10-15 minutes of high pressing, positive football gave way to a deafening reminder of the mess we have been in for many months, perhaps a few years.
Last weekend we played better, quite well for the first half, and were undone by Tek’s calamitous individual errors. This time around we were set up to fail by some appalling tactical choices from Allegri. And it is hard to agree that he was forced into the changes he made, to the whole system.
Mckennie is not a trequartista. He is a box to box midfielder, with a good engine, who is adept at bombing forward from deep and hustling all over the field. He was non existent as a player on the field of any value and it is hard to blame him, given he was asked to play in a role not at all natural to his game.
Danilo was another atrocious choice at DM, who gave virtually zero screening to the back line and failed to make his presence count for 99% of the match. No real surprise given he is a fullback.
Rabiot has not played preseason and looked listless, unfit, lacking any sense of sharpness. Which left only one of the three CMs of any presence, but Bentancur was stretched constantly as he had close to no support whatsoever in the middle of the park. Dybala did more in midfield than Danilo or Rabiot…
Chiesa was the only positive element and yet was hooked off when clearly our only attacking threat.
How bad can Fagioli and Rannochia be in training to not be given any playing time, in their natural roles, when those picked ahead of them were awful?
Freddy B has quickly reprised the guise of a man who is simply playing the wrong sport. For most of the match we looked like we had no midfield, only Bentancur struggling, overwhelmed and others coming deeper from attack to try help out, which left us light up top.
Tek – Flapped a little for the goal, but it was poor defensive marking which was to blame, not the keeper. 6
Bonucci – Kept very busy and was generally sound, but turned a few times when sticking too tight to opponents. 5.5
De Ligt – Similar performance to Big Leo – both too tight and turned and yet they had no midfield in front of them. 5.5
Sandro – Average, but poor crossing and not much presence down the flank. 5
Juan – Huffed and puffed and had a chance, but generally poor. 5
Bentancur – Hard to judge him too harshly, given the hideous imbalance of energy, pace, sharpness of the CM area. 5
Rabiot – Appalling, ineffective but clearly nowhere near full fitness – 3
Danilo – He played like a FB asked to become a regista 3
McKennie – Non existent 3
Dybala – Ran a fair amount, dropped too deep, too often, ran into too many bodies when having the ball at his feet yet often nobody to pass to. 4
Chiesa – Made several opportunities solely through his own immense zeal, unlucky not to score. 6.5
Freddy B – He is not a footballer, at least in black and white. 2
Locatelli – Played more attacking than the expected DM role and looked useful as he made more happen in the box. 6
Morata – Instantly looked lively, then faded to vapid. 5
Kulu – showed some good technique, but crowded out too often with no movement around to pass to. 5.5
Max – His tactical experimentation and selection set us up to fail 3
The shambles of a side we have long become is not going to be fixed in a few weeks. There was no cohesion, players were in the wrong positions, no recognisable shape, close to zero creativity and Empoli were worthy winners.
A two week break now which whilst may help to improve the fitness of the squad, is unlikely to help much at at all tactically because much of the squad will be traveling all over the world with their national sides. After which we have some tough games, but every game is presently tough for us, no matter the opponent.
The one thing I had hoped of Max was that we would be organised, no lofty idealism, pragmatism to rule. It is very early days, and ridiculous to be anything other than disappointed and concerned. The worry is that whilst Max is working out a system which fits, we will fall behind the top pack and be playing catch-up when and if we do find any form and momentum.
I stick to the conclusion that we have one of the strongest squads in the league, a top class manager and the potential to be much, much better. How long this will take to be realised is a question not even Max can answer.