Is tactical stubbornness hindering Allegri?

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Milan vice president Adriano Galliani recently revealed the club would be implementing the 4-3-3 at all levels in their youth sector to replicate and thus prepare the players for the first team. It has been Massimiliano Allegri's preferred formation for some time, but is it a hindrance as well as a reference point?

-Maldini: Italian football has to change

Consider the pros first. There are many aspects of the setup that complement the talent in the current squad. The basic back four has seen a consistent change in personnel over the season, but it provides the foundation of the system and has rarely been altered unless chasing a game late on.

Moving into midfield, it is a similar situation with players coming and going throughout the campaign. The general idea has been the same though, with two combative and defensive-minded midfielders guarding Riccardo Montolivo on either side, allowing him to be the creative focal point in the middle of the pitch.

Stephan El Shaarawy has arguably been the biggest benefactor of the system, which allows him to play in his preferred position on the left flank and thus enables him to cut in and become a constant threat. The same can be said of M'baye Niang, who has flourished on the right side, while Mario Balotelli has replaced Giampaolo Pazzini as the not-so-conventional front man.

When the system works, it works well. However, certain game situations and circumstances require a change, one that has not always been forthcoming. Kevin-Prince Boateng has often been deployed on the right wing, but either naturally wonders in-field, where he is arguably more comfortable or is asked to do so as part of his defensive responsibilities.

Following the widespread criticism of Milan following the 1-1 draw with Napoli on Sunday, there were suggestions the squad is tiring following a rigorous effort to turn their fortunes around this season. With El Shaarawy being rested, it was perhaps an ideal situation to change the setup rather than try to replace him man-for-man with Robinho.

There are various negatives to the way Milan are set up, as there is a risk they can become predictable with teams finding solutions to nullify their threat. As a result, a dependency on individuals to provide a 'moment of magic' becomes a necessity rather than a bonus, which effectively puts more pressure on them.

The top sides in Europe have all evolved over the years, finding new ways to develop and continue improving to progress. Barcelona were a prime example, although their ability to press high up the pitch and with great intensity is also a huge factor. They made subtle changes to their formation in the second leg of the Champions League clash, which ultimately saw them overturn a two-goal deficit in dominant fashion.

By no means is this a suggestion the 4-3-3 should be abandoned, but there is arguably a need for at least a Plan B or a different string to the formation where players can seamlessly change tack.

The Rossoneri experienced problems in Florence a fortnight ago when Vincenzo Montella packed the midfield to crowd out Milan's trio, while pushing his full-backs farther forward to pin back Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio.

If it is a question of fitness as to why Milan are struggling, then perhaps that is the only reason for their troubles in the last two games as they been unable to dictate the pace and dominate possession over 90 minutes. However, Allegri must begin to produce ways of tactically outwitting his counterparts, especially ahead of facing one of the best midfield units in Europe on Sunday at Juventus.

Do you think there is a danger that Milan might become predictable and suffer as a result? Have they been found out over the past two games or is there another reason?

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