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Tactics Thursday: Letting Go Was Easy...

Yesterday, in anticipation of this post I asked a few questions. Thank you to all those that provided answers, and I will get to mine at the end, but first a little explanation. It seems like Pirlopopped up a bit to much at the end of the season in the comments section. To borrow from my friends at Twitter, he was most certainly trending here at the AC Milan Offside. To be rather matter of fact, I didn't like it, some fans were like love struck teenagers who had gone off to college, hit a rough patch and quickly called their high school sweetheartback professing their undying love. That is not for me, never look back, only move forward and Milan needs the same mentalityten fold. So the real question is what made Pirlo so expendable, the answer has been in front, or in Milan's case the back all along...

The answer, ThiagoSilva! Last season Pirlo got hurt, and for the first time in a long time we saw Milan shift away from the reliance on the deep lying playmaker and into a more dynamic formation that pestered opponents on the ball in the midfield, created runs into the box and shielded the defense allowing the new main man ThiagoSilva to pull the strings. But many ask, he is a defender, how does a defender pull the strings? Easy, when he is as good on the ball as ThiagoSilva is.

Who was Milan's most complete passer last season and much of this one? Who completed the most long passes? Who has one the best pass accuracy rates on the team? All of these questions are answered by Thiago Silva, and while most defenders passing is typically short and accurate, somewhat padding this stat, Silva made the need for a midfielder playmaker almost obsolete and gave Milan an attacking dynamic we hadn't seen since the Sacchiera. Midfielders, much like they did for Sacchi, compressed space, won the ball and passed it back to Silva who sprayed the ball wide and long like Baresibefore him. This passing combination disrupted defenses, put the ball at the feet of technically gifted strikers and gave free runs to midfielders to score goals. A fairly impressive tactical development and one that is challenging for opponents to defend against because their least effective defenders, strikers, can't stop the pass, and their midfielders all have their backs turned to the forward motion. What you have my friends is a snazzy new tactical game plan.

The problem with any new tactical plan is that it has growing pains and missing personnel only adds to the growing pains. This plan was also built around the technical prowess of Zlatan to receive these passes, and the hard running midfielder and second striker to supportthis play. At first glance it appears one dimensional, but when you consider how many runs can come from and around the focal, it becomes a bit more difficult to pin point. Now witht his tactical game plan came problems for more tactically rigid players and less tactically astute, Pirlo fits in the first category while everyone'sfavorite Duck fits in the second. Talented players? Sure, for some, but fit for the new game plan, not so much.

When in full force this plan compresses the field, puts Silva closer to goal, Zlatan even closer, and Milan on the givingg end of an attacking boomstick. Like all tactical plans it doesn't always work, but fundamentally filling the midfield with ball winners means you work less off the ball as a team and spend more time on it. Is it the most attractive football? For some it isn't, but personally I would rather my women attractive then my football, my football needs only be functional and results oriented. As stated ad nauseam at the end of the day ONLY the result matters.

So, to answer my own questions. Pirlo was rendered expendable because we didn't need his passing anymore, Silva had the covered. Losing Silva this season was the straw that broke the camel's back and made the game plan even more ineffective compounding the loses of KPB, Van Bommel, and the sheer horrendous form of Robinho. Finally, like all things in life tactics need to adapt, and Allegri will most certainly will as well. His choice to add a simple metronomic passer in Montolivo will allow Silva a bit of freedom but also give Milan a bumper back pass for the attackers while the runs can still continue and give us an additional fulcrum to pass from without the defensive frailties and lack of pace of Pirlo, while also reducing need for the "bodyguards" in which have made Pirlothrive in every system he was in freeing up the players around to him to get forward and have rely less on protecting him.

End of the day, the move was beneficialfor all parties. He wasn't forced out the door, but he was asked to revise his role, he didn't want to so Allegri took the team forward as any new Coach should. A scudettoin year one, a runner up in year two and an extended run in the CL. What more can we ask? Last I checked no team wins everything every year do they? So there you have it.