What tactics are there to analyze when a superior team has no intention of winning? Here is AS Roma – Milan, where the superior team had the intention of winning only one thing Scudetto No. 18 even if it meant a bore draw.
Milan played with their usual 4-3-1-2 with Ibrahimovic returning to the line-up. Simone Perrotta and De Rossi both missed the game through suspension while Mexes was injured. Montella kept with the 4-2-3-1 system he has used since taking over as coach at AS Roma.
Simplicio initially started behind Totti but after an early injury to Brighi (18′), Simplicio moved into midfield, Taddei moved wide left, Alejandro Rosi came on and played wide right while Vucinic moved into the position behind Totti.
Milan were the dominant side in the fixture and this occurred for a number of reasons:
– Pressing: Whenever Milan lost the ball, they pressed AS Roma from the front resulting in long balls out of defence which returned possession back to Milan. Roma on the other hand pressed from the Milan midfielders (Seedorf and Gattuso) and frequently stood off Van Bommel and this allowed Milan to knock the ball around comfortably at the back.
– Goalkeeper Distribution: While Doni played long goal-kicks which usually returned the ball to Milan and seldom reached Totti, Abbiati’s goal-kicks were short passes to one of the defenders with the team adapting its defensive shape to ensure Abbiati could take short goal kicks
– Position of Play-maker: The play-maker in this case is the player the team looks to move the ball to to create plays/attacking moves. Totti was the Roma play-maker on the night (The formation is designed to suit his superb technical skillset). AS Roma frequently played the ball to Totti who was always in a sea of bodies consisting of Milan defensive players. This ensured that Totti either created chances or lost the ball to the Milan defensive set-up. Milan on the other hand used no playmaker and always looked to shift the ball to whoever had space to receive the ball. This player was usually Mark Van Bommel. Luckily for Milan, Totti and Vucinic occupied this zone for most of the game and were not too keen on pressing Van Bommel. This meant Milan’s passing was usually unhurried
MILAN’S “PROBLEMS” ON THE NIGHT
As far as Milanisti were concerned, Milan had no problems. The most likely reason Milan failed to win this game was the fact that only a draw was needed to clinch the Scudetto. Reasons as translated on-the-pitch include:
– Lack of a deep director “regista”: Milan generally controlled possession but lacked the ability to change (increase/drop) the tempo of the game. Seedorf’s form in recent months has significantly improved as Milan’s counter-attacks and other forward thinking plays begin at his feet. The problem in this game was Milan rarely had the chance or need to counter the opposition. Though Seedorf usually roams from his position on the left, for a regista to be effective, his best position is in the region where he frequently has space to boss the game (a position occupied by Van Bommel on the night). Milan showed an inability to switch the ball from one flank through the middle to another flank to bring Abate into the game at times when he had space to go on one of his trademark runs down the touchline. With Van Bommel at the base of the midfield, Milan dictated the game but at a flat tempo unable to break Roma down.
– Little space to work between the “Delneri” lines: With Vucinic playing behind Totti, Roma played with 4 players who perform their defensive duties well in midfield in Rosi, Simplicio, Pizarro and Taddei. Roma kept it compact between the lines of midfield and defence leaving Milan attackers with little space to work. The defence also put in an impressive display with Juan, exceptional, as he stopped dangerous Milan plays.
– Free AS Roma full-backs: As shown in the team set-ups, Riise and Cassetti had no direct markers. They usually moved up the pitch to receive the ball in advanced position threatening the Milan defence. Cassetti created 2 very good chances for Vucinic on the night which he failed to capitalize on. A cross from the byline to the unmarked Vucinic and another cross from deep but Vucinic failed to score in both situations. As the game went on, the Milan forwards became aware of this threat and picked the Roma full-backs when free in midfield zones. The presence of two wide players on each flank for Roma also meant Abate (on Roma’s left) had little joy in attack tonight as he was closed down by Taddei and Riise whenever he got forward in usually promising positions.
ROMA’S PROBLEMS ON THE NIGHT
As noted above, most of Roma’s play in this 4-2-3-1 system is directed through Totti. This allows Totti the opportunity to create chances for his side. On the night though, the Milan defence was able to stay ahead of the Roma captain’s teammates and therefore limit his effectiveness. Though Totti produced an impressive display, the effective defensive set-up Milan put up usually meant his chances were snuffed out before his teammates could capitalize on them. This also owed to Van Bommel’s presence and sacrificing him for a true regista (in form of Pirlo) to help Milan’s attacking play was not an option considering Milan were satisfied with a draw.
With the subs come some chances
Over the course of the second half, Ambrosini came on for Gattuso (46′), Boriello on for Vucinic (54′), Pato on for Robinho (74′) and Gianluca Caprari on for Rosi (83′). The only major change of significance was Boriello-Vucinic as Totti played behind Boriello.
Roma generally looked to attack more (e.g pushing the wide players, Rosi and Taddei, very high at goal kicks and pressing from the front) in the final 30 minutes. Roma created some promising situations by pressing Van Bommel and catching him in possession but failed to take advantage of these situations. As Roma became more attacking, Milan also got into a few promising positions with the game opening up a little and Boateng missed a 1-on-1 chance against Doni.
– A missed chance for Roma to increase pressure on Lazio and Udinese as Vucinic missed two early chances in the game. Overall though, a draw was a fair result as Milan were only desperate for a draw while Roma lacked the ability to break a strong Milan defensive set-up with Abbiati (who was superb all-night and has been superb over the course of the season) in goal
– Allegri has to be congratulated for managing this squad to the Scudetto. He tinkered a bit with the formation before settling for a 4-3-1-2 formation then tweaking the system to suit the players available (suspensions and injuries) to him. He showed the ability to guide a squad through a league campaign. Making Abate put in special work with Mauro Tassotti (Milan’s assistant manager) was a masterstroke (even though it now appears straight-forward) as he has provided Milan and Italy with a standard ever-improving modern full-back, and saved the club some funds in the transfer market.
– Silvio Berlusconi and Uncle Fester (Adriano Galliani) deserve praise for key acquisitions; Ibrahimovic (the serial league title winner), Robinho (whose determination to succeed has been exemplary), Van Bommel (who has anchored the midfield through the final weeks of the Scudetto push) and Barbara Berlusconi (to bring out the star in world-class talent, Pato). Now improving the squad over the course of the transfer window to enable it challenge in Europe, and renewing or ending relationships with a number of veterans as deemed necessary are the next steps to be taken by this pair.