The final piece in Milan's jigsaw -- by Gautam Sharma
Milan jigsaw mini.jpg
After a gap of 7 years, Milan are the Champions of Italy again. One could attribute this most recent success to various factors over the last 12 months Ė the key acquisitions of Ibrahimovic, Robinho & Cassano, the crisis that hit rivals Inter last season, early exit from the Champions League, the successful CB partnership of Thiago & Nesta, etc. However, one cannot understate the role played by new coach Allegri and his tactical acumen.
Leoís World of Fantasy
When Leo grudgingly took over the reins at Milan, he inherited the challenges that were cleverly largely masked by the tactical competence of his predecessor Ancelotti. An aging squad, lack of investment, lack of a quality bench specially in defence, etc. Leoís answer to these issues was 4-2-Fantasista, an all out attacking approach to the game. And the rest is history. Leoís reign at Milan was characterized by loss in key games, and not so coincidently we could say the same about Leoís Inter. There is a fine line between bravery & foolishness, and Leoís tactics frequently flirted back and forth this line.
Back to the Basics
Allegriís logical approach to tactics at Milan came as a breadth of fresh air to most rossoneri. Inspite of being given the attacking talents of Ibra, Robinho and later Cassano, Allegriís work started from the defence. His favoured 4-3-1-2 formation was much more compact, providing better cover for the defence. Milan won the Scudetto conceding only 24 goals, the least for any team in the league. A sharp contrast to Leoís Milan, this defensive solidity was not just a result of Thiago & Nestaís form. It was the defensive discipline Allegri managed to build with his 4-3-1-2. Interestingly, Milan's focus in the January transfer window was also on defence (Van Bommel, Emanuelson). And the results showed. Milan had conceeded 18 goals from the fiurst 21 games, ended up conceeding just 5 from the last 17. Everyone was working harder off the ball too, a prime example of that being the improved work rate demonstrated by Robinho.
There were many doubters when Milan has announced the appointment of Allegri, who has never coached at this level before. After all, overachieving at a small club like Cagliari does not necessarily make you qualified to coach a club like Milan in the Champions League, manage players like Ibrahimovic & Robinho, and massage the ego of a President like Berlusconi. Allegri exceeded expectation in all counts. He not only build a defensive discipline that Milan have lacked for a long time, he was also tactically astute enough to manage injuries, player rotation, star ego's, and his President's often irrational demands. And he won the title in his first season with Milan, joining a select group of coaches like Capello & Ancelotti.
Milanís Calcio Mercato this summer
"It is not about presents and cherries on the cake. The important thing is to build a balanced squad." -- Massimiliano Allegri
At first glance, this looks like a very ordinary, unremarkable summer. No presents, no cherries on the cake. However, Milan have cleverly managed to get rid of some deadwood wages (Legro, Papa, Onyewu, & Janku) as well as the substantial wages of the injury-prone Pirlo. They have also successfully farmed out two of their more exciting talents (Merkel & Strasser), and acquired another exciting youngster in El Shaarawy, who is one kid to watch out for. So that leaves Mexes & Taiwo, so what is so remarkable about that. Before we discuss that, there is the case of the invisible man in that list...
Mr X, the Invisible Man
Galliani has been alluding to a particular acquisition all summer, a player he has named Mr X (yeah, that baldie is such a drama queen!). Most likely Mr X is a regista, a like-to-like replacement for Pirlo, and perhaps a younger, healthier version. The most talked about names in the media have been Montolivo & Aquilani (the latter seems to be in the driving seat lately, inspite of his injury history). The long shots could include Banega, Ganso & Hamsik, even though the latter two have different characteristics. Eitherways, Milan are going to acquire a quality playmaker this summer, and that in my opinion will be the final piece to complete Milanís jigsaw.
Completing the Jigsaw
One way to analyse the impact of these transfers is to create two teams from Milanís current squad using Allegriís formation of choice (4-3-1-2) to identify the gaps:
Continued at: http://footballspeak.com/post/2011/0...ns-jigsaw.aspx