Sunday, August 26, 2012

Milan 0, Sampdoria 1: When a Loss is a Loss

All summer we felt it. There were tremors when 10 players all left at once. But when the sale of Thiago Silva and Ibra came into focus, we all knew it: this would be too much to recover from in one mercato. Then Berlusconi’s confession that there was no money. That we would be buying on a budget, investing in youth (even if we’re courting 30 year-old Kak√° at the moment.) It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we would be vulnerable. Yes, even to a recently promoted Serie B side. Especially to a recently promoted Serie B side, as the people we’ve reinforced with so far come from that level or below. There’s no real way to put a positive spin on this. Sometimes you have to admit that a loss is a loss.

Pazzini is head and shoulders above the rest...
except maybe in match fitness

First let me just say that I nearly vomited when I saw our starting back line. How is the 19 year-old backup fullback the shining star in this foursome? And Allegri’s post-match comments that I saw didn’t even address that, only that in the first half there was “no reference point” up front, and he hadn’t wanted to risk starting Pazzini as he hadn’t started a game in so long. And by “reference point” did you mean that you were trying to play pass it to Ibra without the Ibra? I thought we were playing a different system now. We’ll always lose if we try to play the same system without the key players. Or without a player remotely like those players. And that includes the defense.

Many of us dreading the season had resigned ourselves to becoming alcoholics this year, so I developed a drinking game to help drown our sorrows (or hopefully celebrate any good that our boys would show us.) So if you played and your’re reading this before Monday, you did not drink enough. After watching the first half, I had never wanted to drink so bad in my life. It was scrappy and frustrating, with Sampdoria easily intercepting passes and breaking up play. Mistakes reigned and there was no communication, despite Montolivo being the only debutant on the side. That’s right, 10 returning players couldn’t work together. So what will happen when we plug in the new players?

"Sure, blame it on the new guy"

And Boateng had the most chances, with El Shaarawy and Robinho having maybe one good chance apiece in the first 45 minutes. Our “quality” signing Montolivo opened up Obiang’s head in the 21st, that’s not what they mean when they say “drawing first blood.” For me, he’s always been a card waiting to happen. His tackles are always reckless and sloppy, and usually ineffective, too. For example in the 36th it was his error that lead to a good opportunity for Sampdoria, luckily, they sent it over. His passing is very inconsistent, although tonight it was just poor. Sampdoria earned two yellows in the first half, one for Krsticic in the 16th and Gastaldello for manhandling Boateng in the 42nd.

The second half saw a fired up Robinho come and fire shots one after another without mercy. But they were all saved or Robinhoed™. Then El Shaarawy was subbed off for Pazzini in the 55th, and the fans were thrilled to see him and welcome him with banners. Unfortunately, just three minutes later, the cheering died down when Costa headed in a corner for the singular goal in the match. 1-0 Sampdoria. Why can’t we defend set pieces? Oh yeah, our defense. Don’t remind me.

ALLEGRI, Y U NO START URBY?

Immediately, Allegri sent on Urby for Robinho. Why that man doesn’t get the start, after stealing the spotlight in our friendlies this summer, I will never know. So with Pazzini and Urby on, we started working together a little better. In the 62nd, there was a Nocerino corner that Yepes just couldn’t quite manage to get his head on. Then in the 64th, Yepes did get his head on a cross, but Romero managed to bat it just enough to send it bobbling to the post and out of the goal, it was so unlucky. Then in the 67th, Boateng tried a fancy sideways shot, but ended up only with a yellow card for handling the ball.

Sampdoria got three more yellows, it certainly wasn’t friendly out there. First Costa in the 69th for a foul on Boateng, then Tissone in the 79th, and finally Romero in the 82nd. Meanwhile, things further improved for Milan in the 75th when Constant came in with fresh legs for Nocerino. Shortly thereafter, Antonini gave Eder a little shove in the 76th to try to get him to hurry off as he was being subbed, which resulted in a little scuffle and actually wasted more time. Thanks. Starting around the 84th, Constant was hell-bent on scoring, and he looked incredibly close to doing so. With crosses and shots that were  like daggers, he personally took the game up a notch. Then Boateng sent a wicked shot across goal that just kissed the post in the 91st. Bonera had to get a yellow in the 92nd for holding onto Maxi Lopez. Newsflash, Bonera, we all wanted to hold onto him. The final minute saw another Boateng shot saved and an Urby shot cleared from the line by Gastaldello at the very last second.

Boateng was willing to do anything to get a goal

So with 60% possession and 17 shots, 8 of which were on goal, why couldn’t we pull this one off? We took seven corners. Seven. And we conceded on a corner, too. I normally don’t do this, but I blame Allegri. He got the tactics all wrong, he got the lineup all wrong. He’s still playing the only system he knows without the players to make it work. We still are an epic fail when it comes to set pieces. Urby should have started, whichever position he wanted to put him in, the guy is energizing and very effective. Pazzini needs to be match fit, we need him. Zapata should have started in Bonera’s place, he made so many mistakes, he could have been his own drinking game. We need Ambrosini healthy and we need a vice-DM if Allegri isn’t going to change. I am not sure what Flamini’s place at the club is except wage-guzzler, even if he took a 50% pay cut. Boateng was fierce throughout, Robinho had a good 15-20 minutes. And De Sciglio is a gift from the Gods of Football. So it’s not hopeless. What we need most now is for Allegri to step it up.

Cassano was not missed, at least not by the fans. They had a banner which read “Cassano Cuore Ingrato” which translates to “Cassano, Ungrateful Heart.” Still classier than Inter’s horrifying banners last year when he was out after the surgery, but direct and to the point. It was hard to watch our boys struggle in the 90°F heat without imagining the ghosts of last year’s squad. Or maybe that was the drinking? Either way, it was a crushing blow to our already broken hearts. The big consolation for me was the way that with the subs, our boys fought to the death. Romero is going to have nightmares tonight about all of those shots coming at him. But we need to play like that for 90 minutes.

"Don't blame me, blame the guy in charge... oh, wait..."

I can’t sugar coat this one. You have to know when a loss is loss. And we should perhaps get used to this feeling, or find a way to numb the pain, because this is the new Budget Milan™. From Scudetto contenders to… I don’t even want to think about it. But take heart in that we had an awful start last year, too. And there are some diamonds in the rough on this team just waiting to shine. As Galliani Day™ approaches, we can still have hope that help is on the way, and pray that the tensions that management & Allegri have been having are resolved, one way or the other. Certainly our guys gave it all they had today in that heat. And, we escaped with no new injuries!! (I'll drink to that!) But a loss is a loss, and we start at the bottom of the table. Here’s to climbing our way up. Cheers!


This post inspired by non-alcoholic beverages


Remember the Champions League Draw is
this Thursday, August 30th at 17:45 CEST (11:45am EDT)