First things first, congratulations to AC Milan, SuperCoppa 2011-2012 Champions, and more importantly congratulations to Mr. Allegri for a flawless derby record and sticking it to Inter yet again. Sure it was a preseason friendly with a little silver at the end of the road, but a Derby is a Derby, and while a loss wouldn’t have ended the World, a win was pretty sweet!
The win itself was also something of a joy to watch, the team went down early to a very strong Sneijder FK, and in the first half looked a bit out of sorts. In true Milan fashion it took some time for the team to find its legs, but once things starting working in their favor the team began to shine. Sure it helped that Gasperini, in true Italian fashion, decided to preserve a lead and bolster the defense from a three man back line to a four man back line, but this only opened up space for Milan’s midfield and allowed them to pass the ball with more tempo and precision, opening up space and leading to more possession and more chances on goal.
Following Gasperini’s tactical shift, it took Milan the span of ten minutes to secure the two goals, the first from Zlatan and the second from Johnny on the spot, Prince Boateng, who knocked in a great combination of play from an Abate cross and Pato header. Milan remained fairly in control despite a late Eto goal waived off for Offside, not a close call either, but the match was wrapped up and Milan were celebrating.
A good way to start the season, but it certainly wasn’t a win without flaws. Milan’s inability to meet the pace of the game early remains a problem. This is a team with veteran players, and what some would call old legs, and while I wasn’t quite preparing for doomsday as I saw in some of the blog comments, I was a bit alarmed. Why does a team of players who have seen everything there is to see in big matches have such a hard time finding the pace of the game? Team’s should train and play fast so that when a team comes out with tempo you can match it, or at least possess the ball enough to slow the down, Milan did neither. It didn’t help that Seedorf didn’t have the pace to work deeper in the midfield, and swapping him with Prince early on may have made a difference. Two roles that Allegri needs to be better define before the start of the season. I also am not one to believe that “creativity” is must have ingredient to a winning team because precise short passing is just as important, but there were times when Van Bommel and Rino won the ball and didn’t have the short option in Seedorf or Robinho to make the next pass. This was a problem last season and appears to continue to be an issue; I plan to discuss this further later in the week with a tactics piece, so at this time we can stay in celebratory mode and simply enjoy the victory.
On a positive note this team has shown a resiliency and winning mentality that is almost infectious, with every player working hard for the result. Many people had written the team off at half-time, but were foolish to do so, in the end Milan showed their ability and the as Uncle Fester said, the victory over Inter made all the more celebratory. Congrats again to the team and Allegri, the task for next season will be challenging but the mentality is correct and that is the perfect foundation to build on.