoli (0) – 28/02/2011