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Ajax v. Milan thoughts September 29, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, Dutch soccer, Italian soccer.
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Not in an entirely good way, watching Milan these days always throws up the unexpected. Here are a few points about their performance Tuesday.

  • Pressure Ajax’s wide players? Why bother, right? It’s such a glaring, fundamental weakness, and one that has cost Milan every goal the Rossoneri have conceded this season.
  • I always wonder how Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri thinks he’s going to get away with that. The obvious answer is that he is forced to accommodate as many as possible of his star forwards — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, Robinho and Ronaldinho — none of whom track back*, otherwise Italian Prime Minister/Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi will fire him. Fair enough, but surely Berlusconi will also fire him for losing a bunch of games, which he will do if he doesn’t defend out wide, right? Except …
  • He would probably lose a bunch of games anyway, since he doesn’t really have too many useful fullbacks, who are supposedly the most important players in modern football. Gianluca Zambrotta, Massimo Oddo and Marek Jankulovski were world-class when they were in their mid-to-late 20s. They are now in their 30s and very slow. Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini are dodgy at best. Daniele Bonera is slow and doesn’t go forward. Despite this, Milan has never turned to loan signing Bruno Montelongo, so you know he must be putrid.
  • If that wasn’t enough, (hackneyed point warning): Milan is extremely old. It was kind of sad to see Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo wandering through midfield in the last fifteen minutes like disoriented geriatrics who had somehow ended up in a motor speedway, while Eyong Enoh, Demy de Zeeuw and Rasmus Lindgren whirled around them stealing the ball before they even saw it coming, dribbling, and generally being big bullies. The entire Milan team started looking desperate for the final whistle.
  • You have to wonder about what happened at Milan this summer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho are two of the most obscenely talented players on the planet, but Milan already had a pretty stacked forward line, picking from Pato, Ronaldinho, Marco Boriello, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Pippo Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf. They cried out for a midfielder who could do some running, and genuinely pacy fullbacks. If Milan could pay the wages of the two they signed, plus the transfer fees, then surely they could have thrown together enough money for Raul Merieles, Cristian Molinaro and a loan for Martin Caceres, which probably would have been much closer to what they needed.
  • Luis Suarez is a dirty little player, isn’t he, but Mounir El Hamdaoui is fun to watch.

Pity Kevin MacDonald September 19, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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History will probably stamp the weeks Kevin MacDonald spent as Aston Villa’s temporary coach with the label “failure,” but that will be a bit unjust. MacDonald inherited problems that weren’t of his making, which will probably bedevil his successor Gerard Houllier as well, once the Frenchman takes over.

He’s inexperienced at this level and inherited a decaying squad nobody bothered to reinforce over the summer, except to mask embarrassment (If Stephen Ireland decided to play defense occasionally, and put on about 20 pounds of muscle, he might be more than a reminder of James Milner’s absence). Plainly, his superiors never thought anything of him, or regarded him as anything other than a placeholder. When Aston Villa’s players rushed over to embrace him after they scored against Bolton on Saturday, they made plain an affection and a sympathy for him we all ought share.

Tribute to El Diego

The Villa-Bolton Wanderers game at the weekend will be the only one this season played between two teams using Diego Maradona’s patented one-midfielder tactical seppuku formation.