El Shaarawy: A Vital Cog In The AC Milan Machine Despite Injury Woes

Last season began for Milan in one of the most horrid fashions unlike nothing that many fans had ever seen. In fact, it was the worst start in over 80 years, longer than the vast majority of fans—or even their parents—had been alive. Yet, despite a beginning that saw them flirt with relegation, really something one shouldn’t be seeing with a team of the Rossoneri’s caliber, they managed to turn things around, rise to the top half of the table before the Christmas break and manage to snatch that all-important third place and last Champions League berth on the last match-day at the expense of Fiorentina.

All of this, given the severe handicap that the team had faced coming into the season was quite impressive, but it wouldn’t have been achieved were it not for one of their youngest players stepping up and at times, single-handedly hauling the struggling Rossoneri back up the league table. As mentioned in a previous article written by this author on Stephan El Shaarawy, “The Pharaoh Rises”, the 20-year-old’s goals were oftentimes the difference between one point, or three, earned for Massimiliano Allegri’s men during a time they desperately needed someone to help them out against opponents that, in previous years, they would probably have had no issue dispatching.

However, following the arrival of international teammate Mario Balotelli in January, il Faraone’s form dipped sharply and he was not able to repeat the blistering form that saw him going into the winter break as the league’s Capocannoniere. Nonetheless, 16 league goals—19 in all appearances—is certainly impressive for a player who only was playing in Serie B a couple of seasons ago—certainly a much higher output than some more “established” Serie A strikers, one of whom was recently purchased by Milan for a sum higher than ex-Manchester City attacker Carlos Tevez.

El Shaarawy’s woes, as of recently, though, have gone from bad to worse—with reoccurring injuries keeping him sidelined, the latest of which (according to reports, a micro-fracture in his foot) that will see him miss out on some crucial clashes, one being the Ajax Champions League tie this past Tuesday and another the upcoming league fixture with Juventus. So, obviously, as of now, having him feature more is a moot point until he recovers, but at times, when he did play it appeared that there was more to his struggles than just physical—a glaring lack of confidence which was evident of an individual perhaps not feeling the same kind of support he’d enjoyed previously.

For instance, looking at this summer, in particular his performance in Audi Cup—at times, appeared to be the only player who gave a damn against City in their opening match which they lost 5-3 (with the exception of youngster Andrea Petagna, who had a solid performance). Sure, it was a friendly, but nonetheless, it showed the player’s commitment to his team, an organization which as of late seems not to be showing the same kind of faith that it had shown when things were really going poorly for them a year ago.

But, in looking past his injury problems, the case for having him back on the pitch as quickly as possible is quite strong. The issues currently facing the Rossoneri’s attack reads off like a comedy of errors: Balotelli’s volatility, Robinho’s indifferent form, Allegri’s lack of faith in Niang, Pazzini’s long-term injury lay-off, and Matri’s failure to show why he was worth his transfer fee so far this season. And, another promising youngster, Andrea Petagna, who had a fantastic run in pre-season fixtures this summer, was dispatched on loan to Sampdoria when it was decided that they’d rather spend €11m on Juventus’s unwanted attacker Alessandro Matri rather than to give the Primavera player a shot in the first team.

So far in the league, Milan are currently in 9th place, behind the likes of Hellas Verona and Livorno with just eight points from six games so far and are well off the Champions League spots, let alone league leaders Roma who are on 18 points. And now, with Balotelli’s three-game ban for verbally abusing a referee following their 2-1 defeat to Napoli, the Rossoneri are looking a little thin up front for their upcoming clash with Juventus this Sunday.

Their Champions League ties have been nothing to gloat about either—with them struggling for nearly the entire game to break down a resolute Celtic and were fortunate to earn all three points thanks to a frantic last ten minutes which saw Emilio Izaguirre forget which side he was playing for and Sulley Muntari add another in the last five minutes of regular time. And let’s not get started on Tuesday’s match against Ajax—a snore-fest that they managed to eke out a draw following a bizarre penalty call in the dying moments of the game that saw Balotelli cutting an often-frustrated figure up front, devoid of any kind of support or creative verve from the midfield or fellow strikers Robinho or Matri.

Yes, Milan began last season in similar fashion and managed to secure third place and get through to the round of 16 after qualifying from their group with eight points, the fewest of any team that made it to the first knock-out rounds. They even were able to defeat Barcelona at home 2-0 in a performance that had the most optimistic Rossoneri fans thinking that just maybe, they might be able to actually overcome their seemingly perpetual opponents over two legs and get through to the next round. Luck can really carry one so far and given their struggles so far in the Champions League, it indeed is quite worrying that they again will be coming up against Barcelona in a few weeks’ time and are struggling in the league against sides that really, should be a training ground exercise for a team that not too long ago was considered one of the continent’s powerhouses.

But, in order to redeem themselves and get things back on track, they’ll need all hands on deck to start those wheels moving. And one of those key cogs in the Rossoneri machine is Stephan El Shaarway.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

Manchester United: Predicted line-up Vs Sunderland And Injury News

Arsenal: Predicted line-up Vs West Brom And Injury News