I left the house yesterday with the anticipation of a fantastic day. I had chartered a bus to bring 50 Milanista to Boston to see the Derby Della Madonnina first hand on American soil. Our itinerary included two pickups, the first at 1:45 and second at 2:15. At about 2PM the calls started flowing in asking me where the bus was for the first pick up, at this point I should have gone home and gone to bed. The bus arrived 45 minutes late to the first pickup and subsequently 45 minutes late for the remainder of the trip. Our estimated arrival time of 4PM quickly became 5PM, kickoff time! The bus dropped us off at the entrance of the parking lot and we made our way to the stadium. My bus of 50 tifosi strong was now grumpy, and somehow three INTERISTA and two JUVENTINI had made it on board!!
As if I hadn’t endured enough up to this point, my lovely girlfriend left our two tickets on the bus and while my crew was filing into the game I was running a mile or so down route 1 in blistering heat after a Peter Pan bus to reclaim my tickets!! I arrived at my seat in the 25th minute only to have forgotten my camera and completely sweated through my Maldini jersey, my apologies Paolo. Once I sat down I had the pleasure of a one goal deficit and 15 Interista’s in front of me. Hopeful that the Rossoneri would treat me to one positive thing all day, soon that too went by the wayside. I do want to take a minute to thank all of those that did attend the trip and put up with what was a CRAZY day…and I want to thank the Mass State Police for not arresting one of the Juventini, despite his team affiliation…with that said on to the game.
Yes, it is a friendly, and I don’t put much stock in them. Yes, it is preseason and again these games serve a purpose to me as a fan, a blogger, and a coach, these games sometimes hold more value than some of us give them credit for. As a fan I always want my team to succeed, no matter the stakes I want the best Milan can offer game in and game out. If you are wearing red and black than I want you to WEAR it with pride and passion and with a cutting edge to win. This has been discussed in the past, but as fan is it not out of the ordinary for us to have expectations of success for our club every time they are on the pitch? Now I know they can’t win every game, but at least go down fighting.
The coach in me views matches like this in an entirely different perspective. If I am leading my team out in a friendly, I almost find it MORE important than a regular game. Any good player will get geared up when the stakes are high, but it takes a special player to really turn it on when the game has little value. As a coach that friendly or preseason match is an opportunity to potentially try a new formation, group of players, or even tactics. It is these situations that you expect the players to respond, work hard, and prove that they willing to prepare themselves for the season ahead. If I was standing in Leo’s shoes, as many of you have done in the comments, there is very little positive that can be taken from this tour and the frustration should be mounting from all angles.
As a blogger, I get to blend both those perspectives which I plan to do here. I won’t touch on every player or performance, but my frustrations will most definitely come pouring out. Yes I know it is early, and yes I know it is preseason, but in comparison to Inter who is in the same place as us, we have serious issues.
-Kalac was a nightmare, both goals were his fault, and his lack of mobility was shocking. Storari was the far better keeper of the tour, and I understand to play them both, but if management takes anything away from this tour than it should be that Kalac is no longer an option.
-Our fullbacks are decaying as we speak. Zambro, Oddo, and Janks have been excellent servants to the club, but it no longer appears that they have the drive that is needed to play the most demanding position on the pitch. Many of you have criticized Antonini, myself included, for his poor passes this tour, but he was mobile, and out of all the fullbacks he seemed most willing to push the issue and play some defense in return. The loss of Cissokho is far worse now than it was a few weeks ago. Thankfully there are still options available and time to get them.
- Nesta was a sight for sore eyes, yes he seems slow, but he has not played in a year, and he is the least of my worries. Silva is a bit rough and raw, but he too seems to be a bright spot who can only improve with time. While many of you are hard on Onyewu, he has the benefit of an excellent supporting staff to teach him the nuances of defense, and based on his size and athletic ability there may be positives still to come from the Gooch. Playing alongside Nesta should help them both immensely and if they are willing to work and learn, the improvement should come.
-Ambrosini played his first game of the preseason yesterday and the comments were appalling. How can some of you say, “well it was Dinho’s first game back,” and then in the same breath say, “Ambrosini needs to go.” Wouldn’t it make sense to say the same thing about Ambrosini? Afford the man the same “free pass!?” He is the future captain, and I am satisfied with this choice, and though he will not play every game and most likely share the captaincy with Rino, Ambrosini is far more of an asset to this team than many give him credit for. He is a worker and with a team that seems to lack everything; having him, Rino and Flamini rotate and mix it up a bit in the middle will come in handy as the season wears on and the schedule gets tough.
-Pirlo and Ronaldinho are equally atrocious. Lazy is the only word that comes to mind, and sadly if Pirlo was to be transferred he has only deflated his value. One of the boys from my team, a HUGE Dinho supporter looked at me yesterday on the walk to the bus, and said, “Coach, I didn’t believe you at first, but he (Dinho) really is that bad.” So now he is exposed to me and even his fans, his cheeky touches and the cheers he gets for them are all well in good, but the results are what pays, and at this point I don’t need a goal, I just need a pass to hit the target. The farm is bet on the shoulders of this man, and right now that is more alarming than anything else. The GROSSI rumor today was false, but if there is any chance of that being the truth than it needs to happen ASAP.
-The young Nigerian, Odu, and Abate proved their worth and desire this tour. Odu played very well yesterday and though he looked a bit out of position he did not hesitate to push Santon, and move quite nicely in and around the ball. Abate did the same on the right, but played better against Chelsea than he did yesterday. Either way these boys made an impression, and one hopes it was not just lost on me.
-Pippo was the man on this tour, and with all due respect that does not bode well. Pato, Borriello, Zigoni, and to a lesser extent DiGennaro were all given opportunities and all of them failed to impress. If Leonardo does in fact want to use a 4-3-1-2 than it is imperative that his starting strikers gel and form a chemistry to allow them to become more dynamic. What I saw from this tour was two strikers occupying and robbing space from each other and also failing to move the defense from a central location. This was compounded by the lack of support on the wings, but either way you look at it, there needs to be an improvement. Pato was not happy with his role and was quick to say it, and based on ability the true CF should be Borriello, but if neither one can find a comfort level with Dinho behind them than this squad will struggle to find goals. Maybe Leonardo employs a 4-3-3 with Pato, Borriello and Dinho leading the line? The fact of the matter is that even a new striker will struggle if the movement does not create space for that player to operate.
-My final gripe is tactics. Milan have always been a tactically savvy team, and yes toward the end of his reign Carletto was an open book for opponents, but to play a long ball crossing style of football this tour was really a downer. On paper we have a Brazilian coach, and a Brazilian has been I mean talisman, and we should be able to play some dynamic football, right!? Instead we played good old fashioned boot ball, huck it forward, huck it across and hope for the best…when your playmaker has his back to the goal for the majority of his good plays and passes, than the team missed the boat. We expected changes, and so far have seen none.
I will end with a quote from my friend and teammate Paul, which he texted to me at the end of the match yesterday, we had discussed Milan’s potential standing next season following the Chelsea game. “I want to take back my statement about finishing 8th, they will be lucky to finish 13th.”