[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith Juventus strolling to a likely fourth consecutive Scudetto, the race to finish in the European qualification places in Serie A is heating up.
With the modest outfits such as Genoa, Sampdoria and Fiorentina excelling and in the hunt for a top-six finish, it only makes the shortfalls of AC Milan’s dire 2014-15 campaign more apparent.
The Stadio San Siro outfit sit in a disappointing tenth place at the time of writing and are seemingly struggling due to the appointment of another inexperienced head coach in the form of Filippo Inzaghi.
Although the side’s defence is a cause for concern given that it has shipped 30 goals this term, the Rossoneri’s current situation might be a lot worse if one player had not carried the brunt of the goalscoring responsibilities at the other end of the pitch.
Jérémy Ménez joined the historic club after falling out of favour at Paris Saint-German and has made his name as an attacking midfielder or versatile winger for Monaco and Roma in the past.
However, with Milan looking slightly toothless in the number nine department this season following the sale of Mario Balotelli to Liverpool, the Frenchman has led the line with aplomb for the Rossoneri this term.
Ménez has struck 12 times in Serie A this season, with some critical goals ensuring valuable victories for Inzaghi’s men and turning potential defeats into draws.
Despite not having been used in a similar position in the past, the 27-year-old has displayed the movement and eye for goal to make him the joint third-highest scorer in the Italian top flight this season.
Had this experiment to play Ménez as a central striker not materialised, Milan might well be in the lower reaches of the division.
As good as Ménez has been, it is worth evaluating the contribution of the squad’s other attackers, as at times the France international has looked like the team’s sole offensive threat.
Following Fernando Torres’ lacklustre spell in Milan, the Rossoneri swapped the ex-Chelsea forward for Atletico Madrid’s Alessio Cerci.
The former Torino playmaker has yet to show his best form since returning to Italy, but this is to be expected given his lack of regular first-team football in the Spanish capital over the last six months.
Further forward, Keisuke Honda is the club’s second highest goalscorer with six Serie A strikes, but the Japan international has been hot-and-cold this term.
Although the Asian star contributed goals at the start of the campaign, he hasn’t been on the scoresheet for the Rossoneri since October and has failed to make a significant impact in recent games.
The fact that he has been shoe-horned into a role on the wide right of Inzaghi’s 4-3-3 formation hasn’t helped as Honda is more effective centrally, but all-in-all the Japan international has not lived up to his sizeable reputation of late.
Stephan El Shaarawy has the potential to play anywhere across the forward line but has found first-team football fleeting recently due to selection and injury concerns.
One Serie A goal in 15 outings is not an ideal return, while the Italy international has struggled to string a run of games together to replicate his excellent late 2012 form.
Giampaolo Pazzini has largely been used as a deputy to Ménez, starting no Serie A games this season and only contributing a single goal from the bench.
With the January arrival of Mattia Destro, the 30-year-old’s time in the red and black looks numbered.
With the signing of the former Roma striker Milan immediately look more dangerous and Destro’s presence will take some of the scoring responsibility away from Ménez.
The 23-year-old needs to be given time to find his feet in a new club and get match fit after limited opportunities at the Stadio Olimpico this term, but Destro has the potential to be one of the division’s most lethal marksmen.
Finding a formula and formation that can encompass Destro, Ménez and Honda or El Shaarawy, and getting the best from the respective attackers in the process, will be key to a late season push up the table for Milan.
At the moment, despite taking seven points from their last four games, Milan seem destined for a mid-table finish and look nothing like the team that won the Scudetto in 2011.
Had Ménez not adapted to a new position with such ease, a rather toothless-looking Rossoneri could well be in even more strife than they are already in.
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