Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Benitez got the formation right but the personnel and the substitutions wrong!

There are three types of decisions that a football coach has to make when preparing for a game.

His first of course is to decide on the game plan (usually based on an assessment of his team’s and the opposition’s weaknesses and strengths).

The second on the system and formation that will fit the game plan. He has to choose a formation that will allow his team’s strengths to shine, exploit the opposition’s weaknesses and at the same time contain the threats. Which is a difficult balancing act.

And lastly decide on the appropriate personnel to make the game plan work.

He also has to have some alternative plans (plan B if you like) and substitution options sorted out beforehand so that he can timely respond to events during the game.

Benitez got the formation right for this Champions League Final against Milan in Athens but we are sorry to say he got the rest pretty much wrong!

And we are not some post match, wise after the event, climbers on the bandwagon of Benitez bashers! In our review of the game “Rafa’s line up and formation” and additionally in our posting “Is this really Rafa’s line up?” we pretty much warned of what was likely to happen.

First glaring mistake was what we would call the “schizophrenic” choice of placing Kuyt on the striker’s role. Schizophrenic because why play with two wingers whose main function when attacking would be to put crosses in but omit Crouch from the line up? He was the only one in the Liverpool ranks who could exploit these balls.

We believe that Crouch should have started as Milan’s defenders, especially goalkeeper Dida, were known to be vulnerable to high balls as was so evident in their games against United. And the goal that Liverpool eventually scored came from a high ball delivered from a corner.

Second glaring mistake was to persist with the ineffective Zenden on the wide midfield position. This was very evident in his inept performance against Chelsea in the Semi final.

Riise should have started there with Arbeloa at left back. Riise would have been much better at attacking defenders, getting crosses in and also tracking back to defend.

And the third glaring mistake was that he got the substitutions wrong! What the hell did Harry Kewell contribute to the game? Why oh why get him on in such an important game when he has been out of action and obviously not match fit for almost the whole season?

Substituting Mascherano instead of Alonso was another mistake as kaka was then free to do the damage, he was denied excellently during the game, in setting up the second killer goal at 82 minutes for that perennial goal poacher Pippo Inzaghi.

But although he got Crouch on it was way too late in the game for him to have any meaningful impact. A player that should have been on from the beginning!

Arsene is no hot shot on substitutions, we all know that, but we don’t think he would have made these type of mistakes! And to go one step further Arsenal, with Henry and Van Persie in the line up, would have wrung circles round this very ordinary and ageing Milan team.

The Olympics originated in Greece. Well, Milan’s victory can be likened to an athlete running the hundred meters in the Olympics final. He may have won this world prestigious event and got all the glory but at a time well outside the world record!