In the last post, I talked about the quality of our current squad. While the performances of this year don’t reflect the quality of this squad, we do have more quality than we had at this time last year. So what of performances? If we have the talent, why aren’t we winning? Who or what is to blame for so many poor performances?

It has been proven that no one actually performs better when you shout at them.

This one is harder to pinpoint, and much harder to prove, as there isn’t as much quantitative data to show who or what is responsible, let alone for what percentage. But there are contributing factors, and knowns amongst the unknowns. And keep in mind, I am not necessarily talking about results, or the final scoreline, but rather the actual performance level of the squad during the matches. Milan’s current league results are 3 wins, 4 draws, and 5 losses. But that does not accurately depict the performances.

A player’s job is to have the right attitude, and both mentally and physically prepare themselves for success. They need to get along with their teammates overall, and they need to be able and willing to work together with whomever the other starting players are. They must carry themselves professionally at all times when they represent the club, but most especially while they are on the pitch during a match. They need to stay focused, and not lose their concentration during the 90 minutes. Many times, individual errors or misunderstandings can be the result of players who are not properly mentally prepared. But the players do very much have a responsibility in the overall performance, as they are the “soldiers” who are actually executing the “plans.”

€11m for one goal is neither a good performance level nor investment

When you consider that incredibly talented players can have horrible games, or even streaks of form that are terrible, and also that players with little or no talent can have fabulous games or even fantastic seasons, it pushes the burden of responsibility for performances to more mental. Confidence, chemistry between teammates, concentration and focus, and determination are all mental characteristics that can be elusive or fleeting. Inasmuch as players take meticulous care of their bodies and their physical health, taking care of the psychological part of their game is even more crucial. But it is even harder to tell when a player’s psychological fitness is not 100%, and it is something that can vary within a game, particularly if the opposition scores, a ref makes a poor call, etc. And it can also widely vary within the team itself.

Luckily, a player is not exclusively charged with being prepared mentally. There is one person in particular whose most important job is to mentally prepare the players. You can probably see where I’m going here. A coach is responsible for lineups, formation, tactics, substitutions, and motivation on game day, in addition to the mental and physical preparation of the squad from day to day. While the coach does not go out on the pitch and has no physical control over what the players do during the 90 minutes, his impact on the overall performance of each game is considerable, one way or the other. And when a performance is going poorly, it is his job to make a change to try to improve it.

Seeing is believing. To motivate better performances, you have to acknowledge when performances are poor

He has tangible, physical things that he can do to affect a performance. Take the Parma game, for example. He did not have an answer for Biabiany, whose impressive play led to two of the three goals. And while the players were on the pitch trying to execute his wishes and came up short, so did he. He did not change tactics enough or make any timely substitutions to counter this threat, and not only was the result a loss, but Milan’s performance suffered greatly for the lack of his intervention.

And then there are those performances where maybe he simply gets it all wrong. Like the Ajax game, for example. According to Allegri, the players executed exactly what he asked of them. But the performance was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, and we were lucky to pull off a draw against a team we could have easily dominated. It’s not as if this is the first time he measured an opponent incorrectly and then stuck to his ill-conceived plans, unable to read the game or make the necessary changes to improve a performance in real time.

Zero shots in the 1st half and drawing with a dubious penalty is exactly the performance Allegri asked of them

But in addition to those more measurable and tangible responsibilities, there is the mental preparation and motivation. Last year, one pep talk from Berlusconi united and motivated the squad from their dismal performances and poor results to a team with a winning attitude, better performances, and, of course, a third place finish. This is something that seems to be lacking in Allegri, that ability to inspire and to ignite the passion and intensity of the players and the team, and give them the mental strength to concentrate and focus. I believe that if Allegri had this, even through Injury Armageddon™, we could have won back to back Scudetti instead of placing second his 2nd year. If Allegri had the ability to lead and inspire, who knows what last year’s squad could have done without the terrible start.

And then there is this year. Despite the confusion and mayhem that starts at the top of Milan’s organization and trickles down all the way throughout, I believe a manager with the ability to mentally coach this team would have achieved far greater performance and results. Yes, even with the injuries. Because even injuries are affected by the mental and emotional state of the players, Allegri has said it himself.

For all of his current woes, this man knows how to motivate

So I believe that what this team needs is a giant pep talk. A manager with the confidence and ability to inspire, to unite, and to sustain the mental strength necessary for the players to believe, focus, and thus perform. I am not saying that Allegri is incapable of this necessarily, only that since he hasn’t, and doesn’t seem able to at this time, that maybe another manager should be given a chance. There is likely not another coach of his level available right now, but honestly, most any average coach could come in and shake up the mentality of the team and get them motivated. Sadly, simply the fresh start alone gives anyone but Allegri the advantage. His mentality is tired and downtrodden, he is under fire to produce, and that makes him almost less likely to actually be able to produce results. So whether or not you like him, the sad reality is that he is very, very unlikely to be able to right this ship on his own.

Yes, Allegri, unless you can inspire better performances, your time is up

Performances are physical, but they are even more mental. Despite the culpability of the players in their role to perform, the coach also has his share of the responsibility. In fact since he is not on the pitch, the mental preparation and motivation becomes the most important factor for his portion of the performance. To this end, Allegri is failing, and because of this factor above all of the other factors at the club and within the squad right now, he needs to go. Bringing in anyone else with any motivational skills at all is almost guaranteed to produce better results. Now the question is, do Berlusconi, Galliani, and the board want better performances? Or are they truly okay with our team being only 4 points above the relegation zone and well out of range for the Champions League spots for next year? Our performances are unlikely to change until something else does.

This post inspired by the music of  “Believe” from the Polar Express Soundtrack

Yesterday's friendly:
Young Boys 1, Milan 3
Goals by Kaka, Saponara, & Cristante
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Performances Performances Reviewed by Elaine on 12:00 AM Rating: 5
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