MAX ALLEGRI can’t catch a break.
This summer he had his two best players sold to Paris Saint Germain, while the squad experienced an exodus of the senators that had made Milan “da Milan” for the past decade, some of them even winning the big ears on multiple occasions. Ronaldinho, Nesta, Pirlo, Inzaghi, Gattuso.. the players that Allegri has seen out as part of the transition to youth.
Despite the role that Allegri has clearly been asked to perform (overseer of the transition) it seems that week after week he gets complaints from pundits, fans and neutrals alike.
In his interviews after matches, Allegri seems to show the knowledge to his faults, but always fails to acknowledge the missing action to turn the negative situation into a positive (or at least a neutral). The quotes in what follows come from the interview after the Parma match, which Milan drew 1-1 away from home.
Max Allegri – “We need to be very angry about this draw tonight, because when you’re playing like this, then you deserve to get all 3 points” The issue with deserved is one that has always irked me about Allegri in particular. He’s far from the first manager to say that his team deserved better, however, his comment implies that the quality of the Milan game was such that a result not only would be warranted, but should have occurred. This is not the case on several fronts. The quality of play was not so far above Parma’s that the point is valid. Nor does deserving mean anything in football. If everything happened that deserved to happen, football would hardly be a sport.
Max Allegri – “We’ve conceded 6 goals and 5 of them from set-pieces. There isn’t a lot of difference between this formation and a 4-3-3. If we play technically well, then we can play with a number of different formations. With this tactical set-up, we have more reference points.” Few things irk me about this. Firstly, the fact that 5 of 6 goals have been conceded on set-pieces says to me that the players are not mentally prepared to deal with these situations. Once or twice can be a lapse, but when over 80% of goals conceded are from a particular scenario, something is amiss. Set pieces require practice, discipline, and bravery. Not quite the calling cards of this side. Has the squad practiced set pieces at all? I don’t think they’ve scored on one this season. The manager is responsible for seeing that the team is prepared to deal with this. It’s not simply luck on the field. De Jong leaving the wall is a huge mistake that needs to be corrected. Time will tell if it is. Secondly, I am glad to see him speak about the fluidity of a formation change. It is something that I have complained about with Allegri for over a year. The third thing that bothers me about this comment is the point on reference points. The purpose of eliminating Pirlo was to get rid of a point of reference for the squad. The consequence of Ibrahimovic was another point of reference gone. Milan played the beginning of the season without that reference point, and the results have shown the effect of that style. Allegri said the desire is to eliminate all references so much that it’s been burned into the minds of his players, and if this season so far is any indication, there is no point of reference. An achievement indeed.
Many praised Allegri for his positive substitution in the Parma match, where it seemed like he was making an offensive substitution, Ambrosini for Montolivo the first of those. However, what seemed like a positive move, was really motivated by other factors, “De Jong did well tonight and I’m happy with the team but angry over the result. Ambrosini asked to be taken off otherwise I would have made different choices” I’m not sure who else he was looking at, as the substitution of Bojan crippled the team’s ability to pass the ball in the offensive third. Kevin Prince Boateng was exhausted and needed to be subbed. Allegri’s substitutions have always been suspect at best, and he’s often made the wrong changes to his squad after mis-diagnosing the problems. On this day, his hand was forced in the right direction. He could have made the substitution to be offensive, however, by his own admission, he wouldn’t do that. Settle for the draw? Subbing in Pazzini for Bojan in the 81st minute is hardly going to make a difference, as Pazzini often goes 90 minutes without creating a goalscoring chance, let alone 10 minutes as a super-sub.
The one positive player that Allegri has at the moment is Stephan El Shaarawy, the U-21 Italian international who plays on the LEFT wing most effectively. However, for Allegri this season (on 4 occasions so far) he has featured on the right, “El Shaarawy played on the right because he could do well there as well but not finding much space, I thought to put on the left where he plays better.” It seems strange to put El Shaarawy on the right, when Allegri himself has just said he plays better on the left. There was more space on the right? This simply isn’t the case, as Boateng was drifting out to the right past 25 minutes, and Nocerino seemed to take that flank as well. Why Allegri wants El Shaarawy on the right at all, where he has struggled to find space and the touches into dangerous areas. It is clear to most who watch El Shaarawy where the best position on the field is for him, and yet for Max, this remains an uncertain truth, which he has to experiment with.
In summation, Allegri is still stumbling on the same sorts of issues that he has struggled with his whole tenure at Milan. Allegri is certain in the faith the club has shown with him. He is certain he is managing correctly. He is certain he is not the problem, however; in his own words, “We all have to give more because if we don’t win games like this it means that we still have shortcomings.”
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