Zenit v Milan Post-Match Comments [Oct 3 2012]

Zenit: 4-3-3 – Malafeev, Anyukov, Hubocan, Lombaerts, Criscito, Fayzulin, Shirokov, Witsel, Bystrov, Kerzhakov, Hulk.

Milan: 4-2-3-1 – Abbiati, Abate, Bonera, Zapata, Antonini, De Jong, Montolivo, Emanuelson, Boateng, El Shaarawy, Bojan


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First Half Position and movement.

The Bad:

Emanuelson’s confidence on free kicks following the deflection goal in the first half – Did you see the followup? He got a severe deflection, and granted his original shot was on target, but it was easily going to be saved. He still (or anyone, really) is yet to prove he deserves to be the primary free kick taker.

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70 Minutes of Defending – 20 minutes were great, Milan did some excellent things, which will be touched on later. In the other 70 minutes though, they were often out of sorts, susceptible to the counterattack, weak in defensive transition, and struggled to deal with balls sent back into the midfield.

Zapata – His reading of the game was terrible today, he was a step off, wasn’t a threat going forward, and often looked lost on the pitch. Bonera had to cover for him on many an occasion, and Hulk’s goal was a direct mistake of his, as he defended the cut-back faint by Hulk, allowing him to continue on his preferred left foot. You simply have to know which foot the dangerous players on the opposition prefer to use.

Set Piece Defense – 6 goals this season conceded on set pieces. Allegri once again provides a key insight into his plan to solve the crisis in his interview after the match, “We should avoid conceding goals on set plays.”

Rotation of Central Defenders – Thiago and Nesta were the best pair last year. I understand Allegri is trying to figure out which is the best tandem this season, but rotating them every single match provides no continuity, and is one of the reasons our team is so faulty at the back.

Nocerino – Who is he this year? Noce has been a shadow of the player he was last season, and without Ibrahimovic and Cassano to supply him balls, seems completely out of sorts, with less of his trademark runs into the box.

Milan’s Away Record in the CL Until Today (Under Allegri) – Two years since they won an away match.

Inability to Deal with Pressure on the Ball – Once Zenit brought pressure, the passing strings dried up. Play became more positional as opposed to possessional, and the quality really dried up from the Milan players, along with the creative play that characterized the opening 15 minutes.


The Good:

Chance Conversion – 4 shots on target, 3 goals.

Compact Defending – It didn’t happen very often, but when Milan defended as a unit, they compacted vertically to a space of about 25-30 yards between Bojan and Bonera. When they held this line, they were near impenetrable, however, they only were able to successfully utilize the position on two occasions throughout the match. They were narrow for around 20 minutes in the game, and they were the most successful defensive periods for Milan.

Abbiati – Bellissimo. A joy to watch. One mistake, but the three other certain goals he prevented make up for that. Put off Montolivo on the corner kick, and misjudged the flight of the ball. Three world-class saves.

El Shaarawy – He’s coming into his own. 9 games and 5 goals this season, he’s on pace to a free vacation courtesy of Ambrosini. Showed flashes of Pato/Kaka today.

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El Shaarawy’s goal- http://img231.imageshack.us/img231/3369/yadbmzlqskczpgvddwaste.mp4

Wing Buildup Play – When going down the wings, Milan were excellent and utilized their speed. When going through the middle of the pitch, however, Boateng, De Jong,  and Montolivo struggled to put any sense or urgency into their play

The Starting Lineup – Allegri’s most positive lineup to date. Barring one or two small tweaks, Allegri fielded what many might consider Milan’s strongest XI. In a must-win game, he brought the A-team.

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The Press Confrence – These are almost becoming farcical with Allegri either stating the glaringly obvious, or saying perhaps I should have reacted to these things that I saw.

  • “When Zenit changed, I perhaps also should have changed something tactically in order to regain possession and control of the game.”
  • “I maybe should have played 3 in the middle after half an hour when we had problems getting out of our half.”
  • “We have to learn to read different parts of the game and that happened tonight. In the end of the game we played with 5 defenders at the back.”
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Final Thought:

Allegri turned up the style just enough to get it done. He’s finally breaking through in the 10-15 minute periods Milan play well in, and those goals have been the difference in their matches, as they almost look certain to concede after they play well for a few minutes. Today they had a bit of luck in the form of an own goal and a deflected free kick, but there were enough moments of fluid movement that it’s evident the side are progressing as a whole. Allegri also made the correct substitution to get Pazzini in with enough time to make an impact, unlike what he was being given against Parma. Not out of the woods yet for Milan, as they sit in second place in their group with 4 points, but a win at Malaga, and they will be feeling good about their chances of advancing from the group.

Follow me on Twitter @PDAcquaviva

About Pete Acquaviva

Pete writes about Milan on this blog. Occasionally other things. You would know which of them it is if you've gotten this far.

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