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Will Honda Be a Difference Maker for AC Milan in 2014

Why Alberto Zaccheroni's deployment of Keisuke Honda is head and shoulders above anything Clarence Seedorf attempted.

Matthias Hangst

The firing of Clarence Seedorf should not have surprised anyone.  To stubborn and proud for his own good, his insistence to play Kaka at CAM and use a formation with wingers but deploying CAM's across the board should be remembered as his undoing.  Watching Honda in any strip but AC Milan's is a joy, a true #10 who can work the ball in the attacking third.  He is just as comfortable with his back to goal as he is pressing towards it.  He can hassle opposing CBs and knows when to push play.  So what happened last year at AC Milan!?

First and foremost he had played nearly an entire season before transferring, so his rest was minimal.  At times Honda looked exhausted.  However, a Coach should put players in a position to succeed and Honda was never given that opportunity. He struggled mightily on the wing and the few chances he did hit the goal he did it through the center channel. For a team desperately in need of a real CAM to link play through the middle he would have been welcomed. With Seedorf gone the question now rests on Pippo Inzaghi who will either deploy his #10 as a true attacking midfielder, behind hopefully two strikers, but for Honda to flourish he needs to be given the reins in that center channel.

For Japan, his first match was fruitful.  While I am sure he would trade his goal for the result his touches and link up was excellent.  Zaccheroni, the former Title winning AC Milan Coach, does in fact know how to deploy a 4-2-3-1 but outside of Honda the quality in the spine doesn't shine through.  Kagawa was asked to drop deep and Japan kept things compact opening up the flurry of overlapping runs from the Ivory Coast.  Despite the often lonely guy in space syndrome Honda did well completing nearly 75% of his passes and winning 67% of his challenges.  A tall order against an Ivory Coast team capable of speed and muscle.

At the end of the day, Milan has a real player on their hands, one capable of unlocking a game and doing the work needed to support the spine of the midfield.  He wasn't an asset for Milan last season, then again nobody was, but a new Coach will surely understand what he has on his hands and use him properly.  Honda will need to acclimate to Serie A, but once he does he will be a difference maker.