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Tactics Tuesday: Substitutions

Substitutions can make or break a match and they can just as simply make or break a Coach. Allegri came under fire this weekend for his lack of substations and while they have been puzzling of late and often late I think Saturday’s problem was not as dramatic as it is being made out be. In fact just a few days ago Allegri was a hero for subbing on Ronaldinho who scored the second goal, but if you take a close look at both matches, you would easily see that lightning rarely strikes twice.

I think it is important to first consider what Allegri said following the match:

"The team put in one of its best performances this season. My lads played with high intensity, despite our busy schedule.
I’m sorry for the result, because we could have won the game, but in any case my players did well this evening.
As for Sampdoria’s equaliser, I can say that our man-marking was poor on that occasion, that’s why the ball finished at Pazzini’s feet.
Sending on Ronaldinho sooner? The team was doing well, so I didn’t want to break our balance by making changes. It just didn’t seem right, because we would have risked giving them chances for counter-attacks. Because of this, I thought it was better not to change the team that was doing well.
My players are very determined, motivated, which makes me satisfied.”

This quote touches on a few important factors when a Coach is considering making a substitution. While we can agree fatigue is often one of those contributing factors, this is often an easy choice and a like for like substitution. What I find more important is his recognition of the match and the success of the team leading up the 90th minute. To put it rather matter of factly Milan were buzzing following the Samp goal, and it is just the response that a Coach would want. Why would he make a choice to remove the man who scored earlier in the match, Robinho, and the man who has scored pivotal goals week in and week out with Zlatan? He also needed to take into consideration that a change could open the door for a Sampdoria counter and giving away a point is not the mark of a title contender.

So if you consider his two subs in the 90th minute, one was correct and one was not. Not bringing on Flamini sooner for Rino or Seedorf was truly an error. It could have allowed Ambro a bit more freedom to get forward and given Milan an extra runner for Samp to have to mark. As for Ronaldinho, agree or disagree, Allegri has deemed more of a liability than a viable option so his unwillingness to bring him on sooner was a preservation of the result more than anything else, something none of us can argue with considering the table position in a difficult away venue. Ronaldinho scoring the second against Auxerre in a match that was nailed down is far different than what happened on Saturday and I think it needed to be understood.

It would also help if Allegri had more dynamic options of the bench. As it stands there is not true CAM sub for Clarence so changes are often like for like, and with no real striker understudy on the bench the idea of getting Zlatan and Robinho off is also a challenging. At this point Allegri has shown that he would rather a fatigued player, playing in his natural role, than a player being shoe horned into a position on the pitch that is not for him, and potentially a detriment to the team. Considering the unbeaten run, and the position on the table, I can’t disagree.