Tuesday August 28 2012
Milan and the 4-3-3 system

Massimiliano Allegri’s decision to field a 4-3-3 in Milan’s opening day loss to Sampdoria is put under the spotlight by David Swan.

In amongst all the predictions of doom, comments on the quality of play and general criticism of Milan after their opening day defeat to Sampdoria, many seemed to miss or ignore Coach Massimiliano Allegri try something new for the 90 minutes.

Often accused of being tactically inflexible, he presented a slightly different Milan for their first competitive game of the season, one lining up in what was essentially a 4-3-3 with Kevin-Prince Boateng in a false nine position and Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy out wide.

It is not strictly ‘new’ – it was tested on a few occasions in pre-season – nor is this his first attempt at 4-3-3. But it is the first time we have seen it with a false nine in a meaningful game.

The introduction of the role into the team for this match was forced upon Allegri. Although the Ghanaian was the man used here in pre-season, Alexandre Pato was set to start up-front against Samp until his injury, and the Coach did not want to use Giampaolo Pazzini from the beginning as he had not started a match for some time.

Nevertheless, it is still interesting that he made the choice to go with a pre-season experiment over a tried and tested 4-3-1-2. Pazzini notwithstanding, the lack of a guy to start as a prima punta, or a “reference point” as Allegri referred to post-match, has not stopped him from sticking to his preferred formation in the past and just using whatever strikers he has available to fill the two positions in attack.

Perhaps he should have done so here – the performance was not good from an offensive standpoint. It was only when they were desperately trying to save a point that they created the best opportunities. Until that stage, Boateng caused Sampdoria no problems whatsoever centrally, while Robinho and El Shaarawy struggled to get into the game.

This system should have suited the latter duo. They have both played wide before in similar systems, but on Sunday had a limited impact despite receiving the ball on enough occasions. The choice of Boateng as focal point was not particularly inspired – he still dropped deep without the ball as he would in a 4-3-1-2, but he is not inventive enough to aid a team in the manner that is required from this role. As Roma learned last season, simply moving an attacking midfielder further forward, as Luis Enrique did with Miralem Pjanic in Francesco Totti’s absence, is not a solution.

Robinho might have been a better bet, but in truth this false nine position is so hard to get right that there are few teams at the top level that can pull it off, and those that can usually have very special players doing it.

That should not mean the end for the 4-3-3, at least as an alternative to when things are not going well. Though whether we will see it again this season is another matter. 4-3-1-2 is so ingrained in the squad, and the players that have been acquired have been brought in with that in mind, that it is going to take a lot of work to move away from it, but there are a few options in the team to fill spaces.

It is probably best to use a proper striker there for now – Pazzini or Pato are the options – rather than trying to be clever with Boateng. The No 10 did a serviceable job when moved to the wing in the second half – he played wide left during his stand-out year with Portsmouth, so he is capable, although he would be best served beefing up an average midfield in this instance. And Urby Emanuelson, as poor as he is in the centre, can affect games in his proper position out wide too as he did on Sunday evening.

If it is to work long-term it is going to need a different type of player purchased during future windows. The fact that Vice-President Adriano Galliani made clear that new 17-year-old signing M’Baye Niang, a forward, would play in the first-team instead of the Primavera as seems natural for him, could well be a sign they are thinking about the new system already. And Bojan Krkic, should he arrive, may also be a useful tactical tool.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit:

Have your say...
Forza Milan. I am a true AC Milan fan. Milan will soon start winning.
on the 17th September, 2012 at 11:45pm
My Milan First Team : 4-3-2-1

------ Abbiati ------
---De Jong--- Montolivo-------Nocerino

--Boateng-- --Bojan--

-- Pazzini --

Forza Milan !!!
on the 1st September, 2012 at 5:16pm
ac milan can get best option this way 4 5 1 abiat abate sabata maxes ontonnini di jong
Robinho montalivo nocirino pato
on the 30th August, 2012 at 2:03pm
False No.9 is not just as simply put "non targetman" player to the leading role upfront. It requires the "false" to drop and build team play and run forward as soon as he's off the ball, furthermore he should have killer eye to smack the ball behind the goal line. Not a milanista, even I can see Boateng is a good player, but even for the hole striker he is not the man, so forget to put him as false striker...
on the 30th August, 2012 at 12:28pm

You nailed it.

Curva Sud for Life!
on the 30th August, 2012 at 2:21am
I think Milan should get De Jong (5.5mil), Drenthe (free) and I think we need a LB and maybe another CB or CM.

My Milan First Team : 4-3-3

------ Abbiati ------
Abate--Zapata---Acerbi--Antonini (or new LB)
---De Jong---

--Boateng-- --Robinho--

-- Pato --

I think this team would be good enough to challenge for the scudetto. Only if Pato can stay fit for the good part of a season.
on the 29th August, 2012 at 10:13pm
Milan dont have team chemistry yet, because it is a rebuilding season. You can't get rid of all of the experienced players and two huge players, then expect instant results. I think Allegri was right to put out a 4-3-3 formation, but I don't agree with his 1st team selection. He should have started Zapata or Acerbi, if not both. That's the only way they'll form a partnership if they play together and learn from their mistakes. You can't expect to win if you haven't got a steady back line....
on the 29th August, 2012 at 8:45pm
3-5-2 A Team


Zapata Yepes/ Mexes Acerbi

Abate/ De Sciglio Boateng Nocerino Ambrosini Montolivo/ Antonini

Pazzini/ Robinho Bojan/ El Shaaraway

If someday Pato could go a week without injury he would be a main starter for me
on the 29th August, 2012 at 5:34pm
Milan will be in Serie B next year along with Udinese and Pescara!
on the 29th August, 2012 at 4:20pm
We are all missing he point here people! With no players talking tactics is pointless. They can play with 11 defenders but the problem is quality- there simply isn't any in this team! Pazzini couldn't score in a brothel, zapata bonera are as useless as each other, el shaarawy is to be frank nothing special. Milan were in bits before they sold thw old lot now they are just beyond belief! Milan are flying the flag in europe, what a discrace to italian football!
on the 29th August, 2012 at 3:36pm

De sciglio-zapata-bonera-antonini


Kevin prince boateng

Pazzini-El Shaarawy

Bologna vs A.C. Milan

I have put some young players in because the elderly are injured.
on the 29th August, 2012 at 2:17pm
I have nothing but sympathy for Milan coach Allegri who the way is a brilliant coach. First Milan got got rid of the ageing but still useful players like Nesta, Gattuso & co. Then Silva & Ibra was sold which ended with the Cassano outbreak and now Pato & Robinho are injured...

The biggest problem for Milan last season was injuries & sadly this is burdening them again....
on the 29th August, 2012 at 11:57am
Ac milan lost because of lack of a clear attacker from start and not zapata on the field. Bonera should not have played
on the 29th August, 2012 at 11:10am
Milan have not really been convincing under a 4-3-3 for the lack of proper wingers and allegri love for a destroyer type midfield. Now that we have bojan it could work, he is a good winger. However I'm just not sure where sharaawy will go. I prefer him to be in the centre and not out wide. He has potential and is a good player, so maybe having him and an attacking midfielder?
flamini is no good on the right/left of midfield. Boatend is better on the side midfield than a trquartista.
on the 29th August, 2012 at 9:20am
Were there tactical errors on Sunday? Yes, but what I feel was missing in the team was a little bit of "fire"!'s the first match of the season...come on!...kick some ass out there!...make things happen!...although he does a nice job from time to time, Boateng is not a "10" or "false 9"...he is a lot more dangerous from the wing...Montolivo needs to improve A LOT!...he gave up the ball too many times...and the defense...oh boy!...Allegri may have a lot less hair by the end of this season...
on the 29th August, 2012 at 12:53am
it would be interesting with 4-3-3

Abate/de sciglio mexes/bonera zapata/acerbi antonini/villa

nocerino montolivo/ambro boateng

robinho pato/pazzini farao/bojan
if we keep on with the 4-3-1-2 then the bojan tranfser was a waste of money, also villa should get the chance when he recovers
on the 28th August, 2012 at 10:57pm
The problem at the weekend was not the system, but the wrong players in the wrong positions.

Abate - Zapata - acerbi - antonini

Montolivio - nocerino


Robinho. Sharaawy

That's a more balanced formation if Milan continue to use the 4-3-3, however I think we will revert back to the narrow 4-3-1-2 and will not see the best of bojan or sharaawy playing that way.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 10:07pm
For years we have moaned about how are team was getting old , i am a real fan and will stick with this experiment . I don't think there is any question Allegri is looking to youth . I may not be overly happy about recent results , but he is doing what needs to be done .
you can't play 3 at the back without a player like Silva. I live in Canada , Nesta has settled in with Montreal . They are a very lucky group to have stolen a player of that calibre.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 9:45pm
people i have watched allegris teams for the past 6 years and they always start the season badly, this year its more noticeable cos of all the players that have left, but its not all doom and gloom! As soon as zapata and acerbi adapt to the way milan want to defend it will be a different team!! And lets not forget with the signing of bojan and montolivo and pazzini we have a pretty good squad!! It wasnt long ago that every paper in the world cried for milan to renovate the squad. now keep faith
on the 28th August, 2012 at 9:16pm
This is a season which will show who the true Milan fans are. Allegri stick with 4-3-1-2 or maybe a 3-5-2 which could work
4-3-1-2 A Team
Abate Zapata Acerbi Antonini
Montolivo Ambrosini Nocerino
Pazzini Pato/El Shaaraway
4-3-1-2 B Team
Abate Yepes Mexes Villa
Constant Traore Muntari
Robinho Bojan/Niang
on the 28th August, 2012 at 8:50pm
Abate-Zapata-Acerbi-De Sciglio



With this side I would have a lot of hope!
on the 28th August, 2012 at 8:42pm
Robinho is quite frankly, second rate. He has been playing for the past 6-7 years but hasn't been able to achieve anything. Doesn't deserve his price tag too. Pato is great but unfortunately he likes Milan's medical staff.

(4-3-1-2) Abbiati, Abate, Zapata, Acerbi, Antonini/Vila, Nocerino/Flamini, Montolivo, Ambrosini/Emanuelson, Boateng, Pato, Pazzini
on the 28th August, 2012 at 8:41pm
Bojan, and Niang is the best they could possibly do? There are plenty of other significant holes in the rossneri's squad.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 7:59pm

They have preseason.. they have training games. They are not good enough. We both know that even tho you seem more optimistic then I. Lose Thiago silva and as replacement we got Acerbi? Really??
on the 28th August, 2012 at 7:40pm
Great article! Thank God I was starting to lose hope thinking that Allegri and Galliani have lost their minds, but now knowing they are at least experimenting, trying to be creative an productive and not just being plain arrogant and stupid gives me hope and makes me happy! Even if we don't win anything this season at least they are trying new methods out. Forzaaaa Millannoooo
on the 28th August, 2012 at 5:50pm
Players to be sold are definitly Mesbah, Flamini, Robinho, Traore maybe, and we'll see how Bojan do. Goalkeepers? Abbiati is good, Gabriel and Pazzagli we still need to decide who will take over for next season or next couple of seasons. Amelia perfect bench for Abbiati. Forza Milan per sempre? This is indeed the season that will show who the true fans are. (lll+)
on the 28th August, 2012 at 5:50pm
As our defenae well... Abate, Zapata, Acerbi, Antonini should be out starting defense. Mexes if any CB gets injured. Why? Mexes makes dumb mistakes there and it has costs us, remember the penalty against Barcelona? The only that Messi scored, well ot came all the way from Mexes when he lost the ball. He is very insecure with the ball but yet good when defending. Acerbi just needs self-comfidence. Antonini? Well as soon as Didac Vila recovers, try him again!!!!! Forget Mesbah he sucks.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 5:46pm
I have to say I'm really enjoying te fact we've signed yound players, but it doesn't mean lets rely on them... They need veterans to learn from!!! Okay on out midfield we know Montolivo cannot play deep. Forget it, we need him on the right, on the left Nocerino, and in the middle Ambrosini, but we indeed need someone there... Poli? Strootman? Diarra? Xavi Alonso? Sahin? Keep hope on Strasser? Muntari playing there? Try Traore again?
on the 28th August, 2012 at 5:42pm
I still strongly believe the 4-3-1-2 is a perfect formation for us. Boateng is not a true playmaker, but he has te quality to recover the balls, give enough passes, make good runs and scores goals! El Shaarawy and Robingo shouldn't pkay out wide because they become useless. They don't have enough quiality to be outwide and be superb when attacking and score goals. You cannot rely on the N. 9 to score hat-tricks every game. You need to central forwards and the playmaker. Way more effective.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 5:38pm
Viktor we simply don't know if Acerbi, Constant or Traore are good enough because they have not yet been tested. We know Yepes, Flamini and to a lesser degree Bonera are not good enough. We don't have many options. If we signed these players than we must have faith in them otherwise we might as well just rely on our youth team. This has happened in the past where pointless new signings got in the way of players like Astori and Matri. As I said can we at least experiment this season.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 5:33pm

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.