Every Coach at some point and time asks himself the same question. When is my team a Team? There are a lot of teams out there that have immense talent and never quite see the success on the pitch. Maybe they are high priced mercenaries, maybe they just don't gel, or maybe they just lack the complimentary skills necessary to work as unit. The point is when I look at this Milan team I don't see a Team, in fact I haven't seen one for quite a while.
In my last season I was asked by a local University, in fact where our very own KembaWalkerisMyHero called home, to do some scouting at the local high school level as I had experience with those players having coached that level for three seasons. When we met with the Coaching staff a lot of the same questions up, who what are we looking for? The criteria was a lot different than I expected. Personally when I assembled my team I though not about securing the most talented individuals, that was surely a bonus, but instead filling roles in what I needed. This is a luxury at this level that oddly some professional coaches don't have. At Milan, with a meddling owner and a sporting directors some of the players brought in can go beyond what any Coach is looking for. What the University coach was two fold, he had a specific position in my mind, in this case a defender, but he wanted someone who could block tackle, get the ball in out and out, and could marshal the backline. So while talent is needed, it was the last point that he stressed.
When I look at the team assembled by our esteemed management, who has certainly gotten it right a few times before, I don't see any of that intangible stuff like "marshaling" a back line. I don't see a lot of things, intensity, tenacity or even passion. Now as I coach I could instruct first touch, because at that level it wasn't a given, I could can instruct two touch passing, I could instruct a tackled press and covering two man defending effort. I couldn't Coach intensity. I could rile them up until I was blue and when the whistle blew, sure as the grass green I would have a kid out there who simply didn't bring it. Anyone notice that about Milan, say 9 out 11 players on Saturday!?
I don't see a football Team, instead when I watch Milan I see a collection players who have endured a bit of a revolving door and have a sordid past. Let's look for a moment at our "stars" shall we. Balotelli, enigmatic, talented, and a bit a of pest. I love the guy, but man he can be inconsistent. Montolivo, a great finesse footballer but he can really go missing. Robinho and Kaka, talented yes, but no longer current, I think so. Don't even get me started on the backline. The point is we have a collection of misfits and guys who maybe didn't fit at there list Club and while this can work occasionally, Galliani has taken this method from the exception to the norm, partly due to lack of funds but more importantly this idea that they have forgotten how to build a proper football Team.
Had Allegri been given Asamoah, Hamsik, and Lazzari as he requested a few seasons ago this team would be dramatically different. The current crop doesn't seem to have a chip on their shoulder, that intensity that you need some time to overcome difficult odds. The sort of stuff that you are born, to borrow a phrase the "eye of the tiger" or the competitive spirit. At times I look at a supremely talented group of players like Man City and wonder if, how and when they can become a team. Then I look at Milan and ask did they ever have a chance?
A few will call this excuses, but as Matheus so brightly pointed out yesterday. Every naysayer who wants to sling mud can't give the simple answer to a pressing question: What can be done differently done here? Can we start Nesta and Silva at CB? Can we turn back the clock on Kaka? Can we get Mexes to run back after a corner kick? These are not Coachable moments, these are serious dilemmas that this team has faced now for three seasons and management has turned a blind eye to it.
AC Milan is no longer a TEAM in the proper sense, it is a collection of players not suited for any real formation and not willing to do what it takes to overcome the odds. Can we play 4-3-3, not really!? No wingers so 4-2-3-1 is out? 4-3-1-2, sure slot Ricky at CAM, oh wait that was a wash. What is there left to do, what can be done? Until someone gives me the answer I really don't care about the criticism or nonsense being uttered. If you don't have the solution, even in front of a computer thousands of miles away, you are part of the problem.
Sure this sounds dire and a bit dramatic, but until this collection of players proves they can be a Team every result and every point will be a bit lucky and a bit hard fought. They showed resilience to come back from two down on the weekend, but that is only half the battle. Time this group steps up and represents what we expect from a Team.