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Tactics Thursday: Allegri's Path Forward

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MILAN ITALY - JANUARY 20:  AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri gestures during the Tim Cup match between Milan and Bari at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on January 20 2011 in Milan Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
MILAN ITALY - JANUARY 20: AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri gestures during the Tim Cup match between Milan and Bari at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on January 20 2011 in Milan Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday we discussed where tactics come from, and the overwhelming choice, was in my opinion the correct choice. Tactics come from a balance of a Coach'spreferred formation and the players available. This is crucial because it puts both player and coach in the best position to be successful. At this level you can't ask a player to do something he has never done or a Coach to instruct a formation he has no familiarity with, you go with what you know.

With that said, Allegri goes with what he knows. Oddly enough, he get'scriticized for this, but if tactics come from players available and Coach's preference then I am of the belief that Milan doesn't have many other options. If you do a quick glance down Milan's roster you notice two positions are heavier than others, strikers and midfielders. If you explore further you realize that we A LOT of support strikers and a lot of hard running midfielders. What we lack are "finesse players" and true number 9. Another view of the roster also makes something painfully evident, Milan lacks any semblance of true wingers. Sure we have fullbacks, albeit some subpar ones, but they are not true wingers, such as what we had in Serginho. They are defensive first, often wrong footed, and not the classic fly up the wing and whip in crosses type players.

So we know what we have, and we know what we don't and if you look at Allegri'spreferred formation it seems to go hand and hand. The 4-3-1-2 as deployed by Allegri makes perfect use of the midfielders at our disposal, and the narrow deployment hides the lack of true wingers who flourish and wide areas. While the crucial position of CAM is missing, Allegri has done a great job of finding players with a nose for a goal and some passing range to operate in behind the strikers. A stroke of genius, but also a balance choice by utilizing less finesse in that role, it gives the strikers a bit more freedom to roam and interchange. The inclusion of Montolivo this season should help the link between defense and attack and while not completely satisfied with the roster and it's depth Milan, Allegri is getting the most out of his personnel with this formation.

So what other options does he have? An easy one is the 4-1-2-1-2 which deploys the two midfielders in the wide areas, but also requires a deep lying defensive midfielder. A 4-3-3 could be an option, but it is a formation that is difficult to deploy in Italy, and is a balance nightmare for a team like Milan. Playing Binho, Pato, and El Sharaawy up top is defensive suicide and while two of those three strikers can come back and get the ball, our midfield would be put under immense pressure and deja vuof the Leo days would be tough. The classic winger formations, 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 and the 3-5-2 while attractive are simply not viable with the personnel on hand. The first two are winger heavy/specific, while the 3-5-2 would require three strong CBs, we don't even have two, and wingbacks, which are few and far between. The formation that comes up often in discussion is the ever favorite 4-3-2-1, but this again is a formation that we lack personnel for. We have tons of strikers, so why play one instead of two, and we have no real CAM's, so why now switch to two!? So while the idea of a Plan B is attractive and seemingly wanted by many, the viability of such a plan is slim.

Sure we can move to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 in moments requiring a goal, or of course shift to a 4-5-1 to preserve a lead. But a legitimate secondary formation is probably a lot to ask considering the chemistry and cohesion needed this season for the new players to work operate in the 4-3-1-2. At the end of the day, this formation is probably the best choice with the personnel at hand