UNTIL LAST SEASON, Massimiliano Allegri was the most rigid coach in the whole of Europe making Milan so predictable that even a fan could guess where and how the next ball was going to be played and to whom. It was 4-3-1-2 all throughout the season with no width and pace whatsoever. But somehow it worked because the team had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who would single handedly make the team look like one of the bests in the continent. His imposing game let Allegri hide the flaws in the side. But that was then.
This season is different and with so many players having either retired, transferred or simply released, reality has finally bitten Allegri as he has struggled all throughout the season so far meddling with everything from a 4-3-3 with a ‘false 9’ to a 4-3-2-1 and of course his favorite 4-3-1-2. The question however must be asked that with so many pacey players why doesn’t he opt for the much used and successful 4-2-3-1?
No, it shouldn’t be implied here that Milan need to use this formation because it’s been some kind of a trend in Europe of late, but with players like Robinho, Emmanuelson, Bojan and El-Shaarawy who are naturally fast and suited to play on the wings with a striker in the centre, its high time Allegri adapted to this system with the team so desperately struggling to break the opposition time and again.
First of all, considering the attack is fit and fine, Milan would have Pato, Robinho, Boateng, El-Shaarawy, Bojan and of course Pazzini at its disposal. Now, Robinho and El-Shaarawy have well proved over the past that they can very well play on the right and left hand side of the wings which in fact is their natural position as none of these are natural strikers. With Boateng as the central attacking midfielder behind Pato (if he’s fit!), Milan would all of a sudden have a very threatening attacking quad that would wreck fear into the mind of the opposition.
Pace, skill, power and great movement – these four attributes are very important if you want the opponents to fear your side, and with these four players Milan will be able to use them perfectly well. A 4-3-3, or a 4-3-1-2 will mean that either one of these four players will have to be sacrificed and that would be dreadful as they are the best players on the side and currently Milan cannot afford to do that. If Milan is to utilize them all at the same time, this system simply has to be tried and tested to see how far the team can go with it and with nothing else working, now is the time.
Also, there are enough players who can easily replace them in case some life has to be injected from the bench, with Emmanuelson capable of playing both wing, Pazzini a natural striker and of course Bojan who can play anywhere behind the striker. Clearly, all of a sudden the team looks so rich in depth, doesn’t it?
Moving on to the midfield duo, this system clearly advocates the use of a hard hitting defensive midfielder or the destroyer who breaks the opposition attacks protecting his defense at the same time along with a creative midfielder whose job is to simply channelize the play from the defense to attack spraying the balls from the center of the field. Having signed Ricardo Montolivo in the summer, the Italian fits the bill of the creative midfielder perfectly as he is capable of building plays from the back just like Pirlo did during his time here at the club, while he can be supported by one of the numerous dog fighters beside him.
New signing Nigel de Jong obviously, will be first choice as he has played in that position for Manchester City forming a powerful midfield full of grit and steel that made the citizens so difficult to penetrate in the premier league with Yaya Toure given the freedom to bully the park thanks to the Dutchman’s defensive capabilities. With Flamini, Antonio Nocerino and captain fantastic Massimo Ambrosini in the wings, Milan has a lot of options to fill the void. What this midfield will do is also protect the defense which has been the weak link so far this season.
Milan’ s biggest problem has been their lack of width especially on the left hand side, with Luca Antonini its best option in that position but obviously he hasn’t been Milan material. Abate pretty much does his job on the right, and is without doubt one of the bests in Italy currently, but this formation naturally lends so much width to the team (that currently plays so predictably narrow and through the centre), that the full backs will have enough time to run back in times of crisis as defending is their first and foremost job.
Right now, the fullbacks have been vested with the responsibility to create chances from the wings, in turn rendering them inoperable while defending as they have no energy to come back and rescue the struggling central defensive pairing of the team. With two wide attackers in El-Shaarawy and Robinho and the rest, there job will be simplified as they would have the natural wingers fulfilling their jobs which would any day be more fruitful.
Milan is playing too narrow and through the centre, with a very defensive minded midfield which leaves the team devoid of any quality and creativity, making the attack looks flair less. Obviously for this system to work one may argue that players like Robinho and Pato have to be fit, but Milan have enough options on the bench to fill in for anyone of their best attackers.
Milan is struggling and the key to success is to best use all their best players and this system does exactly that. The strength lies in its attack, and Allegri needs to rethink his strategies to make sure he uses his boys wisely for the best outcome for the team and the fans.
What do you think?
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