After reading some of the posts/comments and also glimpses of how Milan played into this 2013/2014, I'm tempted to write an analysis to see if we could get out of this situation.
First of all, judging from several matches so far, it is clear our team has little organization on field. Be it In attack, defense, and transition especially. Facts: 5 points out of 15 possible league points, leaking 10 goals out of 5 matches, strikers who don't score, injuries, etc.
Now where do we start, when there're so many things to fix? If we can't replace the undeniably mostly average players that we have, then can we bring out the best out of them instead? And, how exactly are we going to do this??
Step 1. Preventing Injuries.
I'm not a qualified fitness coach or anything, but clearly the method that our club is employing right now, is not working. So, if I were to take a light jab at people at Milan/Milan Lab, allow me to quote what Rafael Benitez wrote in his blog here,- "Can you avoid injuries? The answer is a clear ‘no’. However, you can work in a way to prevent and reduce the amount of them".
Benitez was inquisitive to find out why there were more injuries with his team at Inter (average of 10 more injury days) compared to ones he had at Real Madrid, Liverpool, Valencia, etc. He argued that there needs to be a better coordination between the Technical Staff and the Medical Staff, to devise a program to suit each player's needs, especially with the ever-evolving football, which has become quicker, more demanding, and more international football. Consequently the program has to be more METICULOUS. And since injuries may have multiple causes, the following factors need to be properly managed: Injury History, Muscular Imbalance, Age, Race, Fatigue, Inappropriate warm up, Habit, etc.
Milan seriously need to re-look into their present method, because repeating the same thing and expecting different outcome this season, is simply.... insanity.
Step 2. Back to Basics.
Let's admit it, the core of our players aren't exactly world-beaters. Average players don't really have much to offer, therefore, we should not expect them to perform complicated stuffs. So they must always remember K.I.S.S....Yes, K.I.S.S = Keep It Simple, Stupid!- We do not want to have another of this . -The Not-So-Curious case of Kevin Prince Boateng-
Attackers must know how to score, Attacking Midfielders must know how to build an attack, Defensive Midfielders must know how to protect their backline, Defenders must know how to defend. Goalkeepers must know how to .. well... goal keep. ^_^
Everything else is just an added bonus.
Let's begin with statistical analysis. (Serie A- Stats- Source from Whoscored)
1. Attack win games, but Defense win championships
a. Interceptions per game - out of 20 Serie-A teams, Milan is alarmingly ranked #20, YES the lowest in the league. We're even worse than Sassuolo in doing these interceptions!
b. Tackles per game - Milan is ranked #16.
c. Conceded shots per game. Milan is ranked #6.
d. Aerial Duels won: We're #18 in the league. YES, that bad.
This mean that our team is not pressing the opponents enough. No wonder we're leaking goals. With our current setup of 4-3-1-2, the midfield unit should protect the backline, especially when the wing backs are providing width.
Our midfield trio comprises of a Ball-Winning midfielder, a Box-To-Box Midfielder, and a Central Midfielder. Naturally, that defensive role in midfield falls to Nigel De Jong. And defensively he's not doing too bad actually. I was surprised to see that Nigel De Jong even leads the statistics in terms of Accurate Long Balls for our team. Is he being converted into a regista?
Look at the Milan players stats here - (from whoscored.com)
Our centerback partnership isn't working right now. Not with the discipline, and defininely not with the defensive organization. That page also summarizes the strength and weaknesses of our team. Our set-piece defending is categorized as very weak.
Would it be viable to arrange for a double central defensive midfield pivot to shore up our defense? Assuming that we're maintaining the back four, then it would leave us with another 4 players to provide the attack.
2. Attacking Front
Doing a 4-3-1-2 would require an organized attacking play to go through the space where it's usually the most crowded (central). I do not think our current crop of CAM is good enough to become that 1 single trequarista. Even during Carlo Ancelotti days, you need 4-3-2-1 (the two being Kaka and Seedorf). Kaka with his speed/dribble/one-touch, and Seedorf with his composure in holding/shielding the ball while the rest of the midfield pushes forward.
The key to this scheme is the ability of an attacking player to hold the ball. (In this article , Andres Iniesta explains how to - BOSS THE MIDFIELD - this is the characteristics of that missing player that we require.)
Since we couldn't get such player, in the cheap. As our last resort to keep a 4-3-1-2 (after we bought Poli, and CSKA not willing to sell Honda in the summer). We bought Matri. Juventus knew how crucial this signing would be for us, so they played hardball. 12 million! WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET ABOUT THIS.
Now I finally able to look at the puzzle, and think yes, Matri signing make perfect sense as a deep-lying forward. He would play day-in, and day-out until that elusive trequarista arrives. Until then, he would partner with Kaka/Birsa, in supporting Balotelli. Matri would be played alternately in place of Robinho. As Robinho seems to move better than he scores.
It's encouraging that we're starting to create chances, but not being able to convert them into goals is somewhat worrying. If you look at the statistics again, our team is slowly becoming too reliant on Balotelli to score goals, which I think is not good for a team competing on three competitions.
Balotelli is clearly our best striker right now by leading the highest Shots Per Game in the league. I think this has something to do about him being asked to not drift wide too much, and stay more in the box. Pazzini is naturally, the one-to-one replacement for him. And perhaps Niang afterwards on the picking order.
Niang arguably has better shooting technique than SES, as his shots are always low, the true-mark of a finisher. Though he indeed has to improve on his finishing accuracy.
That leaves the question what are we going to do with SES? I suspect Milan knows something about SES real physical condition, which prompted them to consider selling him during the summer. The way I see him right now, is that he's not good enough winger, not predatory enough striker, and not tactically-aware enough yet. as a support-striker. Unless he greatly improves his movement, he would remain second-choice to Matri. It would be unrealistic to expect SES to dislodge Balotelli, or Pazzini (when he recovers) as our main striker.
Okay folks, I think I wrote too much really .... I haven't eaten my breakfast, or lunch!!!
After I have a full belly, maybe I would write a short article, just for the sake of fun, about trying 4-4-2 formation instead. Even when we have junk wingers, but we seems to have loads of them.
Have an awesome Saturday, everyone~!