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.

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Have your say...
I'm excited to see Milan play with a newer, wider system. Emmanuelson is a natural winger. This could be his chance to play in his preferred position. El Shaarawy and Robinho are also capable on the wings. Pazzini is probably the main reason Milan is switching. He thrives off of crosses so he'll need the new wide players.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 3:28pm

Constant? Acerbi? Tratore?! Yepes? Bonera?!Their not Milan material. As a Milan fan for +20 yeats it's devastating to see these 'there is a chance of 5% he will break through and become decent a player' purchases, some of them mentioned above.

Milan needs one central D that's solid. Then a striker to replace Ibra. I wouldn't mind getting kaka back as i still think he would be a good fit yet again for Milan. He just happen to be under a bad spell in Real.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 2:47pm
@ Juveman

Thanks for the input. Care to share any more hatred against acm?
Juve been under a rock for 6 years. You win the league and the argogant old hag is back.
Show some respect. We defianly do it to your coach thats has shown such sportmanship...
on the 28th August, 2012 at 2:34pm
As predicted in my comments last week this will be year of pain for all us Milan fans.

Although not all doom and gloom as its good to see a young Milan team :)
on the 28th August, 2012 at 2:21pm
Milan wont get far with Robinho assuming the "lead forward" role as he is likely to berate and make frustrated gestures when El Shaarawy doesnt play to his liking. Robinho against Sampdoria, seemed both very confident and arrogant,but as always without a stronger teammate to help him he failed and looked as comical as his new hairstyle. Apart from tactical considerations Milan lost all its on-field and dressing room leaders. Now the mohawk and gel gang will struggle with a weak-willed coach.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 1:25pm
i hate 4-3-3, and the attack was poor and even the midfield Montolivo in 'Pirlo's position' never worked, i don't understand why have Milan not used Flamini in the defensive midfielder role which he did so great at Arsenal. i would like to see milan play 3-4-1-2 formation.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 1:21pm
Please, Allegri Should help we the milan fans by playing 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 Formation, Rather than sticking to this 4-3-1-2 formation which is unknown to some of the rossonery players especially the new signings... Forza-Milan.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:54pm
is there really that much of a difference from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-3-3 think about it, not really and esp not enough to warrant a loss to newly appointed sampdoria and i hardly think that getting bojan is gonna do anything at all other than waste some more money but hey milan keep diggin the hole.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:47pm
I still believe in a 4-2-3-1 to shore up our defense. We can use Ambrosini, Nocerino, Emanuelson or Diarra, if he comes, as defensive midfielders. Then we could use Montolivo, Boateng and Robinho as forwards and Pato, Pazzini or Bojan up front.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:45pm
So he wants a winger on each side - and Boateng, who can't be a striker and is best as a Number 10 - and a striker - and his preferred 3 midfielders - and a back 4, since Tassotti is such a fan, and the back 4 is ingrained into Milan since Sacchi.

But that's 12 players. It would be interesting if he went with a 3-3-1-3;
Constant Mexes Yepes
Ambrosini Montolivo Nocerino
El Sharaawy Pazzini Robinho
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:45pm
Why can't we at least try Traore or Constant or were these yet more pointless signings who were signed because they were free? Can we give up on Pato and assume he will be injured for the season and give Pazzini back his confidence. Re Boateng he is certainly no Messi but since joining Milan he has given us a boost from midfield and he should play behind the front two (why we were wasting time pursuing Kaka is beyond me). It's not ideal but can we at least use this season to experiment.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:42pm
While of course Allegri is not to blame for the current mess I do think the formation on Sunday was a little strange. If we have a young side now we might as well go with it and rely on energy at least if we have lost experience. Acerbi should start ahead of Yepes (they are as slow as each other but the former has youth on their side). I cannot understand how suddendly Allegri is happy to have a creative defensive midfielder when we got rid of Pirlo. Flamini was not good enough last season.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:38pm
I see Milan playing more of a 4-3-2-1 system.

However I wonder if Milan will consider playing Boateng as part of the midfield 3?

Milan's main issues in my mind is the middle of D, and they certainly could use a good defensive mid fielder.
on the 28th August, 2012 at 12:38pm

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