FAN ARTICLE by Ashraf Siddiqui.
Milan have already let in 10 goals this season, which is nine more than what league leaders Roma conceded so it’s no surprise that the Rossoneri are just in the 12th place in Serie A. Ashraf Siddiqui looks at the goals conceded and analyzes.
Verona 2-1 Milan
Verona’s 1st goal: Milan defending a corner with Constant marking Luca Toni, who is tall and well known for his aerial prowess. Using Toni for dead ball situations is hardly a surprising and this should have been expected. This could have been countered by having a clear plan with Milan’s best header of the ball marking Toni, plus another player Milan player helping as well – the classic sandwich move. But, in this instance we see it was Constant alone against Toni. Shockingly, Milan had a number of spare players in the box who just stood by doing nothing. Outcome: Goal for Toni.
Verona’s 2nd goal: Open play with Jankovic with the ball at the edge of the box. As a defending side this was a nightmare – it had all the elements you could think of: central defender losing his man (Mexes chasing Romulo), overlapping runs untracked (Cacciatore), players out of position and just standing around and doing nothing to help defend (Montolivo, Nocerino, El Shaarawy). And amount of attacking/passing option Jankovic had at this point (4) is just shocking! He picked out Toni, who was odds on to beat Zapata, given that Zapata had his back turned to Toni and by the time Zapata turned to face Toni, it was too late.
Milan 3-1 Cagliari
Cagliari’s only goal: Sau gets a ball from a knockdown from a team mate who is able to succeed despite being sandwiched by Zapata and another player. The Milan players should have won the aerial battle then and there. And what was Zapata doing there in the first place? He was out of his position by miles!
So as Sau is attacking the Milan goal, we see Zapata rushing back and he does make up a lot of ground. Meanwhile, Mexes is backtracking and trying to stop Sau. Also, no sign of Abate, the right back given that the attack is coming from the right.Zapata continues his sprint back towards his goal, he does well and is on level with Sau. But, instead of trying to close down the space in front of Sau, Zapata inexplicably continues his run towards Milan goal. Sau, has enough space and time to shoot, Mexes tries a last ditch block but fails to get any contact with the ball. Zapata is now further behind Mexes and we see that Zapata’s head is in the trajectory of the ball as it moves towards the goal. Zapata then proceeds to duck to avoid contact with the ball and ball continues in its way and goes in.
We also see a couple of Cagliari players running towards the goal unchallenged, in the end they had no effect on the goal but had the shot been parried by the keeper these players could have easily scored from the rebound.
Torino 2-2 Milan
Torino’s 1st goal: Cerci’s cross finds D’Ambrosio sneaking in behind Zaccardo. D’Ambrosio has ‘all the time in the world’ to chest the ball down, take a few neat touches to turn Zaccardo inside out before shooting for the goal. And in the meanwhile, D’Ambrosio wasn’t closed down by any other Milan defenders, namely Zapata.
Torino’s 2nd goal: In classic counter attack move, Cerci who is probably one of the fastest players in Serie A, if not the fastest was left unmarked with acres of space to run into. Very amateurish for Milan to leave the gates open like that and succumb to a goal like this.
Milan 1-2 Napoli
Napoli’s 1st goal: Napoli got this early free kick because of a unnecessary foul by Balotelli. The visitors said Grazie and took full advantage of a move that’s a training ground classic – hit and outswinger to the far post to one of your own players, who will then head the ball back across the goal for other players to attack on the near post. And it all went according to that script for Napoli.
Interesting to note that Insigne who didn’t really have any direct part in the move, made a counter run to Albiol’s run toward the far post. His job was probably to serve as some sort of decoy plus even receive the ball if Albiol headed the ball away from the byline. In the end Napoli was able to execute their training ground move without a hitch, first Abate fails to provide any real challenge to Albiol as he heads the ball back and then there were two Napoli players to attack the ball and there was no one marking them! Just criminal! And there were plenty of spare Milan players in the box (they outnumbered the attackers) but they were not doing anything to defend. Very very poor and unacceptable at this level of the game.
Napoli’s 2nd goal: This was all down to Higuain’s individual skill and effort. From a conventional angle it seemed like he had to pull off the move in a very tight space but this shot taken from the stands shows that he was given fair amount of space. But, credit to Higuian for making a goal out of thin air. What is very strange and worrying is Zapata seems to move away from attackers instead of closing down the space the attackers are running into – please note Sau’s (Cagliari’s) goal in Week2, Zapata did something similar. At this level you can’t afford to give world class players like Higuain even an inch of space, they will punish you. Just imagine what would happen against even faster (in terms of quick feet, not flat out sprinting) players like Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta, etc?
Bologna 3-3 Milan
Bologna’s 2nd goal: Cross to the far post and the attacker heads it in….classic training ground move and it worked out perfectly for Bologna. Abate was poorly positioned and didn’t time his jump to meet the ball and wasn’t able to intercept the ball at all. And so Laxalt was able to head the ball into the goal. It seems like most Milan defenders are not very good at heading the ball. While it is much nicer to play with the ball on the ground, the reality is there will be aerial balls perhaps not so much in Serie A, but definitely in European matches. There is no hiding from it.
Bologna’s 3rd goal: Another classic training ground move. Attacker slips in between two central defenders with none picking him up and then he scores with a flicked header. Poor man marking costs Milan again. While it’s not always possible to stick to rigid man marking, there is no excuse for leaving an attacker unmarked in the box. There has to be some internal system/understanding between defenders as to what to do and they should be instinctive by now because they must have practiced this and every possible defensive eventuality. They must have. Right? If they can’t stop Cristaldo, what chance to they have against Ronaldo? He would eat this defence for breakfast any day!
- Poor marking or more often no marking at all: Even if you are not the best header of the ball, just the fact that a defender is around the attacker will to certain extent throw the attacker off and sometimes that’s all it takes.
- Tracking back: Yes it’s tiring work but players chose to be midfielders and this how the modern game is. Everybody has to track back, especially midfielders. And not enough players are tracking back. Or they do come back but then just stand there watching…if they could come back this far, could they not just a bit more and just make it more difficult for attackers? There is no excuse for standing around, this is not a turn based game like chess!
- Not enough doubling up/helping out fellow defenders: Sandwiching Luca Toni would have been far more effective than just letting him go up against a lone defender or when D’Ambrosio was turning Zaccardo out, where was his back up? De Jong has been phenomenal this season so far, I would say he has just by himself prevented us from conceding another 10 extra goals. But, very few other players are showing that kind of resolve, commitment and work rate. Perhaps Poli to an extent. But, the rest, extremely poor. See how players like Vidal are all over the place, non-stop, that’s the standard our players have to reach if they want to win anything this season.
- Poor heading abilities: Yes doubling up can help but there will be instances where individuals will have to win aerial duels and at this point most Milan defenders perhaps barring Mexes are going to lose in aerial challenges against top strikers like Gomez, Lewandowski, Klose, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Falcao, Higuain, Benzema and the list goes on!
- Poor positioning and lack of plan/plan B: Often players are horribly out of position, Zapata stands out prominently. Abate has also been caught out of position. Furthermore, what is the plan to deal with overlapping runs, reverse passes and other attacking moves? Currently, Milan defenders seem to be caught out by training ground moves because they themselves haven’t practiced enough of their own training ground moves or may be not at all! The point of training and practicing things over and over again is that things become automatically ingrained in your head and you don’t have to spend time trying to recall things, at the moment that’s what it looks like Milan defenders are doing – trying to remember what they learned in football school when they were children!