Stephan El Shaarawy was Milan’s best player, with his performance providing something to brighten up a Milan future that presently looks bleak.
This result sees Parma, who have just 1 clean sheet from 6 games so far this season, not only draw their third consecutive game, but do so with the same scoreline as in their previous 2 draws — at home to Fiorentina and away to Genoa.
Roberto Donadoni will be happy with the point, but given the current state of Milan’s squad, at the back of his mind he may feel Parma, who currently occupy 14th place with 6 points and have just 1 win to their name so far this season, should’ve won, especially given they were at home.
As for Massimiliano Allegri and Milan, they would lament the fact that they let their lead slip. This result sees them languish in 11th place on 7 points with just 2 wins from the 6 games they’ve played in Serie A to date. They, like Parma, have also kept just 1 clean sheet so far. The pressure is surely on Max Allegri to improve things and improve them fast.
One player who can help Allegri’s cause is Stephan El Shaarawy. The young Egyptian-Italian put in an impressive display, capped by a decent goal — his club-leading 4th of the season and Milan’s only on the day. These are indeed dark days for a club that was once feared across Europe. However, young El Shaarawy has stepped up and is proving a much-needed bright light. Let’s examine his performance.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Stephan El Shaarawy played on the left side of Milan’s attacking midfield three in a 4-2-3-1 setup. The ‘No.10’ role was handed to the wearer of the No.10 jersey, Kevin Prince Boateng, but he did little to impact the game and was later subbed.
Milan, in general, did little to impact the game. They commanded possession (59%), but did nothing with it. They simply passed the ball in and around the central midfield area. This forced Bojan Krkic — the lone striker on this day — deep, desperate to get on the ball.
El Shaarawy was forced deep as well and he also roamed from the left flank to the right in a bid to get on the ball. Commendable is that instead of simply waiting for a pass to come to him, when Milan weren’t in possession, he tracked back diligently on the left wing to help win it back.
El Shaarawy made a team second-best 4 tackles on this day as well as a team high 4 interceptions, further evidencing the amount of hard work he put in.
But while you don’t want one of your best attacking players dropping too deep, there was a benefit in El Shaarawy’s doing so on this day. His pace and quick feet make him the ideal counter-attacking threat and he proved one versus Parma. He was the one who led Milan’s counter-attacks during this game, completing 5 dribbles in doing so — the highest of any player on the pitch. And it was these counter-attacks that gave Milan some much-needed drive in the final third.
One fine example of this was in the 41st minute. Stephan El Shaarawy ran all the way from the left full-back position with the ball stuck to his feet after helping out defensively and dribbled superbly past 2 Parma defenders en route to the penalty area. His final ball, however, was unfortunately misplaced. It was a disappointing end to what was really a wonderful piece of individual play. It wouldn’t be the last counter-attack El Shaarawy would be involved in, however.
In fact, it was a counter-attack that yielded his and Milan’s goal in the 50th minute. Bojan played a short pass to him and made an advancing run in support, but El Shaarawy didn’t need him. He ran into the penalty area and past Parma right full-back Cristian Zaccardo before slotting the ball into the far corner beyond a diving Antonio Mirante. It was a decent run and finish by the youngster. Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be proud.
It wasn’t the last time that Bojan and El Shaarawy linked up and their sound partnership on this day should give Max Allegri some food for thought for future games. Their passing throughout the game was by no means expansive, but it was short, neat and efficient. Between the two of them, they created 5 goal-scoring chances (El Shaarawy created 1 chance; Bojan created 4), 3 of which were for each other.
Stephan El Shaarawy had a team high 4 shots during this game, 3 of which were on target (the other was blocked). The concern here is that, excluding the shot that led to his goal, his efforts were from long range. In fact, of the 17 shots that Milan as a team mustered during the game, 13 were from outside of the box. 9 of their 17 shots were on target but, excluding the goal, they didn’t stretch Mirante in Parma’s goal at all; the saves he had to make were comfortable, straightforward.
Milan’s resort to long range shooting is further evidence of the lack of creativity in the team’s midfield and it further explains why El Shaarawy and Bojan had to drop so deep in order to get involved. This is something that must be addressed and soon if Milan are to get their season back on track and thus save Max Allegri’s job.
All in all, it was a top notch performance from Stephan El Shaarawy. His movement, work rate, passing, running with the ball, and link up play with Bojan were all immaculate on this day. What’s more impressive is that he put in such a world class display without adequate support from his midfield colleagues. He and Bojan did all of the work going forward.
Milan’s future looks bleak, but the maturity shown by Stephan El Shaarawy this season certainly offers a measure of hope. He has shouldered his team and is keen to help Milan save face. It’s an uphill task for him to keep that up throughout the season and over-reliance on the youngster can prove detrimental to Milan and even to El Shaarawy mentally speaking, but for now, he has a chance to assume responsibility, to grow as a player, and to shine. And it’s a chance that, evidenced by performances like these, he has grabbed eagerly with both hands.
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored
**Heat maps courtesy of ESPN FC