In this article from Fox Soccer, Honorary President Berlusconi talks about Balotelli’s future with AC Milan and also about some criticism of Balotelli’s play. Berlusconi claims that he would consider sealing a permanent deal for Balotelli, but Balotelli drifts out to the wings too often and needs to mature on and off the pitch.
In this post, I am going to focus on why Balotelli “drifts” out to the wings.
In my opinion, there are a few reasons.
- Brendan Rodgers’ 4-4-2 diamond tactic. In this system, the former Liverpool manager used his two strikers as wide strikers. Using wide strikers in a 4-4-2 diamond helps cope with one major flaw of the system ー lack of attacking width. Usually, in a 4-4-2 diamond system, side backs provide attacking width; however, this is also a risk because the space a side back vacates is open for opponents to counterattack. Therefore, utilizing wide strikers will lower the risk of getting counterattacked and also give the attack more diversity. Regarding positioning, wide strikers position themselves between the opposition’s center back and side back in order to pull these players out of position. Also, wide strikers make runs out to and down flanks to provide attacking width. Strikers in wider positions create space for the CAM to make runs down the middle of the pitch. Perhaps, this play style is still ingrained into Balotelli’s mind, and does not fit with AC Milan’s current tactics.
- Tighter defenses in Italy. Balotelli is player who wants to use his technique and creativity when going at defenders, so not being able to unlock tight defenses of Serie A must be frustrating. One solution is finding space on the flanks, but this solution is effective only with tactical support and movement from teammates. Without support, a striker will find oneself isolated.
Living in Japan, I have limited access to European matches, unless I go to a pub (which is not a bad idea), so I cannot give a deep analysis of Balotelli’s play. However, from looking at his stats, his is making just cameo appearances recently.