Napoli – 3-5-1-1: De Sanctis, Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Gamberini, Maggio, Dzemaili, Hamsik, Inler, Zuniga, Insigne, Cavani.
Milan – 4-3-3: Abbiati, De Sciglio, Mexes, Acerbi, Constant, Montolivo, De Jong, Nocerino, Bojan, Boateng, El Shaarawy.
Allegri opted for the 4-3-3 formation. The theory here was that on the break, Milan would have three forward players pressing the back three of Napoli, which should create a large number of chances. That is what happened, as Milan took a season high 28 shots in the match. The issue with these shots is that they were not the most quality of opportunities.These shots were from further out than Milan normally take this season. I would speak more on the shot statistics, however Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antonio Nocerino managed 10 shots between the two of them, none of which looked close to scoring. It’s understandable these players want to shoot, as they both had 5+ goal seasons last year and are yet to get on the scoresheet. This is a different kind of year than years past, and they will need to adapt in order to create quality chances. So far they have not.
More worrisome to me, was Milan’s relative inactivity with their chances NOT from open play. Milan had 5 set-piece opportunities (to Napoli’s zero) and 5 counter attack opportunities, and yet were not able to convert any of these chances. The counterattack has been a mainstay of the “New Allegri” tactics, and when it’s ineffective, the squad as a whole struggles to break down opponents.
If Milan aren’t able to exploit the space quickly before the opposition packs in defensively, they struggle to score. That’s not to say chances aren’t abundant, as Milan’s 17 shots per game are near the top of the league, but quality chances and therefore goals are not in as great of supply, with the Rossoneri only putting in 20 goals this season in Serie A. Grande Stephan.
Back to Kevin-Prince Boateng – he had another divisive performance. Napoli manager Walter Mazzari noted at the end of the match that he felt Boateng was a threat that Napoli did not deal with well. I disagree, and for more than just the fact that Boateng didn’t find himself on the scoresheet or provide an assist. His passing % was down almost 10% from his Serie A Average. What Mazzari may be referring to, is not Boateng’s shooting (which was 0 / 7 ) but his key passing. Boateng provided 4 key passes in the Napoli match, a significant improvement on his average of one per match. Is it because he was told to play riskier passes? Were the situations different than he’s seen in previous games? Was he just more motivated? More time is needed to answer those questions.
Tactically the 4-3-3 provides one of the most positive attacking formations if done right. Today Allegri managed the 4-3-3 sort of right. For a man that wrote his A-Level managerial thesis on the 4-3-3 (italiano) though, more is expected.
Milan conceded 4 minutes in after a long-range Inler shot bent past Abbiati. Cue Adriano Galliani in the stands: Shitty Keeper! While it may have been a mistake of a “shitty keeper” (for which he apologized after the match), or at least one that has been on the decline, the fact is that Inler should not have had the time he did to shoot the ball. One may blame De Jong or Nocerino for not marking up (as they should – these two players were directly responsible) however, the fact is that the formation they were in did them no favors. When playing in the 4-2-3-1, the midfield pair often have the support of SES/Emanuelson dropping back to double up on the wings, which allows the central pair to shift left and right without worrying so much about being bypassed quickly. In the 4-3-3, there is not as much midfield support. The “wide” players in the 4-3-3 in this instance were playing with a lot of width, especially defensively. De Jong was almost left alone in the regista spot – seen in many instances by him being the one chasing Cavani down the field. This leads to extra gaps in the midfield, which would normally not be a problem for a player like Antonio Nocerino who made his living by being on the move, however, his defensive marking is poor. He didn’t track back in the opening minutes well enough, and it seemed that all of the squad seemed to lack focus for the first half, Stephan’s 44th minute goal aside.
It’s no wonder they were skittish – having been ripped into by Allegri after the Fiorentina game as well as Silvio Berlusconi’s helicopter-laden descent into the depths of the devil.
Silvio asked Nocerino to shave his beard, and Mexes to cut his hair – making sure to cover his vanity basis while delving into the “motivation” aspect of his trip. More players are leaving in January. Cue the pressure to perform. Robinho answered that with an assist, however, if the reports are to believed, it shouldn’t de-rail his January move to Santos.
The second half improved upon the first half significantly, although the lack of close-range finishing remained an issue. Long shots are not quality enough opportunities, and if Boateng/Nocerino continue to add 10 misses to that with all-long range efforts then they will find themselves back on the bench quickly. Emanuelson has proven himself to be more than just a rotation player this season, and the fact he was rested today says to me that Allegri plans to start with him from the first minute in the CL midweek.
More than Milan earning a point today, Napoli lost 2. They were up 2-0, controlling the match, and then sat back and went into a defensive phase for almost the entire second half. I understand that Napoli is a counterattacking team, and from time to time, they’re going to be put under immense stress, but it seemed that the progressive passing and positioning from Insigne and Hamsik diminished as time went on. Insigne came a little more centrally to receive the ball, and Hamsik put in a little less work defensively and didn’t exploit the space that he was afforded around De Jong to full effect in the second half. Milan were lucky to escape with a point here, as a clinical Napoli (such as last season) hung a 3-1 loss on the Rossoneri (who had a much more quality side). A draw does little for either team, really. Napoli had a chance to pick up points on Juventus and failed, and Milan squandered an opportunity to put some space between them and the relegation zone. For the Rossoneri, they face a must-win match against Anderlecht in the Champions League, and the opportunities for Allegri to turn it around are disappearing one at a time.
Statistics and Diagrams via WhoScored.com
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