A few things before I get going on this soapbox. We have talked time and time again about the merits of the 4-3-1-2 for this squad. I have also been happy to note that the 4-2-3-1 is my personal favorite when I coached. I had two teams at a decent level both operating in the formation. The key was I had the players to make it work, Milan does not. For the record I am also not against the 4-3-3, I actually like it, but it takes a different breed of Coach and Player to make it work. It is a reckless formation and demands the utmost technical proficiency of every player on the pitch. Essentially in the 4-3-3 every player is on his own 15 meter island and has to perform. Lastly, I absolutely positively hate the False Nine, let me elaborate.
Football is played with three things, defenders, midfielders and strikers. Now I have always said and still say i would gladly play with nine defensive midfielders and one Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Let me elaborate further, I would do this with nine Micheal Essien in his prime and one Zlatan, that was my vision. It is a pipe dream, and I recognize that, but playing without a striker makes almost zero sense to me. Why would you simplify a job for a center back who is probably not that good begin with. Why give them time and space to do their thing with the ball and allow them to roam free when it comes to defensive duties. You want to pass them to death? I get it, but when you deploy a guy like Jeremy Menez who treats passing like Superman treats kryptonite you are set up to fail. Now you can argue we have a Striker, two real ones at that, in Fernando Torres and Giampaolo Pazzini. The problem is even if they are doing there thing the lack of real wingers is making the formation a bit disjointed at the top, needless to say it is time for a switch.
The switch has to be the 4-3-1-2 and it has to revolve around Keisuke Honda. We have a true #10 something that we couldn't say in this team for YEARS and is he being used? No, and that needs to change. Not to mention we also have the best group of strikers to play an out and out striker (Torres/Pazzo) and a support striker (Menez/SES) it makes to much sense to not do it. Filippo are you listening?
It also releases some of the tension on a guy like Nigel De Jong and allows him to sit a bit allowing guys like Andrea Poli, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Ricardo Montolivo when he returns to run a bit free into channels and be dangerous. This is painfully missing the 4-3-3. It won't impact the deadly runs we are seeing out of Ignazio Abate and Matia DeSciglio but it will allow them a bit more pause and cover if and when they get forward. In a good 4-3-1-2 the team plays narrow and shifts to cover the fullback who provides the width, right now the channels are bigger than a canyon and the defense is being exposed early and often. It has to stop.
Now, I can't sit here and say the 4-3-1-2 will solve all that ails, but it is a start. It is up to the Coach to put the players in a position to be successful, and then it is up to the player's to perform. The 4-3-3 isn't doing that for the players anymore, it is time for a change!