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Milan 1, Verona 0: Dear Max


I have tried not to refer too much to “he-who-shall-not-be-named” since last Monday. But after watching two different games this week from two different managers with the same squad as Lord Voldemort had, I decided to write this review as a breakup letter with the soulless one. You’re welcome.

My new main squeeze
Dear Max,

I’m breaking up with you. I mean, I know Milan have already dumped you, but I just wanted to be clear that we are through, too. And no, we cannot be friends. You see, after being in our abusive relationship where you jealously refused to let me see other coaches, this week, I’ve seen what I was missing all along. It wasn’t the squad, the injuries, the luck, or individual errors, it never was. And if you watched the games on Wednesday and today, you’ll see what I am talking about (and also what you are missing out on!)

For example, after Wednesday’s breath of fresh air, coached by the man whose tactics you also suppressed for the last 3.5 years, today, my new main squeeze lined up a very attacking 4-2-3-1. From the first whistle, they passed – to each other – and also attacked, with Robinho getting the first shot off in the 2nd minute. Your ex-, Milan, would go on to take 25 shots, with 7 of those on goal, keeping Rafael and his defense very busy on the night. And all the while we had 70% possession.

Unstoppable without you, Max. Does it hurt?

But as I kept telling you throughout our relationship, it’s not the amount of possession, it’s what you do with it. For the first time in recent memory, our boys had more tackles than fouls. They were hungry, and they did more than just work hard, they worked together. Like I had told you before, the 4-2-3-1 allows us to press and pass more effectively, and with our squad’s strength being the offense, it was only natural that my new main squeeze would immediately see this and deploy players who don’t just stop the ball, but they take it, hold it, and attack with it.

Granted, this new relationship isn’t perfect. Just like a hostage has to readjust to freedom, this team have to get those defensive-minded tactics out of their system and learn to attack. But today was a beautiful step toward that, with players like Kaka and Honda finding each other just like two people falling in love. The shooting accuracy was certainly lacking, as was a lot of the passing, honestly. But it was so much more free and enjoyable to watch than the constipated, captive type of play we endured under your watch. That’s right, that game you saw played today was called football. And our team showed us that they are starting to remember why it is called the beautiful game.

Even the substitutions won my heart

Verona must feel a bit like you do right about now, because they defended like their lives depended on it and still came up empty. However in the second half, they would prove more dangerous, as they took advantage of the counter attacks and tested our defense. However with this formation, our defense was also strengthened, as even Balotelli got four clearances in the game, going back to help out.

And remember that thing you used to do that drove me crazy? Yeah, you called them “substitutions.” Well my new guy knows what he is doing, using all three substitutions by the 78th minute, and making wise subs that impacted the game, too. And he used Petagna. That’s right, I like the younger guys, okay? All the time you just called me a nag, but your substitutions were rarely timely, and rarely impacted the game. And you kept saying that my boys were too young. But they’re not. There was a feeling of trust in the squad today, trust that this guy has got their back, and they returned their trust by playing better and having more fun, too.

true love.

The most telling event today, though was the penalty. When Kaka was taken down in the box in the 81st and Bergonzi awarded the penalty, it was a confident Balotelli who stepped up to take it. He hadn’t been diving, probably because he knew his new guy would have his back and not let him get hacked incessantly like you did, little man. And so with that confidence and support of his manager, he stepped up and won the game in the 82nd. 1-0 Milan. And he looked over at his new manager and pointed. The new guy pointed back, then smiled and applauded. My new guy even got the Curva to cheer again.

For me, that is when I knew for sure that we were through. You may have worked hard, but you were missing the heart, and especially the joy of football. And thus you sucked that away from the team and from us fans, too. Well there’s a new man in my life. And he’s got a big heart and big ideas. And a big smile. Not a freaky, scary, creepy, and awkward smile at all the wrong times. My new guy feels the joy from the game, and it shows on his face. He may be new to these types of relationships, but I am going to put my trust in him, because he treats me right.


Elaine


This post inspired by the music of  Ludo’s “Love Me Dead”

Our next match is
Coppa Italia Quarterfinals
Milan vs. Udinese

Wednesday, January 22 • 21 CET (3pm EST)