AC Milan: Predicting How Allegri Will Line Up the Rossoneri for Serie a 2013/14
Milan scraped into the Champions League qualification places last season with a last-gasp victory at Siena on the final day of the season.
It took the sensational transfer of Mario Balotelli to ensure their resurgence lasted through until the end of the season, fighting off Fiorentina for that highly coveted final Champions League place.
With rumours rife that Massimiliano Allegri would be sent packing, Adriano Galliani instead moved to confirm that the former Cagliari tactician will remain as the manager for next season.
It has been widely reported that there was a certain degree of dissatisfaction regarding the style of play that Allegri produced, therefore one of the conditions that he stays is that he alter the way he sets up the team.
It has been widely reported that Galliani and president Silvio Berlusconi have pushed Allegri to use two centre-forwards, so the 4-4-2 diamond will probably be the formation that we see Milan line up in most next season.
Galliani will now be working meticulously to provide Allegri with some new players to bolster the squad and help propel Milan back into scudetto contention. So how will Allegri choose to line the team up next season?
Who Is Sure to Start Next Season?
Milan will have a new captain next season after Massimo Ambrosini's contract expired.
But Riccardo Montolivo filled in for Il Capitano on a few occasions and will step up to be the permanent leader of this group.
It is a move that will be the last stage of progression in the 28-year-old's career, after fully adapting to a big club and responding to the pressure that came with his transfer from Fiorentina 12 months ago.
Montolivo will be the heart of the Rossoneri next season and he will be joined by Nigel De Jong, after the Dutchman recovers from his Achilles injury.
The pair of them will screen the back four that will surely be comprised of Ignazio Abate at right-back and Philippe Mexes as one of the centre-backs.
Christian Abbiati will remain with the Rossoneri for one more season and despite the occasional mistake, there are few superior goalkeepers out there that Milan could acquire without breaking the bank.
This should be the basis of a good spine to the side, which will be spearheaded by Mario Balotelli.
Super Mario has enjoyed a tremendous run of form over the past six months since his move back to Italy from Manchester City and this carried over to international level with Italy at the Confederations Cup.
Almost the complete striker, Allegri will be delighted to build the team around a world-class talent such as Balotelli.
Next to him in attack will likely be Il Faraone, Stephan El Shaarawy, who was also sensational last season.
The 20-year-old burnt out somewhat towards the end of the season as Balotelli took on the mantle of leading the team in terms of goals, but he was undoubtedly the club's player of the season.
The Azzurri international has been linked with a move to Manchester City and Monaco, according to Football Italia, but Milan will hope to keep hold of their prized asset with so many years to run on his contract and his value only likely to rise in the future.
Whether he can form a bond with Balotelli as a central pairing is another question, that will be for Allegri to work out.
Who Is Fighting for a Place?
So Milan probably have seven places in their lineup filled, providing that those aforementioned players in the previous slide remain at the club.
So who else is a candidate to start for the Rossoneri?
Well, starting at left-back will probably be Mattia De Sciglio, even though he will face stiff competition from the rejuvenated Kevin Constant.
Allegri reinvented the Guinean international last season as a left-back and he started many games for the Diavoli.
Even if the general consensus surrounding his change of position was marked by trepidation, especially in the big games. Constant held his own and can rely on his excellent physical assets to help him out of trouble when his positional awareness and inexperience in this role is evident.
Mexes' centre-back partner is likely to be Cristian Zapata, who claimed a starting berth last year on loan from Villarreal.
Milan have since moved to sign the Colombian international on a permanent contract and at this stage he will surely beat off competition from Daniele Bonera to continue an ever-improving partnership with his French international teammate.
A new signing is not out of the question and Milan would be wise to strengthen this position in particular.
Barcelona's Carles Puyol and Nice's Renato Civelli are just a couple of candidates to surface on Milan's radar.
The third centre-midfield position is one that could also be filled by a new signing, but there are plenty of options still at the club.
Kevin-Prince Boateng could move back into a more familiar role, as the Ghanaian has struggled to cope with the creative responsibility placed on his shoulders as the team's trequartista.
Mathieu Flamini is looking to remain with Milan after some fine form to finish the season. The Frenchman enjoyed his best run of games and most impressive performances as the former Gunner helped Milan to claim third.
Sulley Muntari would be the other candidate that is currently present in the squad, but if Milan are to be challenging for honours, Allegri should only think about the Ghanaian as a squad player.
Bryan Cristante is one of the most talked about youngsters on the verge of breaking into the Milan first team.
Likened to Montolivo by Galliani, Cristante appears to have that spark that can make the midfield tick. But with such a glaring absence of experience, it is highly unlikely that he will feature in the starting lineup, at least not at this stage.
Who Will Milan Buy to Slot Straight into the Lineup?
Milan will look to acquire some talent through the transfer window with vice-president Adriano Galliani always good at producing quality at a reasonable price.
Milan are short of creativity and somebody capable of playing in the hole, tucked in behind Balotelli and El Shaarawy would be an ideal acquisition.
The idea of a swap between Milan and Inter has been floated again, this time involving Antonio Nocerino and Ricky Alvarez.
Walter Mazzarri is looking for fresh legs in the Nerazzurri engine room, while Milan could offer the Argentine attacking midfielder more game time now that Inter's injuries have cleared up.
The former Velez Sarsfield player actually flourished under Andrea Stramaccioni towards the end of the season when Inter were badly hurt by a series of injuries.
Alvarez led the team with some attractive displays and showed a great combination of technical skill to go with his burst of pace that bares some resemblance to Kaka in his pomp.
Speaking of the Brazilian, Gazzetta dello Sport (via Football España) report that Real Madrid are interested in offering the player plus cash for El Shaarawy, now that Carlo Ancelotti has been named as their new manager.
Milan would be foolish to cash in on Il Faraone now, especially with the player tied down to a long-term deal and only likely to improve his value on the market as he begins to fulfil more and more of his potenial.
The Rossoneri would likely have to absorb Kaka's huge wages and would need to roll the dice on a player that has looked a shadow of the star that guided them to a European Cup several years ago now.
Alvarez remains a low-cost option with a high reward and at just 26 years old, the player is only just entering his prime.
A new centre-midfielder that can pass the ball with great fluency would be another desired signing for Milan and there has been one linked to Milan for some time now.
Andrea Poli has been in great form for Sampdoria over the past months and it appears as if the Rossoneri are going to be his next destination this summer.
Galliani ruled out the possibility of signing the Samp midfielder for now, telling Corriere dello Sport (via Eurosport), "he’ll only arrive if three or four players leave first."
This is a typical tactic from Galliani, who rarely gives away anything until the ink is on the contract, so the arrival of Poli remains a distinct possibility.
Final Prediction for Milan's Starting Line Up Next Season
Formation: Diamond 4-4-2
Goalkeeper: Christian Abbiati
Right-back: Ignazio Abate
Centre-backs: Cristian Zapata and Philippe Mexes
Left-back: Mattia De Sciglio
Regista: Riccardo Montolivo
Centre-midfielder: Nigel De Jong
Centre-midfielder: Andrea Poli
Trequartista: Ricky Alvarez
Centre-forward: Stephan El Shaarawy
Centre-forward: Mario Balotelli