The Rossoneri's defeat to Atalanta means they have lost their first two home games, and sees the pressure grow on Max Allegri
In Italy, the start of a new season is a time for looking backwards, as well as forwards. As surely as the sun rises in the east and Maurizio Zamparini sacks another manager in the south, so newspaper reporters must scramble to put early results into their proper historical context. How many years have passed since the team began a campaign this well or this poorly? Who was in charge at the time, and how long did they last in the job?
Often the findings may be spurious, failing to take into account such variables as opposition or shifting financial realities, but sometimes a statistic arises that is too remarkable to ignore. When Milan were defeated by Atalanta at San Siro on Saturday, having already been beaten there by Sampdoria three weeks previously, observers got to wondering how long it had been since the Rossoneri lost both of their first two home fixtures of a Serie A season.
The answer was more than 80 years ago. Only once in their entire history, in fact, had the Rossoneri begun a top-flight campaign quite so poorly at home – all the way back in 1930-31, when they opened with a 3-0 defeat to Juventus and a 1-0 loss to Lazio.
Each of Milan's losses this time around have been by the latter scoreline, though they might consider themselves fortunate in that regard. Gazzetta dello Sport was not alone in naming the club's goalkeeper, Christian Abbiati, as their man of the match in this week's reverse against Atalanta, noting in particular a close-range save from Maxi Moralez with the score already at 1-0.
Atalanta's own goalkeeper, Andrea Consigli, was never tested in quite the same way – his team restricting Milan mostly to pot-shots from outside the area. The Rossoneri did not go without possession in the relevant parts of the pitch, but suffered from a chronic lack of imagination. Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic to pull rabbits out of hats, the team were content to simply place their metaphorical headgear on a table and gaze at it wistfully.
If that might seem like the inevitable consequence of Milan's having been shorn of a player such as Ibrahimovic – whose talent was such that he could be relied upon to resolve matches such as these single-handedly – then it is worth remembering how the club's neighbours, Inter, coped with the loss of the same player three years ago. José Mourinho used the Swede's departure as an opportunity to reshape his team entirely and went on to win the treble.
Milan's Massimiliano Allegri has not been afforded anything like the same resources, of course, and nobody is expecting similar results, but his refusal thus far to amend his tactics to reflect the new reality is nevertheless holding his team back. A 4-3-1-2 with Kevin-Prince Boateng behind Giampaolo Pazzini and Stephan El-Shaarawy suited none of the three, with neither forward particularly adept at holding the ball up and nobody providing width.
Allegri's troubles had been building since long before the weekend, of course, with Alex Pato openly criticising his man-management last season and suggestions emerging in recent weeks that the coach might be partly to blame for the club's horrific injury record in recent years. Milan have overhauled both their fitness and medical teams in the past 18 months, leading some to observe that the manager himself is the one remaining constant.
His relationship with Silvio Berlusconi has not always been a comfortable one, and there were eyebrows raised when an apparent appointment for Allegri to meet Milan's vice-president, Adriano Galliani, over dinner at Forte dei Marmi last week went unfulfilled. Both parties made light of that occurrence, yet after this latest defeat the pair dined together on Sunday at both lunch and dinner.
"More than a dinner with Galliani, what Massimiliano Allegri really needs is group therapy. With his whole team," wrote Marco Pasotto in Gazzetta dello Sport. There might have been an element of that for the several senior players who met at the captain Massimo Ambrosini's house for a shared meal of their own on Sunday.
Galliani, for his part, insisted on Sunday that the manager's job is not under threat. "Allegri's position is absolutely not under discussion," he said. "[The manager] should stay calm." It might be easier to do so if such words were not coming from the lips of a man who earlier this summer had insisted that it was "99% certain" that Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva would be staying at the club.
The primary concern for everyone at Milan right now is simply not allowing this poor run to spill over into the Champions League, with their campaign to begin against Anderlecht on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Milan, the fixture is to be played at home.
It is not just the Rossoneri who have struggled at San Siro this season; Inter have failed to win any of their three fixtures there – between league and Europe.
That may have to do with the installation of a new, partially synthetic pitch over the summer – a move which was also hoped to be part of the solution to the club's injury problems by providing a more consistent surface. Then again, with such a small sample size it might also be nothing more than a sheer coincidence.
What is known is that the level of support Milan can count on at home continues to dwindle. The club have sold only 23,618 season tickets this year – 7,615 fewer than last season and more than 4,000 fewer than the previous lowest figure achieved under Berlusconi's ownership. After seeing not only Ibrahimovic and Silva but also other such long-standing servants as Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta depart, such dwindling enthusiasm can hardly come as a surprise.
It was noteworthy, indeed, against such a backdrop, that several hundred supporters showed up to watch Pippo Inzaghi take charge of Milan's Under-17s during a match at Verona on Sunday. There is already a section of supporters who would sooner see the former striker – a club man, even if totally lacking in experience – replace Allegri.
Should Milan go on to match the 1930–31 side by losing their third home game as well, such a scenario might quickly start to sound a lot less far-fetched.
While Milan reflect on one of their poorest-ever starts, Lazio are celebrating their brightest in almost 40 years; not since 1974-75 have they begun a Serie A season with three successive wins. The new manager, Vladimir Petkovic, appointed to replace Edy Reja in the summer, has made several astute tactical moves but perhaps the greatest was simply listening to his players. By heeding Hernanes's suggestion that he might be able to provide more from a deeper position than his previous role as trequartista, Petkovic seems to be getting the best from the Brazilian – who scored twice in Sunday's 3-1 win at Chievo. The manager has also suggested he will send out his strongest team against Tottenham on Thursday in the Europa League, saying it is too early to contemplate rotation.
• Juventus will not have their manager, Antonio Conte, on the bench when they travel to Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, after Fifa extended his ban this week to cover European games as well. But they will travel to England with their unbeaten run intact and standing now at a remarkable 42 games, having recovered from a goal down against Genoa to win 3-1 this weekend. Even Genoa's goal was scored by a player Juve co-own, Ciro Immobile.
• Not present at that match was the Genoa president Enrico Preziosi, serving a six-month stadium ban relating to a match-fixing scandal which dates all the way back to the 2004-05 season. And so, instead, Preziosi sent along a cardboard cut-out of himself to take his place. Of course.
• Napoli remain alongside Juventus and Lazio at the top of the table, joining them on nine points after a 3-1 win over Parma, but those three are not the only ones to have made a perfect start. Sampdoria, too, have won all of their fixtures to date, but a one-point penalty handed down as a result of the match-fixing investigations means they are deprived of a share of first.
• Speaking of Napoli, their supporters displayed a banner on Sunday showing their support for the Hillsborough victims in the wake of last week's revelations.
• Roma, meanwhile, continue to enjoy all the highs and lows of Zemanlandia – Francesco Totti putting on a show of glorious flicks and tricks as his team dazzled Bologna in the first half of their match at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, only to lose concentration and let a 2-0 lead become a 3-2 defeat. "Roma the anti-Juve?" tweeted La Repubblica's incredulous Maurizio Crosetti. "Roma are the exact opposite of Juve."
• There were emotional scenes in Florence as Luca Toni marked his return to Fiorentina after five years away with a goal inside 90 seconds of coming on as a second-half substitute against Catania. It was also Toni's first goal since he informed the world that his son had been stillborn in June. He celebrated not with his usual hand-cupped-to-ear gesture but instead by pointing up to the sky. "This goal is for everyone who stayed closed to me in these difficult months," he said. "I dedicate it to those who are here and those who no longer are."
• Less poignant, but certainly charming was the interview given by the Fiorentina manager, Vincenzo Montella, to La Repubblica this week. Asked if he preferred "Fifa or Pes", Montella could only offer a confused: "What?" After it was explained that the interviewer meant on the Playstation, he responded: "The other day my son said: 'Dad, if you knew how to play Playstation you'd be a perfect father.' I took it as a great compliment."
• Oh, and in case you were wondering after that intro: yes, Zamparini has indeed fired Giuseppe Sannino as manager of Palermo. After all of three league games in charge.
Results: Chievo 1-3 Lazio, Fiorentina 2-0 Catania, Genoa 1-3 Juventus, Milan 0-1 Atalanta, Napoli 3-1 Parma, Palermo 1-1 Cagliari, Pescara 2-3 Sampdoria, Roma 2-3 Bologna, Siena 2-2 Udinese, Torino 0-2 Inter