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Qasa Alom On February - 10 - 2011

Do Milan Need To Change Shape?

With a run of 4 draws and only 3 wins so far, it’s fair to say that 2011 has not started quite how Milanisti envisaged it to. Qasa Alom ponders whether a change of formation could bring about a resurgence of form.

Taking a look at the form tables from around the continent at the moment, there are three teams in particular who stand out; Napoli maintain their good form to remain in second place, Udinese continue defying the odds to find themselves in a European spot after losing the first four games of the season and after a thoroughly underwhelming first half of the season Liverpool have finally managed to drag themselves up to a more familiar position in the premier league.

What do the three teams have in common? Unfortunately as the Andy Carrol debacle exemplifies, it’s certainly not an eye for getting talented players on the cheap, but rather playing a 3 man defensive line. Is this something that Massimilano Allegri should consider, given the Rossoneri’s indifferent form of late? Naturally many people can look at this as a reactive and desperate option, yet there are many aspects to Milan’s squad that lends itself conveniently to a back three.

First of all much like Napoli, Milan play with two intelligent, fluid and creative sparks buzzing around one powerful centre forward. With Robinho above all adapting to this system and showing his willingness to track back and work hard for the team. Furthermore, such an unorthodox formation would add some much needed unpredictability to a team that‘s become easy to stifle and lacking dynamism.

Indeed the 1-1 draw at the Marassi versus Genoa was symptomatic of Milan’s stuttering form this year as Milan took a deserved lead midway through the first half, but failed to capitalize on their advantage. Genoa inevitably found a way through Milan’s mediocre rearguard and then even looked the more likely team to find a winner at the end of the match.

Much of this can be attributed to Milan’s inability to retain possession and create chances in the midfield. Not only did this limit the side’s attacking potential by leaving the front three isolated, it also encouraged Genoa to go on the front foot and expose Milan’s weaknesses.

Many will thus question Allegri’s decision to start with an extremely defensive minded midfield of  Flamini Van Bommel  Gattuso, when there were more expansive options such as Emanuelson or the promising Merkel on the bench who would have been better suited to linking up with the attack. However with Milan’s first choice fullbacks and Alessandro Nesta all out, having such a midfield wall was surely to protect a makeshift defence that’s been susceptible to attacks from out wide.

Certainly another way to provide this extra cover would be by inserting an extra defender into the back line and utilise wingbacks for width. Against Genoa, Allegri opted for the right-footed Bonera at left back rather than the natural left footer Emanuelson, which showed alack of trust in the Dutchman’s defensive ability.

Yet by using him as a wing-back, who content in the knowledge that he has cover behind him, Emanuelson could use his versatility for a number of roles, stay back as an auxiliary defender, come inside as an extra midfielder to help retain the ball as well as provide an attacking threat . This would also benefit the ageing legs of Zambrotta or the ever improving Ignazio Abate on the other flank.

Of course the issue here with having an extra centre back would mean conceding the central midfield area of the pitch, however the recent Injuries have shown that Thiago Silva is perfectly capable of stepping up into the midfield to add the extra body and destroy or create attacks in a neo-libero position.

The major concern here with this formation though will be having two players that are physically dynamic enough to boss the midfield, whilst also having enough ball skills continue to dominate possession. Andrea Pirlo’s role even in a three man midfield has been brought into question this season, so it would be difficult to envisage him being much more alive in a two man midfield. Conversely though il Genio could be re-invigorated by having genuine width in the side to work with, whilst also returning Mathieu Flamini to a more familiar two-man-central midfield, in which he had the best season of his career alongside Cesc Fabregas for Arsenal.

Arguably much of this can be discounted though, simply for the fact that Milan have unfortunately suffered from a freakishly long injury list that’s robbed them of nearly the whole midfield – yet even with the likes of Kevin Prince Boateng, Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo fit, Allegri would certainly acknowledge that his team have often played within themselves. Perhaps he can take some encouragement from the fact that Alberto Zaccheroni managed to win lo scudetto with a far less talented team in 1999 using three centre backs and both his current captain and goalkeeper were  members of that team.

You can follow Qasá Alom on twitter here

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Rod says:

    Certainly something for Allegri to consider if things don’t pick up. He’s a pragmatic tactician instead of a stubborn idealist so such ideas are not beyond him.

    In the meantime he needs to focus on getting the 4-3-1-2 back to the effective level that it was at the end of the year. During that period the backline was watertight and high, and coupled with a compact and tenacious midfield trio it was easier to dominate the middle of the park and control the game. Against Genoa, the midfield sat back leaving huge gaps between midfield and the forwards, which forced the undesirable option of playing hopeful long balls to a tired Zlatan.

  2. Ted says:


    Allegri’s a novice! Seriosly, I’m sick of all the long balls to Ibra!

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