Pippo Inzaghi the villain in AC Milan’s defeat to Juventus
Juventus are the best team in Italy. True. AC Milan are not the titans they used to be. True. But, what makes a football match competitive isn’t merely the quality of the players. It is also the approach, the tactics employed and the coach, who standing by the sidelines is expected to think, quite literally, on his feet. In this case, Pippo Inzaghi seemed content watching Juventus take AC Milan apart, piece by piece, at the Juventus Stadium.
There are multiple reasons why Milan lost to Juventus last night. The much talked about boardroom chaos, Silvio Berlusconi’s reluctance to open his wallet and the internal politics that have deteriorated this club are important, yet somewhat indirectly related reasons. To my understanding, it is largely down to the coach and his incomprehensible tactical nous. Here are a few of my not so favorite things that Inzaghi was responsible for last night.
Making Sulley Muntari captain
An arm band previously worn by Paolo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini and Kaka was seen around the arm of Sulley Muntari last night. I don’t know in which world a midfielder lacking discipline, ability and basic footballing intelligence can be made captain of one of the biggest football clubs in the world.
He might be the most experienced player on the pitch, but his decline from an average footballer to a very poor one has been widely witnessed. Additionally, his intolerable conduct makes him one of the most disliked players in the league. What message is Inzaghi sending to the team, the fans and the world in general by appointing Muntari as captain?
Is Muntari genuinely the player to rally the troops against any team, let alone Juventus?
Starting with Jérémy Ménez
Ménez was taken off the pitch after 37 minutes and was replaced by Giampaolo Pazzini. Milan were forced to make a substitution in the first-half, because Inzaghi opted to start with a less-than fit Ménez. Inzaghi admitted to the media that Ménez had the flu the previous day and requested to be taken off during the game, as he wasn’t feeling too well.
Given Inzaghi’s prior knowledge of Ménez’s physical condition, why did he opt to start him? Pazzini instantly changed Milan’s attack, stretched the Juventus defense and imposed himself physically on the opposition. He became a point of reference for an otherwise disjointed attack.
Playing Sulley Muntari with Michael Essien
Milan were missing their two best central midfielders – Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel De Jong. The choice to pick the central midfield in their absence becomes rather challenging. But, in no world is it acceptable to put Muntari and Michael Essien on the same pitch, at the same time. Both these players are frighteningly similar in what they do and how poorly they do it.
As expected, both these players were lunging into tackles, were often caught in possession and failed miserably to connect the defense with the attack. As a matter of fact, it was Muntari’s ludicrous decision to dribble out of the box that led to Juventus’ second goal. In the build up to the third goal, Paul Pogba easily dribbled past Muntari and Essien before setting up Claudio Marchisio for his shot.
The steel the two were meant to provide had melted within minutes after kick-off.
Subbing Andrea Poli
Poli put in a shift, delivering a half-decent performance. So, imagine the fury he must have felt when he was asked to come off the pitch while Muntari and Essien were shoddily going about their business.
According to WhoScored.com, Poli had the highest pass accuracy at 96%, even if Muntari made more key passes than any other player in the team. The team needed someone to keep it simple, not try something elaborate. Poli was doing just that.
Even then, Inzaghi decided it was best to substitute him, instead of Michael Essien, who was already on a booking.
Replacing Christian Zaccardo with Adil Rami
Milan were trailing 3-1 when Inzaghi had one change left in his corner. It would be his last roll of the dice. With 12 minutes to go before the end of the match, Inzaghi swapped Cristian Zaccardo for Adil Rami, in essence, throwing in the towel and accepting defeat.
At this point, Suso and Marco Van Ginkel were still on the bench for AC Milan. Inzaghi’s defeatist attitude against the bigger sides hasn’t changed, even with the squad being reinforced over the winter.
High-line of defence
Inzaghi’s attempt at hustling Juventus and playing a high-line of defence against a nippy attack must go down as one of his strangest tactical decisions yet. Carlos Tevez’s goal exposed Milan’s blatant lack of speed in defense.
On the opening goal, Zaccardo did not hold the off-side line accurately and Alex was equally culpable on Juventus’ third goal, as he played Morata on-side. Executing a defensive system and shape such as the high-line requires months of training. Inzaghi patched together an unprepared defense and attempted to execute this audacious tactic against one of the best teams in Europe.
I can’t stress on this enough – Inzaghi must be sacked without further delay. The rookie coach has little to no idea about what he is doing. His ineptitude is hurting the team and the club severely. It is about time this pretense is put to an end and a coach with serious coaching caliber is brought into the club before this mess becomes any madder.