Milan 1-3 Fiorentina: Allegri’s Milan outplayed across the pitch

November 13, 2012

The starting line-ups

Fiorentina produced an excellent display, particularly in the first half, while Milan looked completely uncomfortable in their system.

Max Allegri continued with the 4-2-3-1 system he’d successfully used in the 5-1 win over Cheivo, but brought back Philippe Mexes, Mattia De Sciglio and Kevin-Prince Boateng into the side.

Vincenzo Montella was without Stevan Jovetic, so used Luca Toni as his primary striker.

Fiorentina’s system seemed to cause Milan problems across the pitch – they were unable to win the ball quickly and didn’t exploit their numerical advantage on the flanks.

Fiorentina bravery

Milan are hardly a top-level team this season, but it was nevertheless surprising to see them so easily dominated in a home fixture. Fiorentina dominated possession in the first half and were extremely brave with the positioning of their players, forcing Milan back into their own half.

The Fiorentina wing-backs were particularly offensive-minded. Previously this has been perfectly natural – against Juventus, for example, it was a battle of wing-backs down either side and therefore Manuel Pasqual and Juan Cuadrado had plenty of license to push back their opposite numbers. Here, they were theoretically outnumbered on the flanks – it would have been perfectly natural for them to be constrained by the attacking threat of Stephen El Sharaway and Urby Emanuelson, but they remained committed to attacking the Milan full-backs.

Midfield

David Pizarro played his usual battling regista role at the bottom of what was basically a midfield diamond, and in theory he was tracked by Boateng. But he was occasionally left to go free, and started some good passing moves from deep

Milan’s major problem was elsewhere in the diamond, however. Adem Ljajic drifted around between the lines, and because neither Mexes or Daniele Bonera wanted to come up to the pitch towards him, he became the responsibility of the two Milan central midfielders, Riccardo Montolivo and Massimo Ambrosini. They often became overloaded in that zone with both Borja Valero and Alberto Aquilani breaking forward from midfield positions – and it was those two players that put Fiorentina into a 2-0 lead by half-time, after midfield runs weren’t tracked effectively.

The final part of the Fiorentina jigsaw was Toni’s role upfront – he held the ball up, won aerial duels against the centre-backs and basically acting as a battering ram, forcing Fiorentina higher up the pitch, and giving the rest of the side space to break into.

Milan problems

Of course, Milan should have been able to counter-attack quickly and stretch Fiorentina’s back three out of shape – they had a numerical advantage down the flanks, and when the Fiorentina wing-backs moved high up the pitch, Milan had opportunities to break 4 v 4 – particularly promising after Pizarro collected an early booking for dissent.

But their passing was slow and lacking in ambition, while Fiorentina made sure to pressure their former captain Montolivo – who has played more long balls than any other Serie A player this season – to prevent him prompting quick attacks. Toni and Ljajic dropped back and prevented short passes being played into Milan’s central midfielders from the back, which left Mexes and Bonera with time on the ball, but little idea of how to start breaks. The full-backs are average in a technical sense and found the space in behind them exploit by Ljajic when they moved high up – in all, it was a remarkable Milan demonstration of how to appear outnumbered in almost every zone of the pitch.

Second half

Allegri attempted to change things – his half-time rant at the players was apparently audible from the pitch – bringing on Bojan Krkic and Giampaolo Pazzini for Emanuelson and Pato. Pazzini played in Pato’s role, while Bojan played behind him with Boateng pushed right.

Milan’s performance improved in the second half, although this was helped by Fiorentina’s disappointing happiness to sit back and soak up pressure, and the home side primarily threatened from set-pieces and hopeful crosses, rather than through creativity in open play. Boateng and Stephen El Shaarawy constantly shot from distance, but rarely looked to play threaded balls. Pazzini’s goal arrived following a set-piece – a tap-in after Mexes’ clever flick against the post. It was Milan’s only shot on target.

Montella used his substitutes intelligently, although it was a surprise that his first move was to take off Ljajic, replaced by Mounir El Hamdaoui, and for the next ten minutes Fiorentina came under significant pressure. Still, the introduction of Mati Fernandez in place of Aquilani offered great dribbling ability on the counter-attack, and then the decision to bring on Mattia Cassani (in place of Toni) provided energy down the right – he hit the post, and El Hamdaoui, now the primary centre-forward, sealed the victory with a fine chip.

Conclusion

A poor Milan display, but great credit should go to Montella and Fiorentina. In every position they looked assured – Toni played the prima punta role like it was 2006, Ljajic drifted into the channels, the wing-backs attacking Milan’s full-backs, Valero and Aquilani darted into the box to score, Pizarro set the tempo and the centre-backs moved the ball quickly.

It was an impressive performance from a terrific side packed with good, technical players – and the most remarkable thing was that their star man, Jovetic, didn’t even play.


Milan 1-3 Fiorentina: Allegri’s Milan outplayed across the pitch

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