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Season Preview Part IV: Midfield Changing of the Guard

In the next week leading up to the first match I would like to do a five part season preview, covering all aspects of the team and its potential for the upcoming season. No better place to start then with our new coach, which will be followed by the positions in succession:

Season Preview Part I: Max Who?
Season Preview Part II: Two Real GKs?!
Season Preview Part IV: Midfield Changing of the Guard
Season Preview Part V: The Pato-Borri Show

Simply put this has to be year that Milan begins to move forward from its stable of midfielders on the wrong side of thirty. Pirlo, Ronaldinho, Seedorf, Ambro, and Rino are all potential starters, and are all one year older, one year slower, and one year closer to the end of their careers. While I am by no means advocating a wholesale change, that would be suicide, it is time for the team to start integrating young players into key positions so that the change and shift is gradual for the sake of the team.

It is looking increasingly likely that Allegri will play Ambro, Pirlo, Flamini, and Ronaldinho as the four midfielders, with Ronaldinho obviously operating as the CAM. Allegri has shown confidence in Flamini and I hope the Frenchmen can reward the show of confidence. Gattuso and Seedorf look to be the first off the bench and the arrival of Boateng and the speed of Abate also add an interesting dynamic to what is the thinnest position on the roster in terms of depth. The nice thing is Allegri has a bit of versatility with the likes of Boateng and Abate who can bring width to a normally narrow midfield This is actually an intriguing idea and could be used in games where Milan need to widen the field or find success on the flanks.

As for the Primavera players we have seen this summer, the most promising appeared to be Merkel and Strasser. Merkel, being more attack minded of the two, seemed to have a presence on the ball that reminded me a bit of Marek Hamsik. While he lacked the refined skills of the Slovakian, Merkel got himself into some great positions and completed some very nice passes. A glaring part of his game that was missing though was a touch of confidence in and around the box as he seemed to withdraw the closer he was the goal and the more dangerous he became. I hope Allegri noticed what the kid can do and finds a way to get him some playing time as he begins his integration into the first team. Strasser, a bit more defensive minded than Merkel, had a massive engine running to almost every ball, pass, and cross. What I didn’t though was his real lack of confidence with the ball at his feet, now I can remember Rino’s growing pains in the late nineties, but Strasser has a long way to go to be a slick CM in the Serie A.

I do still have a niggling concern about Ronaldinho playing centrally. It just does not lend well to his style of play of standing up on the ball and finding a pass. The CAM needs to act as a hub, playing two touch, ball in and ball out, because of this he will most often float out wide left, where he is comfortable leaving a gap in behind the strikers and forcing Pato a bit wider to accommodate the shift. Remind you of anythin?? Leo’s formation last season?? As I have stated in the past I am not keen on making the same mistake twice so it will be intriguing to see the result if in fact the team morphs into a pseudo 4-3-3. If Allegri were in fact to add a true a CAM in the form of a player like Diego or Rossi, it would make his formation more effective and add a new dimension of play style to the team. Seedorf and Boateng can both be employed there as well so it will be up to Allegri to decide his level of tolerance for the way the team is playing. Granted this is all probably unlikely, but worth stating for the season preview.