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Quality


When a club like AC Milan produces performances and results like this season, people are quick to look for the reasons why. Some blame management, some blame the coach, some blame the players, some blame Inter, or any combination of those and other reasons. In fact in the last post, we answered 10 different questions about the poor performances. However, many right now want to blame the quality of the squad. Which is actually a little different than blaming the summer mercato, as the Curva recently protested. A few weeks ago, I wrote about this, but recent events inspired me to expound further. So I thought I’d take a minute today to talk about the quality of our current squad.

These "quality" signings were part of the team that turned around last November with a little pep talk

If you look back one year ago until right now, our squad is actually improved in many ways. We spent about €47,5m on new players and only received €25m for players we sold. Which means we at least have players who are worth more in transfer fees, and that doesn’t include deals like Kaká, who arrived on a free transfer. Here is the list again that compares the squad from last year to the squad we have now. Players in grey have moved on, players in red are new either from the January or summer mercato:


In defense, we lost Acerbi, Antonini, Didac Vila, and Yepes. But we gained Silvestre, Zaccardo, and Vergara. Definite improvement. In the midfield, we lost Ambrosini, Boateng, Mesbah, Strasser, and Traore. But we gained Birsa, Cristante, Poli, and Saponara. Which mostly fits with the plan to bring in more youth. Up front, we lost Bojan Krkic and Pato, but we gained Balotelli, Kaká, and Matri. Despite most people agreeing that the Matri deal is one of the worst deals ever, we got Balotelli and Kaká, and kept four very talented strikers. I cannot understand how anyone can argue that the squad is the same as or less than it was one year ago.

But based on results, it is easy to see why people would want somewhere to point the blame. For example, our most recent result against Chievo paints a horrible picture. They were the worst team in the league, coming into the match with only 4 points. Meanwhile, we won a Scudetto just over 2 years ago, but came into the match only 4 points above the relegation zone. So to play to a 0-0 draw is unthinkable. But it wasn’t because of squad quality. Just compare not only the squads, but also the wage bills of the two clubs, and you’ll see that we lack nothing of quality in this matchup:

Source: La Gazzetta dello Sport 9-9-13
(salaries listed on the right in millions euro)

That’s right, Milan’s wage bill is €105,000,000 and Chievo’s is €17,6m. So even if you want to argue about several of our players being overpaid, and maybe a few of their players being underpaid, there is a vast discrepancy in quality. Not even our small handful of injuries at this point can justify drawing with that team. Sure, there are miracle games, surprise results. Only this was just the most recent in a whole season of very, very disappointing results. But you can’t blame quality for the results.

What the curva protested was the mercato itself – that they had wanted reinforcements in the midfield and defense instead of strikers. And that is a fair point. Looking at the quality we have up front, we are definitely weaker in those areas. I think it is also fair to question the club for buying or taking on loan older players like Zaccardo, Silvestre, Coppola, Kaka, and Matri and giving some of them lengthy contracts when they told us they were committed to youth and no long contracts. And one could argue that the squad that broke its poor form mid-November last year and never really looked back was more cohesive because the management had a plan, and they all understood what it was. Contrast that with this current squad, where the confusion starts at the top, dominated the summer mercato, and trickles all the way down to the players. No one is sure of their place or what direction the club is heading this year. That is a very valid argument, and could easily be one reason that a squad of this quality is performing so poorly.

Chievo want different results, so they have done something different

Looking back at the Chievo match, it is interesting. Chievo have never won a Scudetto, breaking into the top ten to finish a season in Serie A is their best finish to date. But they are not particularly underperforming, just fighting to stay in Serie A and compete on some level with teams like ours whose quality and wage bill is nearly six times their wage bill. But rather than further risk relegation, the club fired Sannino after just 12 matches. And I would be willing to bet that they will get more than 5 points in their next 12 matches, simply because they were willing to make a change. In the long term, it doesn't always work out, but in the short term, changing a coach is a way to get better results from an underperforming team.

Contrast that with Milan, who were expected to place top three, certainly have the quality of squad to make that happen, and now sit 4 points above relegation after 12 games. With no sign of changing, having already hit the ritiro panic button not once but twice, with no real results, Milan have chosen to keep Allegri on, with no other apparent plans to change anything. So if we keep on doing the same things we’ve always done, we’re likely to keep on getting the same results we’ve always gotten. And regardless of whether or not you like Allegri, or believe in sacking a coach mid-season or think there is not a viable replacement available, or whatever, making a change now is just about the only hope we have of turning things around.

Adding more quality shouldn't hurt, but will it help enough? And will it come to late?

People are quick to point out that we’ve signed Rami, who will be available to us as of January 1st, and Honda is still expected, even though nothing has been officially announced yet. This will improve our squad quality that much more come January, and are maybe more the type of reinforcements we needed over the summer. And of course, a squad can always be improved. But if quality was never the issue in the first place, how can we cling to the notion that bringing in those two players or even more will change the performance of the team?

The issues are many, they start at the top and are manifested at every level. They are not easily solved. But to get short term results, there is something that can be done right now, and it is not being done. The quality of this team is greater than that of the little-engine-that-could team that pulled itself up by its bootstraps after a good old-fashioned pep talk from the club president last year. And with a couple of reinforcements that came in 10 weeks after their turnaround (and a LOT of luck from the refs), they pulled out a third place finish.

Personal issues, moving headquarters, and more prevent management from seeing what the team really needs

But there is no one able to give that pep talk this year, something which always should have come from the coach, anyway. So find someone who can motivate and make the change. Because if the squad we had last year could do it, certainly this improved squad should be able to do it this year. Especially with the reinforcements already on the way. Talk about the management, talk about the coach, talk about the poor mercato, but this squad has way too much quality for that to be to blame.


This post inspired by the music of the Foo Fighters


Our next match is a FRIENDLY
Young Boys vs. Milan
Saturday, November 16 • 18:30 CET (12:30pm EST)