New Milan signings must not marginalise El Shaarawy

Posted by Sumeet Paul

AllsportStephan El Shaarawy appears to have fallen out of favor at both Milan and with the Azzurri.

Ahead of Friday night's World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli addressed his likely decision to drop Stephan El Shaarawy to the bench. The Milan starlet suffered the same misfortunate last weekend in the 3-1 win over Cagliari, and with new signings arriving this past week, there are potentially worrying signs ahead.

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"El Shaarawy? Let's not forget that he's only 20 years old. He's fine in training, and does the right things. However, he does not talk much and likes to keep things inside. Sometimes it is better to let it out..." Prandelli revealed to reporters.

The last twelve months have been quite a journey for the talented youngster: after being hailed the saviour of the San Siro in a remarkable first four months of the season, he then suffered an alarming dip in both form and confidence borne out of fatigue.

Adriano Galliani summoned him to a meeting earlier this summer, the outcome of which determined his future as he made it clear that he had no desire to leave the Rossoneri, with Milan's vice-president responding by insisting he wasn't for sale.

Having had the summer to recover both mentally and physically, the early signs this season have been promising. Not only did El Shaarawy return to goal-scoring form in the first leg against PSV, but there were positive assessments made of his budding partnership with Mario Balotelli.

Yet as the transfer deadline drew closer, speculation again cast doubt over his future in Milan, with reports claiming that interest from the Premier League was still apparent. Nevertheless, the deadline passed and El Shaarawy remained, but selection policy risks continuing to confuse supporters.

With Kaka returning to the club, swiftly following Alessandro Matri through the entrance at Milanello, competition for places in attack has significantly increased.

What is the ideal front pairing for most Milan supporters? More often than not the answer is El Shaarawy-Balotelli. Add Kaka to the equation and you undoubtedly have an attacking trident that could unlock defences across Serie A and Europe this season.

Furthermore, the tactical switch to a 4-3-1-2 system will only help the Italian duo become more of a threat, bringing them closer together on the pitch where they appear to be building an understanding with some clever link-up play.

However, what then happens to Matri, M'Baye Niang, Robinho and Giampaolo Pazzini when he returns from injury? As the reference point of this Milan team, Balotelli will not be sacrificed unless necessary. Instead, it is El Shaarawy who stands to lose out.

While coaches and experts point to his age as an excuse, El Shaarawy will not want to be sitting on the sidelines for both club and country this season.

An argument can be made that he will be in the team if he deserves it, but considering his age it is no wonder that he may feel the pressure knowing that one bad performance could cost him his place in the team next week.

El Shaarawy was arguably at his best when he was made to shoulder the responsibility and had the faith of both his coach and club. He may well have suffered another knock to that confidence this week, but it is essential he quickly rediscovers it.

What would your ideal attacking trident be? Do you have fears over El Shaarawy's place in the Milan starting line-up or is it still too early to say?

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

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