Defining Allegri’s Milan [Part 2]


Part one can be found here.

I’ve criticized Max Allegri for having only one formation and not having a “Plan B” but over the past few weeks, he has developed an alternative to the 4-3-1-2. It is a slight variation,  but Allegri has shifted his 4-3-1-2 into a 4-3-3 on occasion. Against Udinese, Milan substituted Maxi Lopez for Antonio Nocerino (who was the least effective performer at the time and had no end product to his running) and chose to give up the midfield to Udinese, who were trying to press the ball up as quickly as possible and were using their midfield more to shield the back four and to break quickly rather than to slowly and deliberately build up from the back.


This move proved to be the tactical move that unlocked the game, as Milan now were able to attack the three defenders with three attackers, creating more opportunities for one-on-ones and more holes to run in behind through. For Milan’s second goal,  Maxi Lopez ran across the back line breaking wide, was played over the top into space, and was able to find El-Shaarawy streaking past his marker’s blind spot to the near post for the goal.

This is not to say Allegri is a flexible coach who changes his approach on a game-by-game basis. Max Allegri prefers to wait out a strategy to give it time to work. Three destroyers in midfield against top teams? Keep it until it works, which eventually, he believes, it will. Even when Milan play well, there is the certain bit of  “Joga Bonito” missing from the current Milan side, many of whom became fans because of the play of Rui Costa, Seedorf, Pirlo and Kaka. As Michael Cox points out in his recap of Milan-Arsenal, “Milan certainly played well, but their performance was more about maximum efficiency than great skill.

Milan are no longer the side that has multiple points of reference, and in fact, Allegri has repeated in interviews that the goal of his side was to eliminate all reference points in the squad. This may sound like something that you would expect to hear from a Cryuff-style Total Football side, such as Barcelona, but not the current Milan. Allegri may have the goal of eliminating reference points, as he did when he made the technical decision to “pass” on re-signing Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo indeed was a reference point, as evidenced by his top-5-league-leading 2251 touches on the ball. The reports that claim Pirlo would only sign a three-year contract appear to skirt the real issue, and that was that Pirlo for the last year had been getting the Ronaldinho treatment and was being phased out of the team.

What Max wanted to build was a squad where no one player being shut down, or double-teamed would stop the flow of play. Allegri has been unable to eliminate all of the points of reference as there is still one who stands larger than Pirlo or Ronaldinho, and that is the 1.95m figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  With Ibrahimovic goes Milan from the first minute of the season until he begins his annual spring “rest” (read: suspensions). Ibrahimovic has a profound impact on the team, calling for the ball and complaining when it’s not played just right, but he certainly can deliver when needed. The claims of his “absence” in big-game situations are justifiable in today’s Milan setup more because Ibrahimovic finds himself suspended for half of the important matches a season.

Ibrahimovic’s absence has impacted the squad in a positive manner, some argue. Because Zlatan’s temper, Milan have had to adapt around his suspensions. As a result Allegri has discovered one of the most effective iterations of his squad, what I will call “speed squad”. With Robinho, Pato and soon-to-be-a-star Stephan El-Shaarawy on the front line there is a certain mobility that is not present with Ibrahimovic. This comes at the cost of a lack of a “final-ball” (Kaka’s previous role), as Ibrahimovic provided 2.9 key passes per match.

Nonetheless, the mobility gained with a strike duo of Robinho/Pato can cause all sorts of problems for less mobile defenses, especially center back pairings that don’t have the tactical sense to defend the space rather than defend the man. Against Napoli last season, Pato and Robinho were delightful with their link-up play, and their constant movement as well as lack of a reference player frustrated the Napoli back line to a 3-0 scoreline. The feat was repeated against Inter Milan in last year’s second derby, with the Brazilian duo forcing a goal in the first minute of play.

This mobile strike force works well with less service, which is something that Ibrahimovic desperately needs to shine. The more touches Ibrahimovic gets, the better.  Zlatan likes to get the ball and redistribute it, as his 49 passes per game attest to. Robinho, the second striker who also creates and aids buildup play, averages 1.8 key passes a game, almost one less than Ibrahimovic, but he also passes the ball less, and is only completing 32.8 passes per game. In Pato’s 10 league appearances this year, Pato is only averaging .6 key passes per game, and 12.6 total passes. Pato’s impact is yet to be really felt this season.

Shifting into the midfield, Allegri’s side has had to adapt significantly with the absences of most of his first team. The most significant of these missing pieces is Kevin-Prince Boateng, Allegri’s best option at the trequartista position. Boateng plays in the most integral part of the default Milan 4-3-1-2, and while not functioning as a traditional trequartista, he has changed the role into something entirely his own while still maintaining the essential function of linking the midfield with the attack.

In his absence, Milan have two backup options: Clarence Seedorf and Urby Emanuelson. Neither is fully suited to the role of trequartista, but then again neither was Boateng. Seedorf functions in the role by staying up high near the strikers on defense while occasionally drifting back and getting behind the ball  near the midfield three. Offensively, Seedorf drops deep to pull the strings from midfield, and in contrast to Boateng, doesn’t press forward and sometimes function as a third attacker.


As a result of Seedorf’s deep position, the midfield pair either side of him become runners streaking forward into the box. This forces the opposition midfielders to drop back to track the runs from midfield, further clogging the central of the field. As of late, Milan’s most successful attacks were when strikers drifted out into the channel to pick up the ball and started attacks from a less clustered position. Against Udinese Maxi Lopez’s run into the channel opened up the whole field as he was able to make the run in behind the outside center back.

Urby Emanuelson approaches the role with similar energy to Boateng. Until recently, he has been unable to make the role into his own, and is only adapting enough to be considered a viable alternative and not a makeshift solution. His success in the role comes as Emanuelson’s confidence has grown, most evidenced with his display against Cesena, where he saw success on his second long shot as well as his constant link up play with Robinho. Emanuelson was not dispossessed in the Cesena game. He turned the ball over three times, but also provided two key passes. His success came both through the middle, with one of two through balls successful and with an early passes as well, hitting two of two long balls.  He also crossed eight times (four successes), more than the seven (one success) combined from both outside backs tasked with swinging in balls and providing width. It was his distribution as well as drive forward which resulted in the dangerous buildup play and varied structure of his attacks.

Milan under Max Allegri are yet to play with an actual trequartista, and it seems more and more with each transfer window that they will not buy a player to fill such a role. Several players for Milan are nearing the point of retirement, and while some may be renewed for one more year, surely some players will be leaving Milan in May. The players who may leave include: Zambrotta, Ambrosini, Gattuso, Seedorf, Van Bommel and Inzaghi. I believe one of either Van Bommel or Ambrosini will be leaving Milan at the end of the season, with Fiorentina’s Riccardo Montolivo to serve as his replacement. Sulley Muntari may be given a full contract as well as the primavera duo of Alexandr Merkel (likely to be a first team player) and Rodney Strasser (likely to be loaned). This leads me to believe there will be only one or two possible additions in the midfield. Will the other midfielder be a more traditional trequartista?It would certainly help diversify the style of play and allow Milan a different option against quality teams. This Milan squad is near the finished product that it will be for the cycle. There are only to be smaller tweaks, and this side seems one that thrives on efficient play, hard work, and pressing high up the pitch.

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Hey Meytar, hw u doing now??

missed this blog, great article

i think Shaarawy can fill that trequista role, maybe we shud still get Tevez, Sandro and Monty plus a defender, then we’re done

Uncle Fester

Its not Meytar’s article actually 🙂
Btw Great article and must-read for every Milanista!

Forza Milan!


great article as always Pete)))right on point i couldn’t agree less..Forza Milan 😀


I agree we only need to tweak hear an there to get the finished product but I think SES can and should be our natural trequista and not bring someone else in. The main little tweaks should just be replacing 3 of the 4 midfielders from Ambro, Gattuso, Seedorf and Mvb with in my opinion Montolivo, Paulinho and keeping Merkel. Out of the 4 old guard I would keep Seedorf because he is experienced, versatile and a very good spokes person. As for the defence just replace Bonera and maybe Antonini need I say more! regarding the defence lol. Finally… Read more »


Good Article.

I think we could looked at Basel. What about Summer (goalkeeper) and Xhaka (midfielder)


very true those two look great

Nimesh loves Milan

Who is Xhaka? Are U referring to Xherdan Shaqiri from Basel? He has agreed to join Bayern Munich


nah Xhaha is a different guy, centre mid


Great article brother.

As you have said, we just have to flush out the ineffectives in the summer and replace with more mobiles.

Kaka milan

Good article.i really missed dis blog.good luck milan against juve.we wil win them INSHA ALLAH.

milan 4-0arsenal

insh allah

Stephan Kareem El Shaawary

Allegri is really lucky coach sometimes l think he don’t know what he’s doing .Conte is the best Seria A coach right now it’s not easy to be unbeaten in Seria A.

My game prediction:
Milan 0-0 Juventus


Conte has NOT won anything yet and Juventus is ONLY playing in the Serie A which is a BIG advantage for them. Juve plays 1 game per week while Milan, Napoli, Inter,Lazio and Udinese play 3 games per week!

Therefore all the top 5 teams behind Juventus are playing a lot more games!

Juventus will struggle very badly when they play in the CL next season. Milan is still the best team in Serie A and Allegri is still the best coach in the league along with Francesco Guidolin of Udinese who is very underrated!


Sarcasm on/

Yeah, Allegri was a lucky coach last year when he won the Serie A, and the Supercoppa. And he is lucky to beat Arsenal 4-0, really a great luck.

Sarcasm off/

Allegri had and has to treat 8-12 injuries per game. Despite this, we are in fight for the scudetto again, and on the way to CL top8. And his squad is far from perfect with full of injuries.


Nice article, for me i will keep mvb instead of ambro, the guy is kinda weak.


Ses cant play tq yet . He may have speed n vision but he gets outmuscled easy . Pls dont say muntari n ful contract . I too dont tink dat we wil get a traditional TQ .


I appreciat with dat formation


Can anyone tell me exactly when prince will return and what happen to maxi lopez?


next season our three man mid shld be aqua-monty-nocerino


I don’t think all da stuff matters
In a 4312 formation, there’s a lot
Of free movement in the attack, so
we can’t say he changed it rly to
a 433.
If u make this team, u have to be of
high quality,they know we to be @the
right time, imean robinho is just all
over the place

Bone chronic

This is a matured article. I agree with 99.99999999% of it


RAFAEL Santos GK is a great prospect for the future, sth like Dida ringin in my head


All the aged n ineffective senators shd be eliminated from the squad cos their services are over.


4-3-1-2 ain’t bad as the result was a scudetto last year but,evry big team needs to be flexible.sandro,nigel de jong and if possible tevez inda summer wil be good additions


sell pato 40m and get tevez or van persie 20m. they both will be 20m because tevez has to leave and no one will offer more than that for a player with 2 years on his contract and wants out. RVP will also cost that because he is soon to be 28 and only has 18months left on his deal and he certainly wants out. Btw mexes and thiago silva are a great partnership and can be the best in world. Out: Pato – 40m Released – mvb,inzaghi,ambrosini,zambrotta In: Tevez or RVP – 20m Montelivo – free Rodrigo Ely –… Read more »


lol no way is RVP getting sold for £20m!


I think we have another player for the trequartista role: Merkel.

Still a great article.


good article! milan, surprisingly, hav many midfielders & even after we’v offloaded the old guard we’l still hav a lot, so its only logical that we get a few next season, unless some will be offloaded. If we get monti – the worst kept secret in serie a – & javi garcia – i dont know if thez any truth in this rumour – i guess that will be enough. i’v cum to expect a certain brand of football from allegri, i dont like it but if we give performances like the one against arsenal, who am i to argue?… Read more »


Besides in tryin to remove a reference point he has created anoda ( zlatan ) about 14 assits already . I can c us strugglin like juve who play alot like udinese .


I don’t wanna see any defensive play today we should match them boot for boot
Anyway RVP wealth more than 20M Pounds


RVP will not be leaving Arsenal with less than 30M, and I don’t think Milan can pay that much for an Injury-prone player who’s just getting back.

Btw, Am expecting an Impressive game from Milan tonight, capping it up with Victory or at worse Draw, which we are not praying for anyway.


I think to get some more creativity and energy in midfield we definitely need montolivo. Another player with great talent and potential and I think is perfect for milan is Younes Belhanda from Montpellier. He can dribble past defenders give the killer pass and take freekicks! Almost too good to be true and Montepellier wont ask more than 20mil I think if we are quick before competition arises.


Nice the blog is back
get well soon meyter


My God i really miss you guys…


miss u to @don
and we are wining with goals from pa7o and Urby


if we’re gonna get rid of van bommel at the end of the season, we need a near perfect replacement. i think we should get yann m’vila from rennes to replace mvb.


yes he would be good, but i think one of the best alternatives is Benfica’s Javi Garcia. We should look at him.


Milan will probably go for a player who is out of contract like seydou keita and Montolivo for our midfield!

Van Bommel may get a 1YR contract extension BUT Ambrosini and Seedorf MUST and will Leave this summer!

Gatusso might have to retire due to his eye condition. Not sure who Milan will look to replace him with.

Mostly likely it will be a mid-table player as I doubt Milan will spend big on replacing Gatusso if he retire!

Allegri likes Flamini so it is possible he will stay and be converted to a DM!