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Tactics Thursday: Pippo's False Nine

There was concern that without a CF Milan would struggle in week one, Pippo said no chance to that worry!

Marco Luzzani

The sale of Mario Balotelli meant Milan would be without their showpiece striker and that week one could present a unique challenge.  A 4-3-3 without an out and striker is not a new idea, in fact it has been done in Spain for a few seasons.  The idea is that you deploy two wingers with an additional midfielder as the striker, creating a space for the striker or number nine without the attributes.  Hence the idea of a "false" nine.  It is not my favorite formation, personally, but when utilized correctly can actually be very difficult to defend.

Without discussing Pippo's version of the false nine let's talk about the formation in general.  In my opinion it has been used both effectively and ineffectively and dependent solely upon the midfielder given the task of false nine.  The key here is a player who can finish but can also disrupt a CB.  This is challenging as CBs tend to be giants, so the player needs a certain physicality as well as intelligence to move players out of position when they are off the ball. When deployed properly the false nine creates a void at the top of the 18 yard box for wingers or midfielders to charge into and score. While Spain's false nine is obviously the most famous and effective, there have been iteration that provide a bit more excitement then 5 yard passing.

Pippo's was of the more exciting variety due in part to the movement of the strikers and the dynamic of Menez and El Sharaawy.  At first glance Milan doesn't really have a player to work in the false nine and with the addition of Fernando Torres it may be the last time we see it, but Honda proved to be capable and watching him interchange with Menez and pull in defenders was excellent and the result proved it.  Is this formation the path forward for Milan? I don't think so, and it was more beginners luck than anything else, but with Torres and Giampaolo Pazzini I don't see the need for a false nine and have to argue for a two striker formation but I can live with the 4-3-3 if the midfielders can perform.