Monday July 8 2019
A different Milan with Theo

New Milan purchase Theo Hernandez brings characteristics suited to Marco Giampaolo’s football, explains Sam Wilson.

The first official summer signing has already been announced at Milan, as they paid €20m to snap up Real Madrid’s Franco-Spanish left-back Theo Hernandez.

Milan’s left-back option has been primarily Swiss international Ricardo Rodriguez, who played the majority of the Rossoneri’s games last season. Theo Hernandez and Rodriguez, however, are fundamentally different players.

Theo is more confident on the ball than Rodriguez, attempting and succeeding in more dribbles per game on average than the Swiss defender. Milan’s new Frenchman also has a greater tendency to cut passing lines and intercept the ball, whereas defensively, Rodriguez tends to focus more on chasing down and recovering possession through tackles.

Hernandez, despite his confidence on the ball, is more susceptible to taking longer than he should and, consequently, losing possession to the opposition. However, at just 21 years old, this is something that will only get better with time. Similarly, Hernandez gives away around one foul per game on average, whilst Rodriguez’s average is much lower, at just over 0.5 per game.

Rodriguez comes under a lot of fire for his relatively average performances for Milan over the past few years, but fundamentally he is a reliable and experienced defender. Milan already have Diego Laxalt and it would be expected that the Rossoneri would let the Uruguayan leave before Rodriguez, so as to not immediately rush Hernandez into playing every game, but at the same time, not overcrowding the position.

Last season for Sampdoria, 24-year-old Italian full-back Nicola Murru played most of their Serie A matches. Giampaolo selected Murru for this position because of his suitability to the Coach’s signature 4-3-1-2 formation. Giampaolo requires full-backs who can cover lots of ground up and down the left and right flanks, and Sampdoria signed Murru from Cagliari in 2017 for this express purpose.

However, like Bennacer shows a remarkable semblance statistically to Lucas Torreira in his time under Giampaolo at Sampdoria, Hernandez shares some key attributes with Murru, distinguishing him from Rodriguez.

For example, both Murru and Hernandez have similarly high rates of interceptions per game, as well as attempting a similar number of tackles per game. Furthermore, both cover large areas of the pitch in each game and, like Rodriguez, are both competent crossers of the ball.

Where Hernandez does differ from both Murru and Rodriguez is with his dribbling, suggesting that this could have been a trait Giampaolo considered to be desirable at Sampdoria, given the tendency of the full-backs to cover lots of ground, yet one which was not present in Murru. Therefore, when the opportunity to sign Theo Hernandez arose, for a rather modest €20m fee, it was considered a solid chance to secure a potentially important player for Giampaolo at Milan.

Have your say...
A few things are fact. One of them is that Milan have kept TOOOO many players for TOOOO long, so Zapata should be gone. Sign an average player to replace him. Zapata is more than average talent who played well below average most of his time at Milan, and when he wasn't playing poorly he was barely playing at all. Mauri can go. Doesn't help anyone.

Milan have a million fullbacks tho. We'll see how they use Suso, but both he and Castillejo are huge talents. Keep one of them in the hole.
on the 18th July, 2019 at 3:31am
Rodriguez is one of the best around, but he hasn't been at his best for Milan. That said, he's been well above average. He's been solid, just not one of the standout left backs int the world as he had been at Wolfsburg and with the national team. His last season at Wolfsburg was considered a disaster, but they had him playing CB lol and the team struggled. He was solid and it cost him a lot of spotlight.

Maybe he should move on, and Hernandez will be great, but Theo isn't as good as Rodriguez.
on the 18th July, 2019 at 3:14am
I am in full agreement with you on Mauri; I was excited when Milan signed him and hoped to see him display and improve on his potential. I don't know what the staff was seeing in training that kept him from earning more minutes but I'm disappointed to see him go without having the chance to make any real impact. I anticipate he'll prove in another team that he really can be a solid reliable player.
on the 12th July, 2019 at 2:34pm
Yes, Suso provided assists; he also disappeared into anonymity without making notable impact on almost any game for nearly half the season. He also has a tendency to lose possession in the attacking third now that opposition is so well-versed on his move to cut inside. He needs to display more versatility. I'm not advocating a sale...we don't know how he'll end up doing in Gia's formation, after all; but if he doesn't adapt and provide valuable play then I'm not going to stress it if he leaves.
on the 12th July, 2019 at 2:31pm
signings each of whom will provide fewer assists. Milan went through a period where they sold their leading goalscorer at the end of nearly every season after both the club and the fans had turned on the players. Balotelli, Menez, Bacca....It's messed up. And it's a mess.
on the 12th July, 2019 at 2:24am
Since we sold Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for approx 60m in 12/13 we have spent approx 600m in 6 seasons. And where are we? It's a complete false economy. We would save more money just not buying or selling anyone.

@ AnonMilan It's not loyalty for the sake of it. It's loyalty to the player who provided most of our assists last season. It should not be controversial to expect fans to back him. And if he do sell him for money than we'll probably end up spending more replacing him with multiple
on the 12th July, 2019 at 2:21am
@ Milanista But isn't Mauri just another case in point. At 19 he played 33 Serie A games for Parma run a single, signed for Milan and that was end of his career. Again and again we see the same thing happening. Players are simply not reaching their potential. If Simone Padoin has 5 Scudetto titles with Juventus than Mauri was good enough for Milan's bench. As for balancing the books, recent history has shown that every time Milan or other clubs try that we end up spending more money
on the 12th July, 2019 at 2:13am
Loyalty for the sheer sake of loyalty is a hindrance, not a noble trait. I like Suso but he's inconsistent and predictable, far to much so for someone who wants to be paid €6m per year. If he can adapt to the 4-3-1-2 and be impactful then great, happy to have him; but if not, and if there's someone willing to pay his release clause, well...
on the 11th July, 2019 at 2:26pm
I agree we should have kept Zapata but Mauri I dont think offered alot in terms of cover for anyone. What are the chances Biglia and Jack can even finish half of the season? As a player i think Suso should be kept, the question is can we afford to do that and do we need to sell him to balance books if we keep Donna. We need revenue from somewhere, i just dont understand how we can get around ffp without sales of higher value players.
on the 11th July, 2019 at 12:32pm
@ AC Milan Fan Now you're just being argumentative for the sake of it. Gomez and Mertens were joint first in assists with 11 and Suso and Callejón were joint second AND Suso is not responsible for the other players in the squad not providing assists. AND even more, by the same logic that I should shut up and support Hernandez (who has only been at the club 5 minutes) everyone needs to get behind Suso and the EXISTING Milan players. Fans need to start showing some loyalty.
on the 11th July, 2019 at 12:28am
would have to work within that. This way managers could be hired and fired and the players would stay the same. It worked for a few years at Milan but increasingly it doesn't. The biggest problem is the directors (and Milan seem to have a load of random ex-players clogging up the upper echelons) have to justify their existence. And they think that their existence is dependent on wheeling and dealing on the transfer market as if they were some kind of stock broker. This is the main issue.
on the 11th July, 2019 at 12:25am
else and can focus our finite resources on really targeted signings. Instead we're having to sign squad players when our first team has a huge gaping hole on the left hand side of attack. But I'm being naive because as Milan manager I would actually not get this choice. Managers don't get the finally decision in relation to what players get signed. That is the director of football. The idea of a director of football was to bring stability to clubs. They'd have an overall strategy and the manager
on the 11th July, 2019 at 12:22am
@ Milanista But the key thing that everyone is glossing over is the fact that these players were let leave. If I was a new Milan manager I wouldn't want any players to leave until I had a chance to fully assess them. And my aim would be to work with what I had and to build from that. Bakayoko aside, are you telling me that Zapata and Mauri could not have been convinced to stay? And why would we want them to stay? Because it means we have cover for these positions and don't need to sign someone
on the 11th July, 2019 at 12:19am
@Maldini's Heir. Suso was third most in assists but it doesn't paint a complete picture. According to ESPN, Milan had 2 players in the assists top 50. Meanwhile Atalanta had 5, Juventus 4, Sassuolo 4, Inter 3 (one of whom was Icardi playing 2/3 season), Roma 3 (Kluivert & Under part timing), Napoli 3, Lazio 3, even Empoli has 3. So it just means most of the play was going through Suso. Predictable play through a predictable player. BTW, 2/3 Empoli players in the top 50 are Krunic and Bennacer:-)
on the 10th July, 2019 at 8:00pm
I would share your concerns about changing the team to much but a sizeable number of squad players decided themselves to leave. Also the squad is full of injury prone players like Jack, Biglia, Caldara and Conti who we can't depend on. I think Rod will be used as cb cover so Theo is a good signing and cheap. Also if anyone can pick out a good left back it should be Maldini.
on the 10th July, 2019 at 9:43am
And I'm particularly interested in once so called mediocre players lifting their game. I'm sure Giampaolo has a plan and I guess I'm going to have to accept all of the changes. If they work then great. If they don't, can I please ask everyone here to stop demanding more changes next season. At the end of the day if the fans stopped buying into the ridiculous transfer market the clubs and agents wouldn't get away with it as easily.
on the 10th July, 2019 at 12:28am
@ AC Milan Fan Suso had the 2nd most assists of any player in Serie A last season so I really wish the fans would lay off him. And of course on the left we needed X player with pace. I do take your point about Rodriguez. That's probably not a bad idea. I really think that teams are at their pomp when players are comfortable playing in a number of positions. That's what Ancelotti's side was like. Costacurta (who had never played FB) moved across the back line. Serginho played LB, LW and upfront.
on the 10th July, 2019 at 12:25am
Oh, also consider this y'all: Maybe Giampa plans to rely Rodriguez as an emergency CB? Caldara is out until December, and if they bring in another CB it still makes 3 fit CBs to start the season.Thus, Hernandez brings flexibility and choice, as Giampa can rotate OR play him AND Rodriguez at the same time should 2 of the 3 fit CBs go down. Remember when we played Abate and Zapata at CB for a few games last season?
on the 9th July, 2019 at 3:50pm
@Maldini's Heir. As it has been pointed out ad nauseam, Milan lost at least 4 CMs to free agency/end of loan this summer. One of these was a starter (Baka), and a good one. Jack is coming back after a year out in god knows what condition and Biglia is declining fast. If Bennacer arrives it will be a shrewd signing. 21 and in the top 10 in most defensive midfield statistical categories the past season. So in the end we're better suited for the 4-3-1-2, and that's what Giampa is working towards.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 3:43pm
@Maldini's Heir. I would dispute that this squad is suited for the 4-3-3. They played the entirety of last season without a proper LW. Then on the right you had the slow and predictable Suso, who got much better when he drifted into the middle. One touch or two touches, and then a shot or a pass. This is what he should be about. Now he will have that chance AND they don't have to spend the $$$ on a hotshot LW/LF, because after strikers they are the most expensive position in football.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 3:35pm
@ PrimoCalcio Exactly. So that’s why tweaks and focused signings are more important than a scattergun approach and constant clean slates. After last season Milan need fine tuning not a new engine. I’m half regretting Gattuso leaving.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 9:47am
Mnn, you've written at length in the past that success in football is some mystic alchemy and that nobody really understands what makes a team great...
And no you know exactly what the secret is that makes a great team. Shocker.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 1:55am
In fact the secret to a team is not to have too many players competing for a few starting spots, What you need is 11 core players and about 5 subs who can cover for more than one position. In that respect Calabria is ideal because he can cover both FB positions. This is what the likes of Barcelona do who managed to compete on 3 fronts with a squad smaller than Milan's.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 12:56am
@ Toby When Milan won the Champions League in 1994 we played Panucci at LB and had a makeshift CB pairing of Maldini and Galli (by today's standards the latter would probably be playing in Serie B having been transferred 15 times). Under Ancelotti we played a 40 year old Costacurta at LB and such greats as Pancaro, Favilli, Kadladze and Serginho. The reason those teams were successful was not because they had super-world-class players x 2 in every position but because they were teams. In fact
on the 9th July, 2019 at 12:53am
And then we'll be having the exact same conversation in a year's time about Hernandez except I'll be defending him because he'll be a Milan player and I defend Milan players.

@ DarrenMilanFan I'd prioritise one top player over 4 or 5 average players. We finished 1 point off the Champions League with Gattuso as our manager. A decent manager and one world class signing would get us into the top 4. Instead we're taking a squad that is suited to 433 and changing it to fit into 41212
on the 9th July, 2019 at 12:14am
@ Trigoria Ground Well that makes matters worse.

@ All I don't know if you can all remember 5 minutes ago when Rodriguez was considered the greatest left back on the planet for Wolfsburg linked to all of the major clubs. Then, unbelievably, he signed for Milan and it went downhill. Sound familiar? My issue is that rather than trying to figure out why Rodriguez (or any player) is not playing at the same level he was before, we decide to just sign someone else. This is Milan in a nutshell.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 12:07am
Milan should raise funds by selling players like Castillejo, Borini, Rodriguez, Laxalt, Biglia, Chalhanoglu and even Suso if he fails the trequartista test.
That's around 100m easy right there and we don't really need any of them. We don't need a big squad this season.
on the 9th July, 2019 at 12:04am
@Maldini's Heir Im sorry what? Hernandez best attribute literally is his pace. Giampaolo's system relies heavily on the fullbacks and he needs 2 competent ones for each side, whom can both offer different attributes. We now have that. Krunic and Bennacer are 2 of the smartest signings we've made in years, low cost high upside investments. We NEEDED reinforcements in midfield after losing 4, did you want us to start the season with 5 viable midfielders when Giampaolo plans to use 4 at a time?
on the 8th July, 2019 at 11:46pm

I agree Rodriguez is more than decent. The arrival of Hernandez does not necessarily mean Rodriguez is out.

With the 4-3-1-2 you need capable full backs. Now we have Conti/Calabria on the right and Hernandez/Rodriguez on the left.

I don't see why we would keep Laxalt and get rid of Rodriguez and we do need 2 strong left backs.
on the 8th July, 2019 at 9:14pm
I haven't seen any news on the Caldara Injury?!
on the 8th July, 2019 at 9:09pm

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