First and foremost I want to apologize for the delayed post. I started a new job last Monday and the transition has been slow and taxing, meaning less time for me and ultimately Milan! Speaking of Milan, not much I can say other than the fact that I was wholeheartedly disappointed. I know others were disappointed as well, but many factors went into yesterday’s tactics and lineup and while I don’t agree with Allegri’s choices, I simply didn’t see many alternatives.
For those who clamored for a Plan B, yesterday we got it, and I hope we never see it again. Due to the lack of healthy midfielders Allegri made a decision to attack. His belief; the vital importance of the away goal would outweigh any goals Arsenal would score and put the tie to bed. Little did Allegri know that Wenger would throw just about every attack player he had at Milan, creating a huge gap in balance, and most importantly a nail biting affair for us! Credit to Arsenal for playing with a fire and passion that I have not seen for years, from any team, the pace and tempo of their attack and pressing was incredible, and it was no surprise that they were absolutely exhausted by the second half and Milan were finally able to hold the ball a bit and take advantage of their tired legs. The second half was our only saving grace, because the first half was a shameful embarrassment.
Three attackers in this match was a bad choice, even though the formation was deployed in a more standard 4-3-1-2, Robinho was not effective in providing a defensive/pressuring presence in the midfield. This caused Milan a numerical disadvantage in the vital midfield battle and allowed Arsenal to press up the pitch and close down space making it impossible to move the ball through the midfield and in turn playing long balls that rendered our attackers offside more often than not. Despite this seemingly insurmountable issue, Milan did still create chances, but a few point blank misses from both El Shaarawi and Nocerino were the big difference and created a rather interesting dynamic for Arsenal who would have been KO’d had one of those chances found the back of the net.
Allegri, who owned up to his errors after the match, like any good Coach would do, was proactive at half time and restored the balance and order to Milan. I also believe something needs to be said regarding the lack of true CL veterans in Milan’s lineup, this made a difference on this day were calm and composure were key. The only true experience we had was Van Bommel, the only real positive experience really, because Zlatan and Mexes’ history in the competition is a bit tattered when it comes to matches like this one. You could almost see the nerves on the rest of the player’s faces, and for those wondering why Mesbah had not been chosen of late, you got your answer in this one. Not saying he is a done and dusted but performances like this one will not earn anyone’s trust and confidence. Why Allegri didn’t consider Zambrotta, or at least a more defensive deployment is beyond me, but when your team is struck by injuries you simply have to make the best of what is given. Credit to the players who did step up and shine, notably Abbiati and Abate, as both were instrumental in preserving the performance.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that Milan are in fact through to the next round and this performance was not a direct reflection of the team’s progress. This performance was caused by a chain reaction of events, started by Allegri making due with what was fit and available, and hoping to squeeze out the vital away goal. It backfired in explosive fashion, but was corrected soon thereafter. I don’t worry all that much that this performance will carry over or create a “hangover effect” and the sooner this team can get back on the pitch and back to normal the sooner we can put this match behind us and move on to the next round of the CL. Back with a Parma preview in the next day or so, and again my apologies for spotty posting and coverage.