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Milan 1, Napoli 2: Almost Just Isn’t Good Enough


This result should not have been a surprise to anyone. Napoli had a fully fit, fully available squad and have been playing great football, in addition to coming into the game at the top of the table. Milan, on the other hand, have been suffering from that Slow Start Allegri™ syndrome yet again, and had Injury Armageddon™ on top of it. Coming into the match in 9th place, we couldn’t afford to lose, but with the players we had available, we really didn’t have the quality to win, either. And although our boys gave it a fantastic attempt, once again, almost just wasn’t good enough.

The match should have been more evenly matched

In one of those records just waiting to be broken, Napoli came into the match having not won at the San Siro since 1986, with Milan winning 10 of those matches and drawing nine. And some of the statistics show that the record should have held, too. Milan had 56% possession and took 22 shots, with 8 on target, while Napoli only got 9 shots off, with 3 of them on target. But it was the ability to convert those shots that broke Napoli’s drought at the San Siro. Truly, Milan played so much better this match than they have been, perhaps their best game this season, certainly the first half. But their best at this point was just not good enough.

Many people are blaming Allegri, the calls for him to be sacked get louder each time he fails to get a result. While I am not sure that the blame should entirely be on him, he certainly has a few things to answer for. One, why keep playing Balotelli out wide? Two, when Balotelli takes a knock big enough to have him leave the field for treatment and comes back on at the half not walking right, why leave him on 90 minutes? And when he is getting increasingly frustrated, misses his first penalty ever, and the ref is not protecting him by calling the fouls, why leave him on for 90 minutes? All of these questions are for naught, though, as the red card Balotelli saw after the final whistle for protesting to the refs about said calls will give him the rest he needed today, as we will not have him for Bologna on Wednesday. (Does this syndrome remind you of anyone? Maybe Ibra? He, too, had to get frustrated enough to see red before given a rest. And El Shaarawy just plain didn’t get any rest last year.)

The ball is literally in your hands, Allegri. Don't drop it.... again.

In other news of Allegri not learning from his mistakes, this is his tenth year coaching. In every one of his ten years, his teams have started slow, even the year Milan won the Scudetto. In his postmatch comments, he simply described September as “unlucky.” Now I don’t care who you are, but if the same thing happens to you for ten years in a row, it is not luck. There is something that you are doing that is causing this to happen. And if injuries have been as great as or worse than other teams for the fourth year of your tenure, particularly when some of the medical staff were changed and the San Siro pitch was changed, there might be some correlation between what you and the rest of the training and medical staff are doing that were not changed. I definitely believe in luck, but luck has nothing to do with any of this.

However even more stubborn than Allegri and perhaps as delusional are Berlusconi and Galliani and the Milan Board. Not only did they derail “the plan” in the mercato, leaving Allegri with his worthless €11m bromance forward Matri, amongst other gaping holes, but they fail to learn that every year we are going to lose the Scudetto in the first part of the season, digging a hole so deep that it will take a miracle (and a lot of favorable ref calls) to even qualify for the Champions League. If I woke up one morning and saw that Allegri was even in danger of being sacked, I might have a heart attack on the spot. Instead, I expect to wake up in the morning and see another one of those weekly Allegri confirmations in the morning.

Running another key player into the ground with a potential injury, Allegri? When will you learn?

Other than completely mismanaging Balotelli, starting Sulley “The Killer” Muntari defies all logic and reason. His ability to get a terrible, scrappy goal is an argument for Allegri’s choice, I’m sure, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and again. Most of the time, he has horrible passing, tackles through people as if he is a blind squirrel, and randomly tries to kill people. For anyone who complained about Seedorf’s slowing down toward the end of his career at Milan, I am pretty sure he would be a site for sore eyes after Muntari. But Allegri loves his physique, so here we are.

Allegri’s delsusions of a Matri-Balotelli partnership are more like a dysfunctional family. Not only did Matri contribute only a couple of passes and weak attempts on goal tonight, now he is actually getting in the way of others’ attempts, like blocking Niang late in the game. I like Birsa, without a proper trequartista, at least the guy is decent with the passing, makes some great runs and attempts on goal, and makes great crosses and takes good corners. But let’s not kid ourselves, this 4-3-1-2 delusion has got to end until we have a proper trequartista available. And while the timing of Allegri’s decisions, his Zeman-like “throw on all of the strikers” (or even a midfielder if you run out of strikers) is not effective, but seems to be his only solution when down.

Another high-flying performance from Poli
(remember, object in foreground is smaller than he may appear)

What went right in the match wasn’t necessarily Allegri’s fault, either. De Jong, for instance, bossed. Poli was great, despite earning his token yellow card in the 62nd. He played so well, I wonder what Allegri will do when Montolivo is fit again. Wait, maybe I don’t want to think about that. Despite what I’ve heard from some people, Abbiati was great. Conceding 2 goals again from dead ball situations, with no defenders anywhere near him is certainly not his fault, and I would love to have a speed on Higuain’s screamer in the 53rd that he couldn’t quite stop, either. The early Britos goal in the 6th from a free kick made me actually want to see Zaccardo out there since he seems to be the only one on our entire team who has heard of a goal line clearance. But I digress back to things that are within Allegri’s scope of responsibilities again, as we conceded both goals from dead ball situations. Almost is just not good enough.

Balotelli was a beast. Like Atlas trying to hold up the entire world, he was the entire attack, in spite of Matri, as well as trying to make plays and defend, too. And his perfect penalty kick record was broken by a Reina save in the 61st, even if Reina admitted to having studied Balotelli’s penalties. He had a lot of chances, and was definitely the target of a lot of fouls, called or not. So when he finally scored in the 91st, it barely seemed like a consolation for all of his massive efforts tonight. I really feel for the guy, even if he of course needs to learn to hold his tongue. But he left everything out on the pitch, and honestly, he deserves whatever break he is given, whether it is one or more matches.

Balotelli bummed after his first penalty kick ever is saved.

I don’t even know what else to say. Napoli played great, they were managed well by Benitez. Even if on a good day we might have taken them, tonight we didn’t. The referee missed at least one penalty, but we cannot depend on those calls, and neither can Allegri. Giving Napoli only one yellow card with all of the elbows that were flying seemed rather ridiculous, too, but again, the referee is human and therefore fallible, we need to be able to play better than that. Particularly when it came to the reffing, almost was just not good enough.

I think the most frustrating thing is that with so many injuries, and playing better than we have, maintaining possession and taking the most chances we’ve had in any match this season, we still lost, 1-2 Napoli. For all of the positives, we still dropped another 3 points. We need to stop dropping points to stay in the race this year, since several clubs will be in the hunt for that Scudetto. Tonight’s match was a tough pill to swallow, but at some point Allegri and the boys will have to learn from their mistakes. Let’s hope it starts vs. Bologna on Wednesday, because otherwise, almost just isn’t good enough.


This post inspired by the music of Rammstein

Our next match is
Bologna vs. Milan
Wednesday, September 25 • 20:45 CEST (2:45 EDT)


NOTE: As mentioned previously this past week, due to personal circumstances and the repeated abuse of the guidelines for commenting, the comment section of this blog is in danger of being closed permanently. Please do your part by being proactive and helping post news, opinions, etc. It would really be a shame for one or two people to spoil it for everyone, and it is not something I want to do, but if my hand continues to be forced, it seems to be the only solution.