An interesting game to say the least; shades of poor performances like those against Bari and Livorno in the attacking third, but defensively this was a stronger and more balanced performance than any other game this season. Sadly though as I re-watch flashes of the match I can’t pinpoint any moments of inventive or even productive possession play to justify the two goal victory, and I am not beyond stating that Catania clearly earned themselves a point in this match. The casual fan will quickly recite media friendly tidbits such as, "Milan had the lions’ share of possession, and deserved the win" or "KJH has arrived in the red and black," but sadly these little ramblings only gloss over the facts that played out over the full ninety.
I will start simply with the possession, then onto Leo, and finally I will discuss KJH, and may not make any friends doing so, but the realist in me can’t be stopped. Two simple questions to start: is possession still worthwhile if it is around and behind the center circle? Is a pass still great, inventive, or visionary if it doesn’t hit its target?
So why did I ask those questions to begin the discussion of possession? Frankly because the idea of dominating possession and losing or drawing is intriguing, our Milan has done it numerous times, and even yesterday I watched as Arsenal possessed the ball a fair share only to fall to Carletto’s Chelsea by the vicious counters of Didier Drogba. So I will get to my point now; sure Milan had nearly 70% possession against Catania, but the majority of that ball control was absolutely useless, it was rarely forward with any precision. Instead it was often back, or lateral or short into positions dictated by Catania.
So why did Milan’s passes do so little to pressure Catania offensively? Personnel in the form of Ambro and Flamini do not hold the passing ability or control and presence that are provided by Pirlo. Yes he has been poor as of late, and even I have called for his benching, but today was easily the biggest advertisement or justification for his inclusion. Even if some of his passes go wide, or his tackles are occasionally mistimed, he provides a forward movement or invention that lacked in a bad way. Sans Pirlo the entire attack was forced to operate in a more confined space in front of the Catania defense with no stretch, and forcing Pato and Dinho to move closer to the midfield rendering them further less effective than past matches. Still want to argue the benching or value of Pirlo? Does anyone want to answer my pass question from before now?
I am a bit upset at Leo for still sticking so hard to some of these players despite the midweek match. Zambro could have easily been rested, and Ambro should have been subbed. You can even argue that Dinho needed the rest despite being extremely consistent and solid yet again. I do still believe Borriello played well as he constantly won balls in front of the CB’s but there were no penetrating runs to expose the defense and really no danger for Catania. Pato however continues to disappoint, he shows flashes of amazing ability, but his decision making is still beyond his technical abilities and speed, and feels even more like he is regressing in the 4-3-3. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk his regression to learning the new system, but he needs to be far more dangerous than this for success.
Finally I will say flat out that I am not ready to anoint KJH with anything. I will gladly say thank you for the two goals and the three points that he secured, but in the end I am not convinced and have to say this was a fluke, and here is why. His first goal was a GK howler, a HUGE HOWLER really, and his shot was not even as a strong as portrayed. In fact the sheer fact that he got the shot in the first place was a product of Pippo’s right place right time pass. The second goal was a again a byproduct of Pippo, and the fact that KJH was literally in the same exact spot showed how poorly he places himself in the run of play, and sadly like all awkward and haphazardly things in life, was rewarded! Not to mention the guy chipped the keeper!? I will leave that reasoning up to you…when is the last time a player chipped a keeper on the goal line from 15 yards out…FLUKE!? Again I am not mad that he scored, but I really don’t want to be reading crap like this for the next 6 days before the match against Sampdoria. He has far more to prove if he wants a starting spot or even a bench spot on this team.
Finally, let’s continue to enjoy this unbeaten run!