What was looking like a season of more downs than ups, took a pretty surprising upward turn on Wednesday evening. Beating the Galacticos 2.0 at the Santiago Bernabeau is no small feat especially in a game where few Milan tifosi, let alone the footballing World even gave us a chance. Optimism though was high on the blog, as always, and Giovanni called the 3-2 thriller before the match had even started, and here I was hoping for a 1-1 draw. The game as thrilling as it was, was not without negatives, and though I do not want to rain on this parade after two days of celebration we can start to take a more critical look at the squad that worked what some are calling a "miracle" on Wednesday evening.
First and foremost there was a point in time where this game would have been considered a win instead of a miracle, it just goes to show you how far Milan really have fallen in the eyes of many. While many of us are not blind to the decline of our Club, it really puts into perspective the poor portrayal of the Club this season, a portrayal that hopefully in time will go back to CL dominant World beaters as we once were, but the repair process is still a long way off and this notion of “writing off AC Milan” will have to be tolerated until then.
The first half of Wednesday evening was abysmal. I won’t go too far into Dida’s catastrophic error that led to the first goal but it is unacceptable and in fact is far worse than any mistake he has ever made, Storari and Abbiati cannot return soon enough! What I found most frustrated with the first half was the terrible hoofing of the ball forward which caused an already offside prone Pippo to be caught time and time again, and led to no real chances or efforts on or towards goal for forty five minutes. I will give credit to Leo, whom I will discuss more later, for employing a 4-3-3 against a team that likes to attack in Real, but that 4-3-3 looked a lot like an XMAS tree for most of that first half and the application of his tactics looked like an utter failure.
The second half was a different story, immediately Milan looked reborn. Not sure if Leo just asked the forward line to stay forward, or if the squad just woke up, but the game certainly changed. Pirlo’s goal was a cracker, really have not seen a shot like that out of him, or any other player, since Zambro’s cracker last year . While many say Casillas could have saved it, he didn’t get a clear look at that ball until it was behind him. What followed were two more cracking Milan goals with Pato showing a flash of what will hopefully make him so special. I have been hard on the Pato lately because I expect a heck of a lot of him, and frankly the team needs his A-game to succeed, but when he brings it, as he has against Napoli, Roma, and now Madrid the kid is a force. A friend asked me who I would liken Pato to as a player, and really I was speechless, it was a question I couldn’t answer because he really combines various play styles, in the end I said a cross between Fernando Torres and David Villa, and if that one day is true, than we truly have a special player on our hands.
Speaking of special players, Pirlo and Dinho were once those guys; but lately they have not shown their old class. This night was again a bit different. Dinho didn’t show it all that much with his play, but he showed some fire and drive which frankly I have not seen in him once in a Milan jersey. He looked to take on, ran with a purpose (again I will take the running), and worked hard on the ball. He also bitch slapped Raul and that has to count for something, but in the end he seemed determined to make a difference and though he didn’t score or make big plays he did draw defenders and open space for his teammates. As for Pirlo, the shoot was pure class, he also did well moving the ball and his passes save a few long balls early were on target and effective.
Now for the negatives, Oddo and Zambro were atrocious both offensively and defensively. It took Kaka a few minutes in the second half to realize he can carve Oddo open and when he did he had quality shots on goal that proved dangerous. Lost as well in the madness of the match was a clear PK on Zambro early when he fouled Benzema, which would have easily changed the complexion of the match, these players though both effective in their time are now liabilities more than ever. With the weekend fixture against Chievo if Abate is healthy he should be the RB and either Janks or Antonini should be given the start on the left. I know Antonini has been up and down in many eyes, but he can’t possibly be as much of a liability as Zambro has become, Lippi take notice, your WC10 left back may be moved to left bench.
Finally my last negative is the employment of the 4-3-3. In this circumstance it worked nicely possibly by chance, and I will delve deeper into it next week in a tactics post, but if the opponent employs a packed box and counter mentality as many of them do against Milan, this formation will leave us shattered. Can you imagine Pirlo and Seedorf huffing and puffing to get back to stop a counter!? What about Dinho having to hold up a wingback in the attacking third for the midfielders to reshape, a pivotal requirement of the strikers in the 4-3-3…scary thoughts!
Which leads me to Leo, I have to admit that following the weekend and now this match I have renewed faith in him as a Coach. Yes he is lacking tactically, and doesn’t seem to know how to control a match, but what he lacks in tactics he has made up for in adventuress squad and formation selection. One could also argue that the players are more receptive to him now than they were 2 months ago and that is helping as well. Either way I can’t say I wish him gone as much as I did even a few weeks ago, and yes I would still prefer him in charge of scouting, but if he stays on the bench I don’t feel all that bad. So when someone said this win would only prolong Leo’s Milan career and best of luck to us who have to endure it, I say if he needs to win every game from now until December to keep his job then so be it, we could use the points!!
I hope to preview the upcoming Chievo game tomorrow, but forgive me if it doesn’t happen; I have a full slate of coaching duties scheduled both tonight and tomorrow!