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Tactics Tuesday: Play Them All?!?

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Since Berlusconi delivered Allegri two shiny new toys at the close of the transfer window, the hot topic across Milan tifosi has simply been, can Max play them all? So far this has generally divided the tifosi into two camps, the first being of course he has to play them all, and the second being much more rational and logical stating that it would be impossible. We haven’t even factored in old senile Berlusconi’s choice, which will most certainly be something to the effect of, "Allegri is a great tactical mastermind, and while he knows only a bit less than I do, any great tactician, such as myself, can see that playing all four of our great champions is the only way for Milan to move forward!" Senile…CHECK.

All in favor…

Initial reaction of any fan should be that playing all four of those offensive minded player is suicide. To provide balance you would require not one, but two Rino Gattuso’s circa 2005-2007. Now if you consider a 4-2-3-1 as the viable formation this may actually work, but having Dinho and Robino in the wide positions of the offensive line would almost require that the LB and RB stay pinned back and render Pirlo a man without a place because Allegri would have to turn to two solely defensive minded midfielders to play in front of the defense.

Now before you say, oh that would work. Let’s take a closer look. If Allegri chooses Ambrosini and Flamini/KPB, it would require either of those two players to provide consistent high percentage passes to the attacking group of four. Because neither is an elite passer of the ball it would actually force our attackers to drop a bit deeper to receive and give our opponents a bit of breathing room in their defensive third. So much of the success against Lecce in week one was predicated on Milan’s ability to keep the field compact in the opponents half, so losing that would be foolish. It also leaves the team highly exposed against a team that likes to play a horizontal possession game. Can you imagine Ambro and Flamini chasing pass and after pass in the midfield against Barcelona!? It would be like watching men against boys, while we had four players waiting statically for our team to win possession, it is not conducive to the high pressure high tempo game Allegri proved this team was organized and capable of in their first match.

All against…

The key to a successful team is depth. With a crowded fixture list and potential for injury it is imperative that the team has players capable to step in and fill key roles while others are hurt or rested Last season the team struggled when Pato was injured, and even more so with the loss of Nesta, losing close games and being embarrassed in others. This season while midfield depth has not been addressed, there seems to a bit a bit more strength on the bench with Sokratis, Yepes in the back and now Robinho in the attack. The versatility of a guy like Robinho means he can play on either flank in the pseudo 4-3-3, with Pippo able to spell Zlatan in games where the big man may need a be rest. With a smart rotation of those five players up top there is no excuse for a drop in pace or tempo of any player. Ronaldinho/Pato is struggling or dogging it in a match, have a seat, Robinho in, it is that simple and now the same goes for everyone in the attack!

Historically strong Milan teams have always had strong benches and while this is not the strongest, it is better than it was just a few weeks ago. With the additions we can now seriously consider compete on two fronts, scudetto and the CL, if not three with our youngsters in the Coppa Italia. The added depth also pushes players to their limits in training, stay motivated, and allows Allegri to have the choice of who is the strongest man for the match. This is very good, in fact, much better than forcing a mix of players that may not prove the most efficient route to a result.

So while it may not be the best option to play all four players, it certainly doesn’t mean it will be impossible to get them all on the pitch. If the 75th minute comes and we are down in a match, there is no reason we can’t chase a goal with all four attackers flying at the opponents’ defense. Maybe Pirlo gets injured or needs a break and Seedorf is not effective deep, so Allegri morphs into a 4-2-3-1. These are all versatile options that make a team both dynamic and difficult to plan against because they have the ability to evolve with a simple substitution.

As a coach, I have a strong admiration for Jose Mourinho, simply because of his tactical awareness and ability to plan for his opponents. There is no better manager on the planet for putting his players in a position to earn a result, with that said I think he may actually be scared of our very own AC Milan. How does a master mind like Jose prepare Real Madrid for AC Milan now? Does he prepare for a 4-3-3, if so Allegri can mix it up and change the shape or tactic, something Leo didn’t have the luxury to do with a lack of players or even the tactical know-how as a rookie coach. Leo's idea of solving a problem, throw more attackers at it! Things just a got bit more interesting for us and in the process a bit more challenging for our opponents! So let’s not go crazy, especially Mr. Berlusconi, by throwing caution to the wind an attacking like mad men, when keeping “a card up our sleeves” may actually be the ticket to some silverware this season.