Five things Milan learned from the Audi Cup

Posted by Sumeet Paul

The pre-season schedule has seen Milan stop off in Munich over the past two days, where they finished in third place in the Audi Cup. Improving fitness levels aside, what can Massimiliano Allegri take away from the tournament?

With the Serie A campaign starting a week later than the English top flight, it would undoubtedly have been difficult to assess the squad during the opening half hour against Manchester City.

It was evident that the Premier League side were at a much more advanced stage of their pre-season schedule, while Milan were also missing key players through injury and extended breaks after international duty.

Nevertheless, Allegri will have been buoyed by the spirited fight-back to ensure a more respectable score-line, which was then followed up by a clean sheet. The Milan coach can take positives away from the tournament, but will also have some things to consider ahead of the new season.

1. Stephen El Shaarawy: Milan vice president Adriano Galliani was particularly pleased with El Shaarawy's performance in the opening game, as the 20-year-old returned to goal-scoring form with a brace -- which would undoubtedly have helped rebuild confidence.

The Italian international also looked sharp against Sao Paulo, which bodes well for the year ahead. Much was made of his decline in the second-half of last season, but seemingly recharged after the summer break, Il Faraone will have a vital role to play moving forward.

AC Milan's Bryan Cristante (R) and Jherson Vergara (L) battle for the ball in the Audi Cup.
APAC Milan's Bryan Cristante (R) and Jherson Vergara (L) battle for the ball in the Audi Cup.

2. Defence: In contrast, the standard of defending was comical at times against Manuel Pellegrini's side regardless lack of fitness, with the deficiency in depth due to injuries laid bare.

With Daniele Bonera, Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata all missing, youngster Jherson Vergara failed to shine in Germany which makes the move to bring in Matias Silvestre seem like a sensible option.

While Vergara struggled, Davide Pacifico's performance against Sao Paulo was noticeable, and it will be interesting to follow the 19-year-old's development over the next few years.

3. Bryan Cristante: As has become a feature of Milan's pre-season displays in the last two years, Bryan Cristante continues to impress when handed the opportunity.

Unfortunately he appears to be most comfortable in a position that captain Riccardo Montolivo would occupy, but he will have done his chances no harm with another composed performance on Thursday.

Perhaps still lacking an element of experience and awareness in such a key position, his vision and ability on the ball is not in question as he looked at home with his probing passes and neat footwork.

4. Andrea Petagna: With Giampaolo Pazzini ruled out for the start of the new season with injury, Milan have sensibly declined the temptation to purchase cover by showing faith in Andrea Petagna.

Still only 18 years of age, the youngster demonstrated his eye for goal whilst also impressing with some excellent build up play as he linked up well with his team-mates.

It is unlikely he will get a significant amount of playing time considering the return of Mario Balotelli, but he certainly gives Allegri an option off the bench.

5. Tactics: Much will change with the return of Allegri's international stars, but Milan still looked effective when deploying two wingers.

Balotelli will return to being the focal point of the Rossoneri's attack, which will in turn allow Allegri to make adjustments elsewhere to satisfy the desire to see the trequartista role reintroduced.

As a result, it is difficult to make assessments at this early stage with so many missing players, but it does add a dynamic to this squad as well as some much needed flexibility.

What were you most impressed or worried by during the Audi Cup?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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