Sunday, 5 February 2012

AC Milan 0-0 Napoli: Neither side incisive enough to get the win

A game in which both teams came into knowing a win was important to help them meet their end of season targets but which neither got.

Milan lined up in a lopsided 4-3-1-2 fromation, though at many points Emmauelson and Nocerino went very high, in line with Seedorf. Napoli started with their 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 system with Blerim Dzemaili starting alongside Gargano in midfield and their front three of Lavezzi, Cavani and Hamsik.

First Half

Both teams had different general approaches with Milan playing with slow, precise transitions and dominating possession higher up, while Napoli tried to get every player behind the ball and then counter attack at pace when the ball was won back.

There were a few main points from the half:
  • Milan struggled to penetrate against the ten outfield players for Napoli. The build up was too laboured and they often committed too many players forward (I know that sounds odd) which meant space became too tight in certain areas and they weren't enticing Napoli out well enough to create spaces in key areas.
  • Napoli weren't quite incisive enough on the break. A couple of times, poor choices were made in attack even though there were a number of players making runs from deep.
  • Napoli's wing backs didn't get the chance to run at Milan's full backs that much. In theory if you can get your wing back to run directly at the full back, it allows the front three to make space in central areas by moving the centre backs around. Generally though, Milan got players behind the ball well in defence and when Zuniga and Maggio made their runs into the final third the appropiate wide player of the midfield three for Milan went across to pressure them (Emmanuelson against Zuniga, Nocerino against Maggio).
What could have happened if the WB got 1v1 with FB. Front three can penetrate around the CBs and create space for each other. 
There were very few chances in the first half. Napoli had a couple, one a shot from 20 yards out that caused a bit of trouble for Abbiati after Milan's midfielders didn't put enough pressure on the ball. Another came from a cross to the far post, something which Milan struggled with all game from both sides. Abate and Mexes went for the same ball leaving Lavezzi free behind but he failed to convert.

Milan created a couple of situations around 35 minutes in, when Napoli's midfielders dropped too deep, allowing Robinho and Ibrahimovic space between the lines which they exploited, though created no clear chances. It was notable however that Aronica, the left sided of the three centre backs for Napoli had a tendency to follow very tightly and on a couple of occasions got moved very wide which created one situation where Dzemaili, playing centre midfield, had to make a last ditch block in the space that was left there. This also caused a problem at the start of the second half where Ibrahimovic moved into that space and Napoli just about scraped it away.

Second half

The second half started much better than the first did. Milan started moving the ball forward quicker to Ibrahimovic which meant when Robinho and Seedorf, who found more space between the lines because of this, got forward, it was on occasion, 3v3 in attack. Their biggest chance came 4 minutes in when a long diagonal was played forward to Ibrahimovic. Campagnaro and Cannavaro went for the same ball but neither won it and Robinho was left in behind, 1v1 against the keeper though his finish was badly placed and went wide of the near post.

A second chance came a few minutes later, where Milan moved the ball forward and combined quickly in the final third. Ibrahimovic turned the midfielder and dribbled left, creating a 2v1 against the wing back with Nocerino overlapping. The ball got played to Nocerino who crossed in for Seedorf who got his header on target which De Sanctis saved on the line.

Ibrahimovic moves left to create a 2v1 situation
A minute later Napoli lost the ball in the defensive third and Milan got players forward in the area (Emmanuelson, Ibrahimovic and Robinho) which left space for Seedorf to drift in, where he hit a shot over the bar.

Ibrahimovic also forced a save not long after when another diagonal ball was hit up to him to control and turn to take a shot.

Not long after that though, the Swedish international got sent off for a silly slap on Aronica and Milan were down to ten men.

Neither side reacted immediately to this by changing system. Milan instead looked for diagonal passes behind on the left for Robinho to use his pace behind Maggio which allowed Milan to push up. Napoli kept the same formation, though started to see more of the ball and created a chance, again after a lack of pressure on the ball from Milan and again from a mistake at the far post where Cavani was allowed to get behind Abate though he headed over the bar.

After that though both teams made substitutions with Inler coming on for Dzemaili and Ambrosini coming on for Seedorf. Milan changed to a 4-4-1 shape with Robinho remaining high even when the team was defending so he could recieve diagonal clearances to the flanks to get behind the defenders while the rest of the team defended with two compact lines of four, trying to cut out any space between the lines.

Clearly Napoli didn't need three centre backs against Robinho with an extra man on the field so Pandev came on for Aronica and they changed to a rough 4-3-3 formation with the wing backs changing to full back positions though still moving up high and making it hard for Milan to push out and Hamsik moved into midfield allowing Lavezzi to go to the left and Pandev went to the right of the three.

The line ups after all the substitutions had been made

However with an organised defensive shape, Milan weren't threatened enough, with Napoli being laboured on the ball and lacking movement to bring players out of position to create space for central penetration. Milan sat back with a low block though still counter attacked well and created a chance when Emmauelson moved forward quickly on the ball and played a through pass for the diagonal run from Robinho who forced a save from De Sanctis.

Napoli looked more threatening on the left than they did on the right with Zuniga playing with a good intensity and trying to play 'wall passes' behind the defence, something Milan tried in the first half down the flanks. On the right Pandev was cutting onto his left foot, instead of getting to the byline and also released it too slowly, though Maggio made some good runs forward down that side

However they didn't open Milan up and the game ended, probably fairly, in a draw, though it was a surprise to see neither team score.

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