While Clarence Seedorf made a winning start to his life as a manager this weekend in a 1-0 AC Milan victory over Hellas Verona, several worrying signs were apparent.
The 4-2-3-1 formation that Seedorf set up the side in was certainly mouthwatering going forward. January signing Keisuke Honda linked well with Brazilians Kaka and Robinho to maintain possession in attacking areas and to press high up the pitch. It was surprising to see the commitment level from both Brazilians’ to defensive work, but in the first game being led by a former teammate, they showed a willingness to sacrifice for the cause that will serve the Rossoneri well down the road.
The problem is that Milan’s back line got caught out several times playing a high line and not providing enough width in the attack to supplement the good work of the midfielders. Longer-term, it is difficult to see how three midfielders with the same skill-set can all be on the pitch at once. Furthermore, Milan still did not move the ball quickly enough in the midfield in this match despite creating multiple scoring opportunities.
Pressing higher up the pitch, the commitment level of the Milan players may have caught Verona off guard, but long-term it may simply not work. It also seemed that the shape was at times undefined in the midfield, leading Verona to counter-attack effectively from time to time.
The win was great for Milan to boost their confidence, though it must be remembered that Kaka was actually going away from goal when he was taken down for a clear penalty that Mario Balotelli converted. Thus, the progressive approach of Milan still did not yield a goal from open play.
The big questions about Seedorf, as a manager, remain —
1. Can a novice manager, despite his playing pedigree, rescue the club over the long haul?
2. Will a club with so many accomplished professionals who are lingering mid-table be able to maintain the tempo and commitment level of the Verona match?
3. Finally, with repetitive midfielders and the need to reintegrate Stephan El Shaarawy when he is fit, who is going to be dropped and is the formation going to change? Does Seedorf have enough faith in his backline to push the fullbacks forward into wide areas?
Seedorf has made a winning start, but can the Rossoneri sustain this? It is difficult to tell as the side has been so consistently underwhelming during the season, and so many questions remain. One thing is for certain, Seedorf — one of the most decorated players of the last two decades — is a winner who the players are likely to respect. Whether that is enough for Milan to get anywhere near a European place remains to be seen.