How Milan Can Become Great Again
It’s been a perculiar, unpredictable season for Milan as the side have endured great levels of torment from humiliating defeats to the likes of Inter and Manchester United, and they have found themselves looking desperately blunt on other occasions, often with dramatic late goals saving them from further embarrassment. Huntelaar’s late double act at Catania and Seedorf’s injury time winner recently against Chievo Verona are just two games that spring to mind.
Despite this, they now find themselves just a single point behind their now-stuttering Milanese neighbours. Leonardo is keen to bring an attacking, expansive style of football to Milan, and who can blame him with the likes of Ronaldinho, Pato and Borriello as well as cultured, if aging midfielders such as Pirlo, Seedorf and up until now, Beckham. Despite that recent humbling 7-2 aggregate defeat to United, Milan aren’t necessarily too far off being able to compete with Europe’s top sides once again. Winning this season’s Serie A would clearly be a tremendous boost for morale and momentum, and it’d make it an awful lot easier to attract more big names to the club, but it shouldn’t be seen as the be-all or end-all.
It’s vital at this stage that Berlusconi gives Leonardo time to learn the errors of his ways and continue to develop the AC project, but it’s also equally important for him to resist the seemingly regular temptations to poke his nose into the tactical developments. Whilst it’s been a Milan tradition to play skillfull, attacking football since the days of Giuseppe Viani in the late 50s, Leonardo needs to be afforded the freedom to find the right level of balance freely and organically.
However, despite any pressure coming from above, Leo really does need to learn the errors of his ways, and fast. Whilst they could actually have found themselves two or three goals up early on against Manchester United, it’s naive to think that you can approach these sorts of games with three forwards who have absolutely no defensive responsibilities, and an aging, more than slightly immobile midfield. A change in formation coupled with perhaps three or four signings next season will see Milan well on their way to achieving the titles they so desperately crave.
Barcelona and Manchester United have shown for the last two or three years that you can still be defensively solid whilst still playing attacking football, whilst Real Madrid and Arsenal look to be following a similar trend this season. The key to all of these sides is a decent sense of balance throughout the respective teams, and also a large degree of discipline despite the often-free flowing playing systems. Firstly, this straight-edged 4-3-3 formation at Milan has to abanonded, in favour of a more modern, multi-dimensional system. What they should be looking to mirror is the increasingly popular fluid 4-2-3-1 system that can just as easily transform into a 4-5-1, 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-2-2. With some added personnel, it’d be a mouth-watering prospect to see the Rossoneri line up in similar fashion to this next season:
Gallas Nesta Silva Srna
Pato Ronaldinho Vargas
Salvatore Sirigu has been hugely impressive in goal for Palermo since displacing Rubinho, and despite recently signing a new contract, would most likely cost under 10 million Euros. He is likely to become Italy’s number one when Buffon eventually hangs up his gloves, and he has the potential to be a permanent fixture for Milan for the next decade, and possibly beyond.
The signings of Gallas and Srna would transform the defence completely. Srna would admittedly be pricey with Shakthar in such a healthy financial position, possibly in the region of 15 million Euros, but William Gallas’ contract with Arsenal expires in the summer, and the opportunity would be there for Milan to pick up a tremendous bargain if they declare their interest now. Obviously his preferred position is centre back, but he offers versatility and experience, and he could be the longer term replacement for Nesta centrally whilst filling in at right back next season to add some much needed solidity to that flank with Pato playing ahead of him.
Juan Manuel Vargas could add an incredible level of energy to the left flank, and could potentially be highly destructive in combination with the forward-thinking Dario Srna. Vargas offers goals, regular assists and also the added bonus of a high work rate - something Ronaldinho certainly does not offer in a fairly similar position right now.
In the bigger games, Leo could consider dropping either Pato or Borriello and playing Mancini on the right, should Milan decide to sign him permanently. Another option if Milan want to add depth on the wings is to approach the highly rated Milos Krasic of CSKA, who is also available on a free transfer at the end of the Russian season. Seedorf still has the ability to operate in this sort of position in small doses, and there’s also always the chance that Beckham could once again return for a third loan spell next season.
Finally, I would be looking to replace Pirlo within the next year or two. Whilst I’ve long been an admirer, it’s now getting to the point where he’s slowly becoming too much of a luxury player, and almost acting as a burden if they do want to play a more fast-paced, free-flowing game. Marcelo Lippi has it right in the national team by playing him as more of an advanced trequartista, but unfortunately for Pirlo, Milan already have Ronaldinho who can operate in this role far more effectively. If you look at the deep-lying playmakers at the other top clubs using similar systems to the one I propose, such as Michael Carrick and Xabi Alonso, you’ll notice that they actually offer a high level of defensive cover, which Pirlo has never really been able to offer to quite the same extent, and certainly won’t be able to as he drifts into the dreaded thirties. This is obviously a highly specialised position, so the top players will come at a premium price, so it may be wise for Milan to look for a younger, less polished player who can be developed to play in this role for years to come. Stefan Defour, just 21 years old, at Standard Liege is an ideal candidate for this role.
The total price of these players would admittedly be rather significant, but unfortunately it’s a price Berlusconi will have to pay if Milan are to continue playing exciting, attacking football and bring success in doing so. What he has to decide now is if he’s content to continue playing second fiddle to Europe’s other giants, or if he’s genuinely ready to make a financial sacrifice (money which should by all logic be available following the sale of Kaka anyway) in order to help Milan climb from their knees and put on the show we’d all love to see at the Giuseppe Meazza.
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9 Responses to How Milan Can Become Great Again
lots of mistakes in there … first Krasic is not out of a contract in the summer. His contract expires in 2011.
I added this link to check it yourself.
Darijo Srna is NOT a left back. He plays as a right back/winger.
Ronaldinho has shown his ineffectiveness when he is used in the center of the park .. He won the player of the year award when he was playing for Barcelona at the wide left wing position. Being in that position of the pitch provides protection of his left side as players always attempt to tackle him from his right side.
Why would Milan even consider buying Mancini? Depth? Look for that in a young player who is not past his prime.
You suggested a change of formation but you did not actually change the already-used formation. all you did was change the roles of the players in the pitch. The only thing Leo needs to tell his wingers is: Drag back and defend especially against big teams.
Thanks for the comment. Firstly I didn’t once say Krasic’ contract expires in the summer, I said it expires at the end of the Russian season which has only just started back up recently (it doesn’t follow the normal European pattern). You are right about Srna, however, although this can easily be addressed with Gallas playing as a narrow left back in the short term as he has done before in his career. Having said that, this would perhaps leave them slightly fragile on the right if both Srna and Pato were playing.
The current Milan formation is very much a 4-3-3 with 3 deeper midfielders and wingers that push right forward, not the 4-2-3-1 that I proposed. A typical midfield might consist of Pirlo, Ambrosini and one of Gattuso, Flamini, Seedorf or Beckham. As I’m sure you’d agree, Seedorf is the only one of those players who can naturally operate as the advanced midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system. Having Ronaldinho playing centrally ahead of 2 deep midfielders is completely different to playing a standard 4-3-3 - it’s not the same formation at all, especially as the two wingers (particularly Vargas) would be far more conventional than in the current set-up where they play as inside forwards.
As for Ronaldinho himself - yes, his regular position was on the left wing at Barca, but Barca always have a Plan B. This year it is to switch to the 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation, but under Rijkaard it was to tuck Ronaldinho in behind Eto’o with any two of Giuly, Larsson, Deco or eventually Messi to the sides of him and this often worked to great effect due to the movement around him. In fact, it eventually won them the European Cup thanks to a man of the match performance from Ronaldinho, and Larsson’s delivery from the right when they switched to this system. It’s little more than a trendy myth that Ronaldinho has only played at the top of his game on the left. Besides, the whole point of these modern 4-2-3-1 formations is the fluidity and interchange of the front four players, making it hard for defences to track the movement.
I don’t think they will sign Mancini either, but there’s always the chance if the price is right. It’s not as though it’s beyond Milan to sign aging players, is it? 34 year old Mario Yepes is the current name being linked with a move there.
So yes, I’d say the only mistake in there is putting Srna in as a left back. The formations are very much different, and Ronaldinho has performed to a high standard centrally in the past (that admittedly doesn’t guarantee he’d maintain his current form there in the present).
I think the author analyse it very clear. Though cant agree all of the points. but nice article.
If you look at the gap between Manchester United and ACM displayed during the Champions League matches, the difference is not signings or formation but intensity.
ACM have a nurturing environment but a laconic style — typified by Pirlo’s sleepy distribution. The addition of youth — the right youth — will help; but Leonardo will need to find a method to increase the juice at the right moment in a match in the way that Manchester United and Inter have that way of accelerating into 7th gear, right when the opponent has spent its last.
Good stuff. Excellent analysis. I agree with all the arguments of the author. Thank you!
u guys should update this site on a more regular basis, the same story stay there for weeks
Huntelaar’s late double was NOT against Napoli. We drew AC Milan twice. In the andata Milan scored in the first few minutes on a Pato goal and he either scored a brace or perhaps it was Ronaldinho and Milan were up 2-0 inside of 20 minutes. Napoli fought back with a wonder strike from Cigarini and a goal from Denis. The ritorno was just played last week.
I think the game you’re thinking of was Huntelaar’s double against Catania, perhaps.
Regarding updating this site… I pretty much strictly watch Serie A and my Chicago Fire. I’m game for writing some articles.
You are full of s**t..!!! Especially you mr. Presidente.. Why are u so stingy berlusconi?!?!.. Invest more money for new players and youth academy..
And for our young coach leo, maybe its time for new era, Tassoti is the man for this job..
and no offence Leo, I love you as a MILAN player but not as MILAN manager..
I prefer the old fashion MILAN tradition for Italain manager for MILAN..
For MILAN squad, bring more defender such as Kjaer, Vidic, de Silvestri, Srna or Mexes..
Just dump party boy Ronaldinho, and bring us Van Der Vaart.. For winger please hurry to snap Roysten Drenthe..
Mancini, Boriello, Kaladze, Oddo, Jankulavski, Dida, Oguchi, Favalli is a waste of time..
If possible BRING BACK MY KAKA’ or landed Fabregas to SANSIRO..
In front name like Torres or Dzeko would be a huge depth for MILAN..
And give Huntelaar more chance to play.. Huntelaar is better than lazy and selfish Boriello…
By the way I agree with Salvatore Sirigu for MILAN goal..
Kjaer/Zambrotta Nesta/Bonera Vidic/Silva Abate/Antonini
Pato/Beckham Van der Vaart/Seedorf Drenthe/Abate
Forza MILAN… Piece… Hehehehe…
Balance and discipline can really make a side work. The responsibility lays with the coach to synchronise the team. Not all coaches can work with all teams. The management need to realise their choices and not just throw money because he won the season last year.