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Tactics Thursday: Where Do We Go From Here

I can’t help but feel the déjà vu of this post title. The first time I felt this way was when Milan lost to Arsenal in the 2008 CL, soundly beaten at home and no answer to the pace of Fabergas and Adebayor. What did management do to remedy this problem? Nothing. That stinging feel came back last season against Man United and Inter, embarrassed in these fixtures, and again management did nothing. Now for the third time in three seasons I am stuck with that same frustrating feeling of helplessness.

So from a tactical standpoint something needs to change. Last season and most of this one, both Leo and Max have been stuck rolling out a formation for a team that has no business playing it. The 4-3-3 is a formation dependent upon players willing to work on both sides of the ball and be tactically discipline to maintain possession and fill in the space needed to be successful. In the same sense the 4-3-1-2 requires the same sort of discipline and work rate to assure the team has enough balance to meet the attacking demands of the opposition.

The problem, however; is a with a roster of “one-trick” players who are not versatile enough to do the needed work on both sides of the ball, the options for Allegri are limited for him to be successful. If he wanted to play a five man midfield it would be virtually impossible because he really only has seven midfielders on the roster and the majority are of the defensive variety. To make matters worse the fullback position is just as thin, but a position imperative to finding team balance and allowing a team to dynamically get forward from different positions on the field. The only place we really have depth is in the striker position which is ironic because any team that fancy’s actually winning a match usually only plays one striker, sometimes two, and this team has five to choose from, and out of those five not a single one has any gritty track back mentality.

Now with that said, your hopes and optimism should probably be thrown out the window, how can any team be successful with this striker overload and lack of work rate? Frankly, I no longer think they can be. But I haven’t abandoned all hope quite yet because my expectations this season were low enough to advocate for a rebuild and restructuring of a team that is literally three seasons to late. From a realistic standpoint we can’t play eleven primavera players, but from the players available Allegri can achieve some sort of solid formation and pace, while maintaining a level of competitiveness to keep the team challenging in Serie A, and leaving the CL for teams that actually know how to buy players.

For once in a few seasons the GK position is solid and either Amelia or Abbiati are a viable option and can’t argue against either one at the moment. The defense is a different story, and with Nesta in the twilight of his career, it is imperative that Davide Astori is brought home in the January transfer window. His return would begin a partnership with Silva that can last close to ten years, in the meantime Sokratis and Onyewu should be considered as a viable third and fourth option, otherwise it is not worth keeping them on the roster. Fullbacks is almost just as bad with no real left back considering that Antonini is an actual right footed player who should be playing RB, one side or the other needs to be addressed, and then Antonini can man the otherside with Abate as the understudy RB. In the meantime Abate should be playing on the right and Antonini on the left for lack of any better options. If you can stomach another match with Zambro at RB, or worse playing Janks and Oddo, then you are just as hopeless as management.

The midfield should be a four man line, with Ambro on the left Gattuso and Pirlo in the center and Boateng on the right. Flamini can fill in as needed and Seedorf should be used exclusively to rest Pirlo as his skills have declined dramatically. Abate can work in the midfield as well, but adding an extra player (Lazzari) would be beneficial. So if you have been following we are now playing a four man defense, a four man midfield, which leaves a spot for only two attackers. I am not going to call Zlatan a failure quite yet, but partnering Robinho and Pato for the future is the most viable option, so in the meantime one or the other should play alongside Zlatan, with Pippo working in as well. Finally leading to Ronaldinho…

His use wide left makes us one dimensional, his play as a CAM has been inconsistent at best, so with that said it is time he plays as a striker and only in matches in which he can be successful, which are few and far between considering his current form. We need to be rid of this passage of play where Pirlo collects the ball and plays it to Ronaldinho who loses possession and leaves the team exposed for a counter. Play him closer to goal, force him to work 1 v 1 with a CB and see if he can reinvent his game to be a viable striking option until the end of year, but once January comes, hang a for sale around his neck and let’s chalk this up to another failure of management alongside the signing of Rivaldo and Ronaldo.

I will be back on the weekend with a Napoli preview, but in the meantime consider this formation for Monday’s match…

Abbiati/Amelia; Abate, Nesta, Sokratis/Onyewu, Antonini; Boateng, Rino, Pirlo, Ambro/Flamini; Robinho, Pato/Zlatan

I don’t see any other options, and hopefully management recognizes this sooner rather than later and begins to fix the problem come January.