The clock read 80 minutes in time. The atmosphere at San Siro was not exactly electrifying despite the score line speaking in favour of the home team. The goal scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of its kind and had presented the fans sheer class and precision to cheer for. However, their team was yet to take the complete charge over the game and the fear of opposition breaking in at any point of time was not allowing them to breathe easy.
Amidst all these uncertainties, a 5 ft 8 inches tall Brazilian figure, on the left flank of the attacking bay, won the possession of the ball from the opposition defender Domenico Criscito, took the first dribble at a tangential slope, refrained from taking another step as a proactive measure with the fear of losing the ball, saw a physically stronger counterpart steaming in from behind, swirled the ball, whirled his right foot over, took a step back and dizzied the ball bisecting the angle held by two defenders in a manner that the ball precisely reached the similar looking head-shaved Dutch teammate waiting to move forward from that point and when the number 10 Dutch failed to put the ball past the net despite a fierce strike from a desired spot courtesy a brilliant save by the goalkeeper, this Brazilian made sure to remain in a position to strike back the rebounding ball only for the defender to deflect it away.
This whole piece of scintillating football could not really double the lead for the home team but gave their fans a moment of madness and a much needed boost which rather worked as a reassuring gesture that their team meant business the other night and were there to take home all the three points. The 5 ft 8 inches figure that produced this magical move to take team’s confidence to the next level was the name that Adriano Galliani would boast for a lifetime speaking about his negotiation powers. The name that made the biggest news on the D-day of the transfer window finally unveiled what he is gifted with for the first time for the home crowd of his new club. Moments later when this vehement figure turned on the other side, the TV camera mounted atop turned its direction, zoomed its focus over the Brazilian and the name that it read imprinted at the bottom of the jersey number 70 was pronouncing the Brazilian matter hard enough. The name written there was – “ROBINHO”.
Ten more minutes of football action and AC Milan were determined the winners over Genoa with a modest 1-0 beating that earned them the all important three points. The day was crucial in consideration to many speculations and theories that have already started mounting over the probabilities of Masimillano Allegri’s untimely departure from being the head coach of AC Milan. The day, I would not say was tactically a great one but certainly a refreshing one given the creative start-up and effective substitutions – both in terms of personnel and formation – that Allegri chose to deal with.
WHAT ALLEGRI GOT RIGHT
Finally, the front line carried the intent that the squad boasts of. Ronaldinho, Robinho and Ibrahimovic always look a threatening congregation on paper but the other night they looked promising on the field too. The idea of preceding Rino over Flamini did not convince me much but my predictions were quite accurate in assuming Allegri would not move to a 4-2-3-1 right away. He remained intact with a more protected 4-3-3 with Pirlo playing at the heart of the midfield, Boateng at his right some yards forward and Gattuso in the role of the left midfielder but played a little deeper than what usually the role demands.
Rino, to say the least did not do it all too badly. He won more balls than expected and could manage to hold possession better than the previous game but I sincerely hope Allegri does not get carried away with this performance against a leisurely paced Genoa midfield.
Another prospect where Allegri outsmarted his counterpart was in effectuating his substitutes. He rightly measured Gattuso’s fatigue and his incompetency to further capitalise on the dead balls and did the right thing by replacing him with a higher energy level text-book midfielder Flamini. His pace-driven runs were virtually eliminating the need for Dinho to invade from the flanks to create the balls for Ibrahimovic. Allegri foreseeing the shape of the game for the next twenty minutes asked Dinho to rest his boots at the right time and added a dimension to the midfield by introducing Seedorf as a replacement.
This substitution altered the initial structure into a more secure 4-4-2 and allowed Flamini to play almost a Left Centre Midfielder a little ahead from Pirlo in line of Boateng. The change also allowed Robinho to proceed from his favoured left bay and Seedorf was right behind him providing the supply of short passes. This was a move that staged the brilliant piece of skills exhibited by Robinho mentioned in the beginning of the article.
On the whole, most of the things fell in place for Allegri. The formation did not differ from the earlier results but the personnel chosen for the fixture scripted a better story. The total approach was pragmatic which very much showed in the way his substitutes changed the course of the game – could not make it evident on the scorecard though.
WHERE DID HE LACK
I wonder what makes Allegri think Ignazio Abate can make up for a hard, hustling full back. There would be no other manager on earth who could probably reason benching a fit Zambrotta to play Abate as a Right Back for as many as three games in succession.
Lately, there has been a set of managers who have attempted to transform some of their key full backs into a holding midfielder but trying the reverse is a highly risky business. Not to forget, Abate is yet to build the promise as a holding midfielder in the first place. This approach, if prolonged would definitely be exposed as a weak link in the midfield as the lagging yards between the positions of Abate and Boateng is something which would not go unnoticed to managers in Europe to post their attacks at through the long balls.
In the absence of Zambrotta, Allegri still has second-tier options like Bonera and Oddo. Stretching this misfit any further would prove fatal to the campaign especially while contesting in Europe.
A RAY OF HOPE
Seeing Luca Antonini back in action in the left back position was a treat to the eyes. He not only had a wonderful game, actually revitalised the role in its traditional form. Antonini unlike the modern wing backs tends to play from the old days position of a conventional left back. Having said that one must mention his instrumental abilities while breaking into the opponent’s half.
Antonini is very much aware about the limitations in the left midfield of Milan and does give it his best to compensate for not having a fast paced left midfielder in their ranks at present. His runs in the last match were not only paced but extremely well-timed too and more often than not he managed to provide something to capitalise from his efforts for Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho.
Seeing him in regular action is something every Milan fan would desire from now on. Allegri has to come up with a plan that reserves a spot for Antonini in the role of the left back complemented by a physically stronger counterpart in the right.
CONCERNS FOR GENOA
Having managed only five points from as many games played is a matter causing worries for Gasperini’s side. Domenico Criscito’s form is the only hope in an otherwise distorted and convoluted shape of the side. Luca Toni is not the solution and not an ideal replacement for David Suazo – the earlier Gasperini realizes this, the better. The Rossoblu should have brought a lot more promise at the start of the season especially after finishing 9th last time. Giuseppe Sculi brought in a lot more quality in the match against Milan and was effective in the adjusted role of a second winger after coming on in the 60th minute. Marco Rossi’s match fitness is in the best interest for the team presently.
WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR MILAN
The titans are all set to clash when the Rossonerri next face Ajax being their guests. A goal at Amsterdam would add lot to the shaking confidence and provide a good thrust before facing Madrid on the next stint. The composure held by centre defence will be a must and Nesta would hold the key for the match.
The travel is not to stop for a while as even after returning to Italy, they are flying to Parma. Again a not-so-easy game is in store and lots of tipsy-turvy moments can spoil the party on either of the occasions. Allegri must get his dices right for these on both the occasions and I would love to see Flamini start with Pirlo and Boateng. Pato’s injury will play a role in both fixtures but my eyes are set on what Robinho does after rediscovering the touch that he lost long back somewhere in the Estadio Bernabeu.