Defining Allegri’s Milan [Part 1]


A YEAR and a half into Max Allegri’s tenure as Milan manager, he has revolutionized an aging squad and stamped his own style onto one of the most exiting teams on the continent today. 

Last year’s Scudetto came on the back of the second best attack in the league (and, what many will consider equally if not more important: the best defense). Three new strikers in less than a year was the surefire way to re-invigorate an attacking department that in 2009/10 featured the always inert Marco Borriello, Ronaldinho’s overweight twin, and a horribly out-of-confidence Klass Jan Huntelaar. Sweeping changes brought about two players of greater finesse than the clumsy Hunteloriello, and the arrival of Antonio Cassano for Ronaldinho, a support striker to feed assists to the three league goal scorers, Ib(ra)Ro(binho)Pa(to).

While Cassano and Ibrahimovic are not known for being the most mobile players, they both provided significantly more options in the attacking third than Leonardo was able to get from his limited 09/10 options. In the 10/11 season, the IbRoPa attacking trio accounted for 53 goals (67% of the total goals scored) between them in all competitions. If you include goals scored by Inzaghi and Cassano, the total jumps up to 61 goals (77% of total). For comparison, the amount of goals scored by players playing in the midfield last year was 15 (19% of total).

Week 17 in Serie A 2011/2012: Results and Standings
Highlights: Atalanta B.C 0-2 AC Milan

The gamble to sign two players considered outcasts at their previous clubs paid off. But at the same time as this rapid face lift of the attack, the midfield was being prepared for it’s own metamorphosis. Kevin-Prince Boateng was the most important signing of the new midfield last summer, and he was played in the trequartista position with what most fans consider mixed results. Boateng didn’t deliver the goals in his first season. He didn’t deliver the kind of passing that Robinho displayed. What Boateng did contribute was more telling that looking at a goal/assist column will tell you. However, Milan has always been a club that prides itself on results, and as a result, for most fans to accept Boateng as a trequartista, he was going to have to develop either a goalscoring instinct, or take some passing lessons from Ibrahimovic.

Boateng discussed in interviews his work over the summer developing and practicing his finishing. For those unsure the results of his work, the results are in.  Seven goals already this season in all competitions has Boateng listed on all of the opposition’s scouting reports. When my Arsenal friends ask for scouting on Milan, the player they mention in midfield is Kevin-Prince Boateng. He has taken his game a step up this season, and much of the reason is due to his hard-working industrious performances. Equally important to the renaissance  in the midfield, was the man who designed the midfield, Allegri.

In the buildup surrounding the Barcelona matches, Allegri distanced his team from claims that they would try to emulate Barcelona. Rather, as he has reiterated of late, Allegri stated that Milan should set out to be the anti-Barcelona. The formula for how to do that is yet to be discovered. Some consider Mourinho the closest to solving the Barcelona riddle, but in reality, they are no closer than Milan are. Mourinho recognizes the need to play defensively and break on the counter, and as a result, his squad is built to be the best counterattacking side in Europe.

Allegri approaches with a strategy that is similar in some ways to Madrid but in many ways different. The similarity is the need for a fast paced counter, and the ability to move quickly about the pitch. In the match at the Camp Nou, Allegri’s squad scored early, then absorbed all of Barcelona’s pressure for 90 minutes, keeping as narrow and compact as possible. Partially due to the timing and the fact that it was an away leg, Allegri necessarily had to defend like he instructed the players to. However, in an open game of football, such as a final, or a home leg, Allegri would need to change what Milan did and be far more positive.

Tactically, what Allegri did was to pressure the ball as high on the pitch as often as possible, deny time, and eventually force mistakes. In order to do this, Allegri needs to have hardworking midfielders, in multiple positions on the pitch. He needs someone to pressure the deep lying playmaker. Boateng playing at the trequartista brings a physicality and an energy that traditional trequartistas are not known for having. This allowed him to pressure and have 9+ players in defense.  He also needs players that can run for hours. Allegri has one such player in the form of Antonio Nocerino, our modern day version of a Gattusian ball-winner. Whereas Gattuso in the past had to recover the ball on his own, today, Nocerino has Mark Van Bommel to enforce and win the tackles. That leaves Nocerino’s role to clean up when possible, and to initiate attacks. Once the ball is won, Nocerino is often the first to pass, and most importantly, move after delivering the pass. This sort of movement forces the other team to shift multiple players, and to track the runs, thus freeing up more space in turn, and opening up passing options. Passing options lead to greater possession. Greater possession allows the players to (slightly) rest until the cycle begins again.

When it comes to the signature of Allegri’s 2011-2012 Milan, in my opinion, the most distinct consequence of his 4-1-2-1-2 formation is the amount of goals scored by the midfield. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antonio Nocerino have combined for 13 goals already (through the Atalanta match). Seedorf has also demonstrated the ability to put the ball in the back of the net, and if Alberto Aquilani had not forgotten his shooting boots in Liverpool he would have put away some of the chances that have fallen his way. The goals will continue to come for those making runs into the box, as Boateng and Nocerino can attest to. With Ibrahimovic in absolutely deadly form, dishing out assists at the rate he’s scoring, Milan are cruising through the league with a style all their own.

In my next piece I will discuss the alternatives at the Attacking Midfield role and what each player brings to the squad.

Follow me on Twitter @PDAcquaviva


UPDATE: Part Two can be found here

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Awesome article bro keep going with the good work


Loved your article mate , especially the part where you talked about the forward runs and how it helps us in respect to ball possession.
Keep it up ! 🙂

Nasko Gashi

Allegri was good. The start was a bit shaky because he did hesitate to make changes during the game or in the 1st eleven. Otherwise Im pretty happy with Allegri.

Forza Milan

Great article! Looking forward to the next one! 😀




Gud article pete .when is part 2 gonna cum ?


Just one tin , pressurin d ball high up n closin down often is the barca way of play . All their players are mobile seein hw many goals their mf has most notably fabregas . N d way dey prevent opponents 4rm playin . So in a way we nid to emulate barca .


Great Article brother, The part I love most is our Midfield ability you stated. Pretty Impressive.
But seriously, If Aquilani hadn’t forgotten his shooting boots at Liverpool, he could have been scoring more goals like Boateng and Nocerino.


I am happy with Allegri’s tactics… I think that he is emulating both Barcelona and Real Madrid in a way and creating a hybrid of their tactics which pays off. We need a leftback that is fast and can defend well and with the arrival of Tevez we will be ready to lift the CL trophy again 😀 Forza Milan


Nice article,we need 1more mobile midfilder I my word.


That’s a really good article!
p.s. someone twitted that we’re going to sign Djamel Mesbah from Lecce. We’ll be paying 500000 euros for him, and sending either valoti or comi on loan. He’s 27. A left wing-back.


Some of you guys are so phony. Majority of the people here always bashing Allegri, his tactics, and his substitutions! LOL! Such hypocrites!

Allegi is the best coach in Serie A and soon he will be one of the best in the world when he wins the UCL!


I haven’t changed my opinion, and I respect Yours. The reason why I’m having doubts about Allegri’s greatness,is that I see him as being very “conservative” when it comes to creating a team for the future, I’m still having a hard time understanding why a GREAT-talent like El-Sharawy hasn’t been used more, he could easily start against lower-sides, or why another great talent like Didac Vila hasn’t been used more than once, did anyone watch him during U21-WC he was GREAT. And Allegri hasn’t spared Ibra as much this season as I had hoped, and I fear seeing a tired… Read more »


Allegri find out a new tactic. 1., Boateng as a false-trequarista is a great idea against the biggest teams, because we can win balls in front of goal, and that’s important to score “easy-goals”. 2., He changed the mentality totally. Under Leonardo, our veterans were badly under their best. Look what Allegri did with Seedorf in the spring, he renewed at the age of 35. Or Gattuso, who fought like a lion, as he did under Ancelotti in 2007. This kind of winning mentality and healthy agression lead us to be in the best clubs in the world again –… Read more »


El Sharaawy is on the level of a player like Pato or Lucas. The same goes for players like Lamela! No games are easy in Serie A as it is sometimes harder to beat the smaller teams! Therefore Allegri must consistently put out his best squad. That means El Sharaawy will be on the bench! Mr Allegri is slowly transforming Milan into a great side! Sacchi, Capello and Ancelotti had to do the same thing! So why is everyone so IMPATIENT! I truly believe Milan is the only team that can beat Barcelona in the UCL! We must have confidence… Read more »


*I meant El Sharaawy is NOT on the same level as Pato or Lucas! Typo!


is tevez sti cumin


Yeah, kevin prince boateng has shown exceptional qualities in our midfield.he’s so amazing.what i like about him is his determination and hardwork on the field of play..he’s the most improved discovered player for the past 5years for wonder he came 74th in fifa’s 100 which i think he deserves more places than that..i want to see his goal against bate borisov and barcelona being nominated for the puskas’ award next year…lets keep praying and supporting milan.FORZA MILAN


What Allegri did, he took our game on a another level – No more deep lying playmaker which made the game look more obvious (shut down Pirlo and the game stops). Now we play with destructor in the middle with hardworking box to box mids on each side, and players are rotating all the time (Ibra comin deep for the ball and he as*sist a lot, Silva appears as a DM from time to time, Boa is a mixture of box to box and trequartista etc.) All this makes our game unpredictable, it confuses opponents… Nainggolan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Moussa Sissoko… Read more »


nice article, Pete. just an idea from me, maybe you can write another article, comparing the tactics from allegri with other milan’s coaches like capello (1994) and ancelotti (2007) who have brought UCL trophies for milan.

Francisco Vasquez

jajaa Hunteloriello xD priceless, great job mate ^^

Mr Goph

Well done pete well døne.


masterpiece)))nice article,can’t wait 4 d next one…
forza milan))


carlo ancelotti’s milan was characterised by technically gifted players who mesmerised opponents with their flair and yet remained solid on defense. the same can b said about barca. allegri likes combative players & this obviously shows in the teams play. with the mvb’s, nocerrino & boateng the mid lacks vision & creativity, with the strikers milan have & a traditional cam behind them milan wud score double the amount of goals they’ve scored so far. this team is playing like an english mid table team & strikers r gettin very little service from mid (c the game against atlanta). allegri… Read more »


I disagree with your statement ” this team is playing like an english mid table team.” Mid table teams dont lead their leagues is Goals Scored “GF”.

Our Midfield players are more involved and scoring at will! Therefore it is difficult for teams to defend against us!.

Allegri is creating a dynamic team that can defend and score at will!

Il Diavolo

Pete your articles are always spot on. a good analysis of the team(can’t wait for the second part). But to those who say we play a mix of barca and madrid’s tactics, I believe that is incorrect. Allegri has implemented a style of play which complements both our players that encourages running, pressing, ball winning and fluid passing and movement(the latter which is still in an improvement phase, but has become much better this season). This style of play complements our squad and most of the players we have(some are yet to adapt). In the transfer window, rather than tevez,… Read more »


boateng – Nainggolan – nocerino. this midfield is deadly. all of these players runs and works very hard and all 3 are good ball winners.


Uh….almost 0 creativity dude….cept for Boateng’s occasional trickery who would make the key passes?


dude you forgot the “defense part” review. or should we agree on one verdict: Starting to collapse


nice one pete

Milan francis

@ Greg and Milan-fan-attic there you have it.In as much as i want to see El sharawy play or Taiwo play,am not gonna trade them for 3 valuable points,also we have so far been able to pull results on dangerous hunting grounds(lecce,Atlanta,Cagilari,Siena just to name a few)these pretty difficult games with some disjointed display.I agree on the use of Urby as the trequarista who to me can solve our left back problem(here Allegri is the boss in deciding who plays where) Allegri elvoved alot as he no longer plays with 2 DM(Before it was Ambro and MVB or Gattuso)moreover playing… Read more »


@milanpete……great article n gud analysis mostly abt d ability of our midfielder2go forward and return on time……[email protected] r on point u no @times it baffles me why el sha is nt sub in in a match dat convincely we v won eg atalanta etc i tink dat guy neds 2b playin @tleast wat i knw is dat d coach knw wat he is doin…


Oh Come on!!!!! The author of this article clearly is thinking in terms of video games, So far watching Milan play it is obvious his tactics are the same “PLAY TO IBRA” and Ibra throws himself at the chance. There is less creativity in the team just because other teams in Serie A are not creative that makes Milan look like Gods, and about Pirlo not just Silva nobody else will replace him, he was creative and visionary who read the game well. The only Milan player to be motivated by Allegri is Ibra and Nesta/Silva are self motivated, He… Read more »

[…] Defining Allegri’s Milan [Part 2] by Pete Acquaviva under Generally, Opinion Part one can be found here. […]