Perhaps it goes without saying now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a vital component of this current AC Milan resurgence, something which truly kicked on when he arrived.
The Swede is the joint-top scorer in Serie A with 10 goals from six league games, showing that even at the age of 39 he knows how to win and how to inspire his team-mates with dazzling performances.
Ibrahimovic’s impact on the team has not just come through performances, but through his leadership too. This has been perfectly demonstrated by the fact the Rossoneri have not lost a game in his absence, with Zlatan having missed the last five games with a muscle problem.
However, the elephant in the room is this: without Ibra, Milan have still found a way to score goals and win games. Without Simon Kjaer however, the defence seems to have been breached far more regularly.
As MilanNews report, that Simon Kjaer is a fundamental pillar of this Milan is perfectly demonstrated by the fact that the Rossoneri have conceded four goals in their last two games against Parma and Genoa.
Everyone can see the difference in defensive solidity that Pioli’s team has with and without the Scandinavian. His influence within the team is evident and the numbers prove it.
Kjaer took the field for the first time with Milan on January 19th earlier this year. Since then, the Dane has made 36 appearances with 27 wins, 7 draws and only 2 defeats – against Inter and Lille.
If we then analyse the goals conceded by Pioli’s men when the former Sevilla defender was on the pitch, we find that Milan have conceded 36 goals in 36 games, so an exact average of 1 goal per game.
The significance of this is highlighted by the fact that Milan have scored at least two goals in their last 14 games, which should be enough to win every game.
When Milan have had to do without the leadership of Kjaer, the story has changed. He has been absent on seven occasions from January onwards, including four games in the last two weeks. In these matches, Milan have only won on two occasions.
The number of goals conceded also worsened, with 11 goals conceded in the minutes in which the 31-year-old was not on the pitch, at an average of 1.57 goals conceded per game.
News has arrived today today that the Dane will also be absent against Sassuolo, so now the target is Lazio on Wednesday, with Pioli itching to get his viking back.
Perhaps everything has finally fallen into place for Kjaer, who in a recent interview revealed his desire to retire with Milan.
“I’m in the right place and I’d like to stay here for the rest of my career. I’m sure that if I continue to play well until the end of the contract, Milan will renew me once again,” he said.
“We believe in it [the Scudetto], we have to work hard. The road towards May is still long. But I am optimistic. The Scudetto would be the greatest thing of my career. If it is not the league… then the European Championship.”
Kjaer believes, and we believe in him.