Milan v Napoli Post-Match Comments

82% passing success. That is Milan’s completion for passes throughout this entire season. Why do I bring this up? To tell you that it’s X% better or worse than last year, to give a statistical imprint of what trend is emerging? Actually, just to illustrate how statistics should always take a backseat to common sense analysis. Kobe Bryant is putting up incredible scoring numbers and attempting massive numbers of shots while breaking scoring records. But anyone who watches him, still sees a top-10 all time player, but one hampered by injury still, who takes up too large a portion of his team’s available spending cash, and then complains that the rest of his team are scrubs. Looking at the stats doesn’t always help you understand the situation. 

 So here, I’m going to begin not by telling you what the previous passing statistics for the side are, what the ideal is, or anything like that. I’m going to talk about visually what the structure of passing has morphed into instead of the effect that comes as a result (the better passing %).

The first area of significance for me is tempo, the pace of play. I don’t just mean, the ball moves quickly around the pitch, I mean it moves with actual direction now. Triangles are formed in tighter areas, and Milan have finally begun the long process of erasing the “kick it all the way away and then start over” defense that has existed since the fall of Nesta/Silva/Maldini. Granted, when your midfield goes from Pirlo, Seedorf, and Gattuso to Montolivo, De Jong and Muntari, there’s going to be a need to clear rather than play to feet, but rightly so, Inzaghi has pointed out that this strategy was not effective, and furthermore was being put on repeat ad-nauseum since Leonardo threw Huntelaar on the wing for a season.

So Inzaghi told his team in preseason he wanted to see more buildup play from them, and they’ve responded in spurts. Just to be clear, Milan lack quality passing in order to actually take the leap to “great side”, and as such the ceiling is limited with this group. With that in mind, despite Silvio Berlusconi’s claims that third is the goal (maybe if they sign Brozovic – who they won’t- and someone else of quality to aid the midfield, which again they won’t in a significant enough way) Inzaghi has this side aiming for a more realistic 4th-5th place finish in the Europa League positions.

Returning to the triangle passing, which can be performed effectively by children (watch Barcelona’s youth academy to see 10-year olds doing what Muntari can’t) but what made this Milan side dynamic (today) was their awareness of potential spaces to move into. This mean that the passing was chained in a manner that accomplished two goals:

 

1. created space for the player receiving the ball to take his head up and pick the next pass

2. created space for the third player to run into by virtue of other runs into space

3. relieved the pressure in tight spaces, opening up the field for larger counterattacks

 

So where to go from here? This isn’t a particularly marked improvement, or anything that reasonable teams don’t do on a very regular basis. But you also have to consider how broken this Milan side was, and how they had years and years of terrible habits built up that hadn’t been corrected. Many remain. Many many many remain. But, the passing is a start, and against the right opposition, it leads to better counterattacking situations. Teams press up to win the ball as you possess it deep, it frees the front three to spread and have one-on-ones as happened several times.  Progress. Just slow progress.

 

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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.

One Thought on “Milan v Napoli Post-Match Comments

  1. RossoneriFido on December 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM said:

    Thanks Pete.
    Yes progress was evident yet I am worried like everyone else about the way we defend which is imo our most terrible thing we do. We simply cant defend. Yesterday thanks to the whole team cpntribution on the defensive end and the heroics of Mexes and Diego Lopez we managed not to cpncede. We need to learn how to defend in order to really secure the third place.
    Forza Milan

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