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Tactics Tuesday: Getting it Right

For the first time all season it appeared as though Massimo Allegri got his tactics right, but if you take a good look at the course of the season, it was not so much Allegri getting it "right" but the opponents getting wrong. For the third time this season Milan went out against an opponent who were willing to attack instead of defend with ten men and therefore allowing Milan to employ one of their crucial keys to victory: time in the midfield.

If you look at the matches against Lecce, Genoa, and Parma each team came out with the tactical plan of attacking Milan, committing players into the attack and forcing Milan to defend. With that game plan each team paid as Milan’s midfield, and specifically Andrea Pirlo, were given time and space to operate and in turn dictate both the tempo and the attack at a measured pace that allowed Milan to be in control. In Milan’s three matches in which they essentially dropped points, their opponents: Lazio, Cesena, and Catania; committed less players to the attack and decided to defend and counter which proved divesting to the Milan midfield unable to cope with the pace of the attack.

Against Parma Allegri chose to deploy Ronaldinho in a CAM role, much akin to his role against Lecce, in the attacking stages of the match, but it was in the defensive stages that Allegri proved wise in his tactical drilling. When Parma was in possession of the ball Robinho dropped a bit deeper alongside Ronaldinho into a pseudo 4-3-2-1, and the fullbacks stayed pinned back in line with the center backs. This allowed nine out of the ten outfield players to get behind the ball and keep Parma’s in front of them instead of chasing into a race a goal to that they could never win. When possession was regained Milan instantly morphed getting Robinho forward and even a fullback on the opposite allowing Pirlo to play a disruptive and difficult to deal with ball which was perfectly represented in a chance on goal from Pirlo to Antonini to Robinho, but ultimately did not find the back of the net.

While neither Robinho nor Ronaldinho had any sort of tackling presence, their shear willingness to drop back clogged up passing lanes for Parma’s two deep lying midfielders making it difficult for them to retain possession and find passes forward. Milan were fortunate on this day that Giovinco was injured and Bojinov played minor roles as the Atomic Ants quick feet and smart passing may have helped Parma break down the defensive setup. Candreva was admirable but often times he lacked the support needed as Crespo was not up to the challenge of dealing with both Nesta and Silva on his own.

It is a promising step forward for a team that seemed to lack any real direction in the past few weeks and it would appear that Allegri is finally beginning to put his stamp on this team but there is still room for improvement. His substitutions could have easily been more intelligent by removing an attacker and introducing both Boateng and Flamini to further clog the midfield, but his introduction seemingly showed his lack of confidence in holding a lead which was an Achilles heel for the team last season; all and all a better performance and continuing step in the right direction.

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