After this weekend’s match against Juve, I, as most of you were,was angered not by the fact that we tied against them, but how the tie was defined. Now, I won’t whine about all the bad choices the referee made since some of them favoured us too, but I’ll leave this topic alone with one idea in mind : a 2 goal lead at HT is way different than a 1-1 scoreline at minute 80. Different tactical and moral approach would have been taken by both teams. I shall pass to a more tactical approach of the game.
Certainly with KBP out of the starting XI our “high pusher” position had to be filled, and Allegri can only work with hat he has. He chose to put the dynamic Urby up to the task of “keeping track of Pirlo” (I’ll detail this further on the article). With Mesbah out do to a fever Antonini was chosen to play on the left; an odd feeling came into my mind since he would have to defend which to me seems to be the 3rd best right back of Serie A just behind Maggio and Abate. Nocerino played on the right where he doesn’t shine as much as on the left, but a in shape Sulley Muntari took the left mezz’alla. Robinho and Pato up front guaranteed a lot of flair and pace to go against Juve’s 3 man line, if you can’t out number them, out run them…or so he thought.
The first half was a tactical battle between Allegri’s and Conte’s wits. With Milan’s injury crisis some important pieces were not present for probably the most important match of the season so far. Conte’s team played a 3-5-2 similar to the one that played against us in Coppa Italia while Milan played what seemed to be a usual 4-3-1-2.
Allegri used what seemed to me as two different tactics in the first 60 minutes to neutralize Pirlo. First he used the known “tracking Pirlo” supposed to be done by Urby, mark him all the time so he doesn’t have time and space to think. The issue with this tactic is that Pirlo can play back or sideways to an unmarked player so he can organize for him and with players like Marchisio, Lichsteiner or even Chiellini several options were available in case Pirlo was harassed. The second tactic emplyed by Allegri was in fact the opposite and rather than marking Pirlo, Milan’s players marked every single possible target for Pirlo. At times Pirlo had a lot of space an time but he only could play back or with Marchisio and Vidal. Both their strikers and their wingers were thoroughly marked. Pirlo tried pull the strings from behind only for the ball to find a rossoneri rather than a bianconeri : this made Pirlo lose a lot of balls and look out of ideas. The issue with this tactic is the enormous amount of focus needed, defenders needed to stay sharp to not losing their respective mark. The combination of these two tactics had Pirlo and Conte against the wall since they didn’t have time to figure out against which one they were playing, therefore not finding the solution as easy.
Milan’s attack vs Juve’s defense :
With Binho and Pato up front and Urby just behind them Allegri’s forward’s line seemed to lack a strong man, it spell pace pace pace all over it, however what seemed to be a 4-3-1-2 in defense deployed as a 4-3-3 in attack with Urby going wide to the right and Binho wide to the left, leaving Pato as a lone striker. I don’t know if you saw the match as I did, but Pato was borderline poor! I can’t remember seeing him playing this bad! 8 touches of the ball, 75% pass accuracy, 0 shots on or even off target in 45 minutes. It took EL Sharaawy only 10 minutes to touch the ball, make more dribbles and more passes than Pato, all that with more energy and more defensive minded. The inclusion of El Sharaawy didn’t change the tactical approach up front with 3 pacy strikers out running and out dribbling Juve’s defense where the only player that seemed to be 100% focused was Chiellini who had a great match. With Nocerino and Muntari pushing at times to the box Milan seemed far more dangerous than a “suffocated” Juventus.
Midfield vs Midfield :
In midfield there were two different battles played, the one to neutralise Pirlo (which was succesfully carried out to my opinion) and then the battle fought when we had the ball. This one was far more important since due to the movement of our attackers we had a lot of space for our three midfielders to push far up the pitch. Urby going wide and Pirlo following him created a void in front of their defense who was spread by Urby and Binho. It was 3 vs 2 for us in front of their defense. If you see the situation of the goal you can observe how Milan overcrowded Juventus in that area and Nocerino had a lot of time to prepare his shot patiently. To that we have to add the fact that when Juve attacked, both of their wing backs where in our side, leaving their flanks exposed to Binho’s and Urby’s pace and having the before mentioned action happen.
Van Bommel and Muntari were key pieces in this part of the pitch recovering 3 and 8 tackles to overpower Juventus midfield and lunch the counter attacks catalised by the “twins” pace.
Milan’s defense vs Juve’s attack :
Until the minute 60 when Urby was brought out to display a more defensive tactic, Juventus’s attack were almost completely neutralized! The few chances they got came from outside the area or through crosses hoping to find a bianconeri before a rossoneri. After that replacement, Juventus got control of the flanks pushing up and delivering crosses mostly via Lichsteiner. A mistake by Antonini who didn’t cover well enough Juventus’s number 3 and fresh Matri gave Juventus the equalizer. Other than that Mèxes and Thiago Silva kept on showing why they are the best defenders of their countries and Abate and Antonini (if you forget about the goal incident) had a good match.
To summarize this game up, we can take more positive things than negative things. Even though we might feel robbed, that’s the way football is played. To be honest, the Scudetto is not defined by one match only and seeing the schedules both teams have we have no excuses to not win the Scudetto since our fixtures are maybe not as complicated as theirs. So take a deep breath and relax because we might not have won the 3 points but we won a mental battle, we showed them who was the better team even if the scoreline didn’t reflect it that way. We can win without Ibra, Cassano, Boateng, Nesta and almost half our staff injured, I’d like to see how Juve does without Buffon, Chiellini, Pirlo or Matri.
Allegri showed once again why Galliani and Berlusconi trust him so much because even though he had a few rough patches this season, even though we have a terrible record against top teams in Serie A this season and even though we are not undefeated, right now we are Italy’s top team.
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Stats by Whoscored.com