AC Milan’s ridiculous injury problems have not relented over the international break, with Noah Okafor the latest to suffer a muscle problem, stretching an already thin attack even thinner.
‘It can’t rain forever’ said the unfortunate Brandon Lee when playing the protagonist of ‘The Crow’ in the acclaimed 1990s film. Nothing could be more true even if in the Milanello infirmary, when it comes to muscle injuries, it seems like the sun never rises.
The data from this first part of the season (taking into analysis the first 13 matches) are very alarming for Milan. A total of 51 absences were recorded, with an average of four players out per match (3.9 to be precise), including the long-term patients Ismael Bennacer and Mattia Caldara.
It is a figure that almost bordered on the tragicomic in the match played at Maradona against Napoli in which four players left the pitch injured (Simon Kjaer, Marco Pellegrino, Pierre Kalulu and Christian Pulisic).
The injuries that each current member of the #ACMilan squad have suffered this year, with a combined total of 502 days of absence.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) November 13, 2023
Things do not seem to have straightened out in the following weeks with the problems encountered by Rafael Leao and Davide Calabria during the drawn match against Lecce before the break.
It was a first degree muscle injury of the right hamstring for the Portuguese winger and edema from overload of the flexor semitendinosus left for the captain, who is fortunately already back in training.
Left wing non-existent
To further aggravate the situation in view of the very delicate matches against Fiorentina in the championship and above all Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, was the injury (again muscular) suffered by Noah Okafor in the national team.
The Swiss winger, who was supposed to replace the other injured Leao, in fact suffered an injury to his right hamstring after tests carried out in the days following the match played with his national team against Romania.
It will be at least two weeks out for Okafor, thus leaving a void on the left side until Leao returns, even if Pulisic can shift over to the other wing (which in turn leaves the right wing light, can you see the problems now?).
With the latest issue for Okafor, the Milan players injured this season reads as follows: Maignan, Sportiello, Theo (x2), Pellegrino, Calabria (x3), Kjaer (x3), Kalulu (x2), Bartesaghi, Caldara, Loftus-Cheek, Krunic, Bennacer, Jovic (x2), Giroud, Pulisic (x2) Leao, Chukwueze, Okafor (x2). Total games missed: 118.
Pioli called to invent
To make up for the two absences on the left, Stefano Pioli will now be called upon to invent something with limited resources. On the right side Chukwueze will start, and he got his first goal contribution with an assist against Lecce before the break.
He and Pulisic will have the task of reviving the attacking trident against both Fiorentina and Borussia Dortmund, a match in which Milan will play out their European destiny.
Quoting Woody Allen, ‘It could have been worse, it could have rained’. In the league Milan will not only have to deal with the double absence of Leao and Okafor but also with that of the starting centre-forward Olivier Giroud, suspended for two matches.
#ACMilan are at the top – compared to their league rivals – for games missed due to muscle injuries this season.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) November 22, 2023
Against Fiorentina and Frosinone, in fact, Pioli will only have Luka Jovic available to play as a striker, with the need to call up some Primavera players such as the 15-year-old Francesco Camarda just to fill the bench.
While waiting for the sun to shine again on Milanello, Milan will have to know how to make a virtue of necessity by trying to make up for the absences with great preparation, focusing on the desire for redemption of players who have so far had fluctuating performances such as Jovic and Chukwueze.
What will be the outcome of this ‘challenge within a challenge’ that Milan will have to face is obviously uncertain ,but as Rossella O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind ‘Tomorrow is another day’.