Admittedly this post is going to ask more questions than it answers, but sometimes getting to the truth takes a bit of a journey. The masses have spoken and the emotion surrounding the return of Kaka is certainly interesting, but tactically I am concerned. The immediate idea and reaction is that Ricky Kaka will suddenly become the CAM this team always wanted, needed, yet I wonder how this can be when even in his best time at Milan he was nothing of the sort?
The last time Milan deployed a CAM before our recent scudetto season was with Carletto. At that time it was Rui Costa in the hole behind the strikers with Clarence tucked deeper into the 3 man midfield of the 4-3-1-2. It was an a balanced Milan, and one of my favorites. Width came from the fullbacks and the midfield was compact, defensively astute, and elegantly simple. The problem that Carletto had was the emergence of a boy named Kaka and the decline of the great Rui Costa. Carletto was never one for the 4-3-3 as he prefers balance, and always had a penchant for less strikers than more. Behold the birth of the XMAS tree, more out of necessity than design.
Carletto realized Kaka didn't have the defensive fortitude to truly sit front and center behind the strikers. He can not tackle, and he does not have the range of passing that would be expected from a true #10. The solution? Two players working as one, instead of a single CAM, he deployed two. A truly innovative double pivot in attack instead of in front of defense. One player for the pace and fantasy, the other for the workmanship, sure it sacrificed a striker, but if it worked well, the goals would come from more than a #9, and the rest is history! To the tune of a CL and and a World Player of the Year for Milan's fabled #22.
Fast forward, Ricky goes to RM, and is asked to play wide in a 4-2-3-1, like Carletto, Mourinho sees the deficiencies in his game to the point of not playing him at all when defense is required on the flanks. He can't push him closer to goal because he has strikers, but more importantly the formation suits the rest of the team, not him. He gets spot starts and makes good, but never truly shines. His pace slows, but his first touch and finishing are still there, he becomes more second striker than CAM at Madrid and the team shifts to balance him when he is deployed. Ozil sits back at CAM, CRON attacks wide from the left, Kaka tucks into the side of the 18 and Khedira does a bit more defensive work, the team resembles a 4-2-1-3. Mou doesn't like it, and apparently neither does Carletto.
So here we are, hoping and wishing to be rid of the 4-3-3 in favor of a more balanced suitable formation for this team and instead we are stuck deeper in it. The traits of a proper #10, a Sneijder, an Ozil or a Cesc are that of two touch football. Receive the ball, spot the next pass and get to goal. It also requires a bit of steel to stop counters before they start and make sure CBs and DMs are not dictating play. I don't believe Kaka has any of this, and therefore the return of the 4-3-1-2 is not possible.
If I were to deploy this team today I see only two possible formations the 4-3-3 and the 4-3-2-1. Both will require a strong bulldog midfield to balance the team and both will expose the team on the flanks to counter, but based on the true reality of the personnel this is where we stand...
4-3-3: Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, Mexes, DeScig; Poli, Monty, Muntari; Kaka, Balo, SES
4-3-2-1: Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, Mexes, DeScig; Poli, Monty, Muntari; Kaka, SES; Balo