Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Little T & A

So even though it’s the International Break, I thought we could talk about a little Trequartista & Attack, or T & A. (Did you think this would be about something else? Get your mind out of the gutter!) Despite conceding way too many goals already, it’s our attack that concerns me the most, more specifically getting the ball forward.


Alright, a little gratuitous Primavera "A" for you. Certainly Lucio enjoyed it.

Milan rarely struggle with possession, last season we probably averaged at least 60% possession on the season. So it’s not getting the ball, it’s what we do with it that affects our attack. Our midfield is very proficient at holding the ball, and when playing well, we have excellent pass completion. And our strikers usually take quite a few shots, even if their finishing can be a huge source of frustration. But with 3 players who had 14 goals a piece last year, honestly, our finishing is not worrisome.

Our biggest struggle last year was with the trequartista role. Seedorf had the skill and vision, but not the pace and often lost the ball instead of moving it forward to a striker. Kevin Prince Boateng had more creativity and pace, but lacked the discipline or ability to link up with the forwards. Robinho had lots of energy but also lacked discipline and could be a bit too selfish by taking the shot rather than giving the assist. No surprise, then, that it should be even more worrisome this year.

A trequartista is the attacking midfielder who plays just behind the strikers and is also charged with playmaker duties. Some people call this spot a CAM, or center attacking midfielder, but in calcio, it is usually called the trequartista or “three quarters” spot. For the natural trequartista, it can be a very fluid and creative position, while some players thrive better by staying more closely in formation and providing more clinical connections to the forwards.

This year, Boateng and Robinho have been injured thus far, but Aquilani has been entrusted with this spot, which is supposed to be his natural position. And he has impressed at times. He has a natural ability to read the plays, a very nice touch on the ball, but struggles to find space and is often double-teamed. Perhaps with a little more support from the other midfielders, he’ll find that space and be our answer. Certainly he has both potential and experience.


But I have another idea that will not be popular. Urby Emanuelson. Yes, the one we bought hoping to be a left back, but had also played left midfield. He played a game and a half at the trequartista role and I was really impressed. Unlike Aquilani who waits for space, he finds it. He runs like no tomorrow, leaving some to call him a “headless chicken.” But I would argue that if you watch what happens as a result of these seemingly useless runs, you will realize they are not so useless after all. He creates openings for a player like Cassano to work his magic, for example.

The downside of Emanuelson is that this postion is new to him. And being left-footed, he has sent many a right-footed shot into the stands or struggled to complete passes with his right foot. He needs to find his teammates more, he is more Boateng-esque in taking the shot before seeing a play. But at the very least, I would like him to be the vice-trequartista, as I think he has huge potential. Plus he is a decent left midfielder, so a very important sub if not a starter, and can easily be moved around within a match if necessary.

If I could combine the finesse of Aquilani and the grinta of Emanuelson, the wisdom and skill of Seedorf, and the power of Boateng, I would have the perfect trequartista, and we would be able to connect the ball consistently from the midfield to the front and give our strikers even more opportunities. But we’ve only got one choice, none of them being perfect.

Ibra seems to be compensating for our deficiencies here this season, as he has played deeper more frequently, meaning scoring less even if he has been trying to provide the assists. If he weren’t so desperately need up front with his size and strength and his sheer unstoppable mindset, perhaps he would want to play this role. But truly, as awesome as he is, we really do have better options at the trequartista spot, and we really need him to be our big man up front. finding the right trequartista will mean less pressure on Ibra and hopefully more goals.


If I had to pick one, I would pick Aquilani. (If not on merit, then because this is his fiancée and daughter.) Granted, he’s been shut down in matches a lot thus far. But if we give him more speed and muscle in support, like a Robinho or a Boateng or even an Urby on the left, I think he could really make things happen. Many want him to play on the left, but I felt that even in his poor games, he did more for us in the middle.

We actually have a lot of options for our trequartista and the supporting midfield roles, now that everyone is getting healthy. If Allegri plays his cards right, we can develop these players to be able to fill in for one another in the case of injury or suspension, and what was our weakest spot could become our strength. It will take the support of the rest of the midfield and even the defense, and patience and help up front, as well as more consistent play from everyone. But if we can pull it off, not only will we dominate and score more goals, we will be able to show everyone that we have some serious T & A.


This post inspired by the music of Elaine’s ‘80’s movies mix, including Simple Minds,
OMD, The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs, Spandau Ballet, David Bowie, Echo & the Bunnymen,
Modern English, and Duran Duran