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Tactics Tuesday: Cesena's Counter

When looking at Milan’s performance this weekend versus the last match you need not look any further than the opponent and how they played, to see the clinical difference a well drilled and organized team makes. Allegri made almost no tactical changes from the opening weekend against Lecce, as he still looked to play with tempo and pace, and compact the field. As his players failed to provide the spark from week one, it was the tactics of Ficcadenti and his very good upstart, Cesena that went on display.

The cornerstone of the success Milan had in week one was pressure. Milan was able to apply pressure to Lecce in the attacking third, winning possession and moving the ball with ease. It certainly helped that Lecce almost appeared willing to attack Milan, instead of the standard ten men behind the ball. Cesena on the other hand took the ten men approach and Ficcadenti deployed a 4-3-3 morphing into a pseudo 4-5-1 that rendered Milan’s own 4-3-3 relatively useless due to the congestion and pressure on the wings. The Cesena midfielders dropped back to mark and pressure Pato and Ronaldinho and the strikers then fell back into the midfield to close down passing lanes but more importantly provide wide passing options to spring board Cesena’s vicious counter attacks. These widepassing options were often open because Cesena seemed perfectly willing to let Rino Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini venture into the attack, most likely figuring that if Gattuso or Ambro were able to score and beat them then they deserved to lose. By giving Gattuso and even Ambro space to go forward it played directly to Cesena’s strength opening space for them to play into and exposing Milan’s back line and lack of pace to get back and defend.

By effectively suffocating Pato and Ronaldinho and forcing the ball into the middle of the field Stephen Appiah and two CB’s were waiting for Zlatan. This left the new signing with limited options and Milan forcing passes, chips, and through balls into the defenders path time and time again. More impressive from Cesena was the play of their outside forward Giaccherini, whose finish and runs were top class, but his willingness to drop back and act as pseudo midfielder was fantastic. He often collected the ball deep turned faced the play and created danger time and time again, easily earning man of the match honors and a few admirers across Serie A.

With a CL game tomorrow against Auxerre, who may be more than happy to employ Cesena’s playbook to thrash Milan, it is imperative Allegri and Milan make some changes tactically to make the 4-3-3 effective yet again. With Ronaldinho coming off a sulking and lazy performance he should lose place to Robinho, but the two real questions become is KPB ready for his first CL match and will we have to watch Sokratis fumble around in the absence of Silva?? This is assuming Nesta will be fit to start…here we go…maybe Zlatan can play CB?