Mihajlovic Another Victim In Berlusconi’s Merry-Go-Round

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s appointment on the Milan bench last June was one that was met with mixed emotion, but his sudden sacking on Monday evening, saw the Milan faithful appalled by club president Silvio Berlusconi’s sudden reaction. The Serbian’s dismissal came roughly 62 hours after losing 2-1 to Serie A table-toppers Juventus on Saturday evening, and it was a firing which few have been able to fully comprehend.

Just like Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi before him, Berlusconi had burnt another bridge (or bench) in the coaching world, and there have been fears that the same fate could be handed to new coach, Cristian Brocchi.

The former Rossoneri midfielder was revealed as the club’s new head coach on Wednesday afternoon, seeing the 40-year-old complete the merry-go-round of five coaching changes in the space of three years at Milanello.

“There were talks with the President [Silvio Berlusconi] which led to the club making this decision,” declared Adriano Galliani during the Brocchi’s press first press conference. “We assessed the last period, from the defeat at Sassuolo onward and we arrived at this decision. Mihajlovic did a good job, we’re sixth and in the final of the Coppa Italia, but we thought we needed something else now.”

With six league games to go until the end of the 2015/16 Serie A season; the timing of Mihajlovic’s exit has raised several question marks - after all, it wasn’t all doom and gloom during the 47-year-old’s 10-month tenure. In fact, the club had shown growth in certain areas on the field….

Between the 1-1 draw to Roma in January and the victory over Torino at the end of February, the Diavoli managed to record a run of eight games unbeaten – the longest since April 2012, which included a highly impressive 3-0 victory against Inter in the Derby della Madonnina. And while all of that was being achieved, the former Inter mentor also steered Milan to their first Coppa Italia final in 13 years.

What is equally important to note are the small changes that started to be implemented on the field of play… Ignazio Abate is one player who improved under the guidance of Mihajlovic, and it comes as no surprise when reports suggested he was in tears when bidding the philosophical coach his adieus.

The Croatian-born instructor worked at the right back’s game and played an instrumental role in molding him into a more precise player. Famously known for miss-timing his runs, playing bad horizontal balls across the field, Abate learnt how to minimize his game and play more effectively. Instead of floating crosses into the box (something which he struggled to execute accurately) the blonde defender focused on running less towards the byline to deliver a direct cross, and, instead, preferred to sit back in order not to leave himself as exposed. He would only run further up when needed. This then meant his game changed in the delivery of more long balls up the field instead.

According to WhoScored, Abate’s crosses have reduced by 0.2 from last season to this season, while his long balls increased from 2.3 efforts a game last term to 3.1 in the current campaign. In addition, the 29-year-old’s average passes per game also improved by 3.9 lay-offs a game, while his pass percentage remained at 77.1%.

Heat Map Shows How Abate Barely Crossed The Halfway Line vs Juventus

Not only did Abate’s game change for the better, but Mihajlovic showed great trust in the youngsters this season. Alessio Romagnoli was one player who excelled under Sinisa, seeing him make an average of 1.3 tackles per game, 2.4 interceptions, and 5.5 clearances for every 90 minutes spent on the field. The only person who bettered the 21-year-old defensively was the experienced Alex.
The biggest credit the tactician has to be commended for is the promotion of Gianluigi Donnarumma. At a time where Diego Lopez’s massive salary was arguably controlling his starting position, Mihajlovic made the bold move and handed the 16-year-old his debut against the Rossoneri’s boogey team, Sassuolo. From that moment, neither club nor goalkeeper looked back and he helped lead Milan secure a string of positive results and record a number of clean sheets.

While there were evident areas of positivity in having Mihajlovic on the bench, which included a massive improvement in set piece situations (11 goals were scored from a dead ball scenario), there were also negatives to his game.

Consistency was an ailment so obvious it lit up like a Las Vegas billboard, and it was because of this, that the club’s chances to qualify for the UEFA Champions League were blown relatively quickly. For every bit of good that was done, the ex-Sampdoria manager struggled to keep things consistent within the team, and, in turn, this inhibited the squad from moving forwards and progressing in their game. No matter what improvements were made, it was rarely surpassed with more progress…

Failure to go beyond a certain point was largely due to the coach’s one-dimensional tactics. Often, “Miha” would look lost when it came to chasing scorelines and points, and he showed plenty of tactical naivety when it came to changing things up and making substitutions (this was evident in the lack of impact his changes had in the defeat to Juventus this past weekend).

What made, and still makes, Carlo Ancelotti a powerful manager is the fact that he knows how to administer his players properly. For the hardheaded Serbian, that trait never came so easily and he reportedly left the club on the back of strained relationships with Philippe Mexes, Jeremy Menez, Mario Balotelli, Jose Mauri, Keisuke Honda and Diego Lopez.

While it may be argued that Mihajlovic didn’t do enough to remain as Milan coach for next season, making him leave the club with a handful of league games and the Coppa Italia to spare seems like yet another petty and unprofessional move by Berlusconi.

Brocchi now has an even big challenge on his hands, as he has only two months to right his predecessor’s wrongs, claim the Coppa Italia trophy and find a way to ensure he doesn’t land up with the same fate his former teammates endured.

Speaking at the press conference, the new Diavolo tutor expressed his thoughts on the matter: “There is a risk. But you've got to have the humility to understand that if things go poorly, it's going to go the way things have gone before. I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity with the utmost desire and humility. I'm not afraid."

If anyone ever needed luck, it is the two times UEFA Champions League winner himself. In Bocca al Lupo, Mister.


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