Thursday August 22 2019
Milan take the tactical route

While others splash the cash on household names, Anthony Barbagallo believes Milan have made the most important investment in a real tactician.

Witnessing a seven-time Champions League winner sleep for the last six Serie A seasons has been nothing but tragic for one of Calcio’s titans. With half of the Italian media describing this crisis as a period of mediocrity, some believe, including former coaching legend Arrigo Sacchi, that Marco Giampaolo’s footballing philosophy will steer this Milan side back on the path to prosperity.

The 1-0 loss to Benfica and the stalemate against Serie C side Cesena in pre-season might not have shown positive signs. However, the game against Manchester United – where Milan lost on penalties – indicated that the Rossoneri’s attack has the potential to be as lethal as any of the other top Serie A sides.  

Realistically, many will be aware that Milan won’t be a Scudetto challenger this season. But after opting to drop out of the Europa League to wipe the FFP slate clean, the San Siro side can turn their full attention to the domestic side of things – hoping to achieve the main objective in securing a Champions League spot.

With eyeing a top-four finish, the 18-time Serie A winners also have a decent future project in the works. Boasting a young Italian core, an attack-minded Coach and one of the world’s most prolific strikers, these key factors can help guide Milan to brighter success this season.

Ever since Gennaro Gattuso took over as Milan Coach back in 2017, the Rossoneri slightly improved from their mediocre finishes between 2014 and 2016. But Gattuso’s grinta could only guide Milan to as high as fifth in Serie A, with the primary objective being a top-four finish each season. Now the Lombardy club finally boasts a tactician rather than a man-manager, a Coach who was able to make an entertaining Sampdoria side punch above its weight with limited resources.

But the Rossoneri fans remain divided on their new manager – alluding to the fact that their rivals Inter boast Antonio Conte, Juve have Maurizio Sarri, and Napoli can count on Milan legend Carlo Ancelotti.

It has always been the expectation for Milan to have a decorated and experienced manager on the sidelines. At least, it was until Silvio Berlusconi decided to go through the back-catalogue of former players who had recently retired. Giampaolo may not boast the most decorated CV, but his tactical awareness and style of football will give this successful and proud club a clear identity on the pitch.

Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 formation will be a better fit for most of the players in comparison to the 4-3-3 Gattuso utilised last season. The 52-year-old’s coaching philosophy focuses on playing aesthetic football – a one-touch passing system and building the attack from the backline. In some of the pre-season fixtures, it was evident that Milan will now tend to press high up the pitch to instantly dispossess their opponents. This attractive brand of Calcio will benefit players such as Krzysztof Piatek, Lucas Paqueta and new signing Theo Hernandez.

This model could also be a positive change for Suso. With the Italian tactician renowned for rejuvenating strikers Massimo Maccarone and Fabio Quagliarella in the past, the Swiss-born Coach will now look to do the same with Suso. We have already seen Giampaolo trial Suso as a trequartista (a playmaker sitting behind the strikers) in these recent pre-season friendlies, which has brought more creativity and goalscoring opportunities out of the 25-year-old Spaniard. If Suso can perform more consistently, then the attacking midfielder is set up for a productive campaign.

Milan may not have signed the big names during this transfer market, but they have quietly made some savvy acquisitions. The additions of Ismael Bennacer, Theo Hernandez, Rade Krunic, Rafael Leao and Leo Duarte are all young and promising reinforcements. These are the type of footballers who can thrive under an attacking style of football and complement the team’s main star Piatek.

Like Maurizio Sarri with Juventus, Giampaolo’s philosophy will require some time before it comes into full effect. But with no European competition commitments this season, this will give the Rossoneri players more time to work on passing combination and other team cohesion.

Milan have so far been judged harshly in their pre-season, so let’s see what Giampaolo and this revamped Rossoneri can produce in their season opener with Udinese this weekend. At least the San Siro side now has an authentic tactician at the helm, not just a former club legend taking the team on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

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Have your say...
I do not think it matters much, 4312 or 433. As long as Bonaventura plays either trequartista or LW. Bonaventura never loses the ball. Always creates and picks out a pass. Everyone overlooks him. He is the only player that amazes me and makes me excited from milan. Maybe Paqueta, but hardly as of yet. Bonaventura out of central midfield and into trequartista or LW solves all our problems. Mark my words.
on the 26th August, 2019 at 8:51pm
I hate that we are reverting back to the old formation especially because we didn’t sign the LW we needed for that. And the whole idea for Giampaolo was to revolutionise the formation and tactics to be more attacking. So why spend all pre season adjusting and then coward out of the plan. This will set us back further. We definitely have the players to play 4312 just needs time and to play the right players in the right positions. Not a man of conviction, a major cause for concern.
on the 26th August, 2019 at 10:10am
Borini is 29 and played almost all his career as a striker, where he’s training every day to make the right runs and finish a chance (as he’s too small to be a hold up striker). So he’s not trained to be extremely comfortable on the ball and be able to distribute it effectively like a Central midfielder. So why on earth was he playing in that position?! Sure he has a lot of energy but you need to be technically amazing in midfield not just useless running!
on the 26th August, 2019 at 10:06am
Wow things are bad we have maldini heir using Man UTD for tactical examples. It's going to be a longer season than most of us feared. Atleast he still only sees one problem, the LW. The other 10 world class players we just saw were disperate for a LW to complete the transformation from average team to a complete average team.

This is not a real coach this is an accumulation of the past 5 years wrapped into 1. He knows less than the inexperienced bunch we have had up to now.

Sacked by xmas
on the 26th August, 2019 at 9:05am
Horror showing, it’s only one match but no shots on target is deeply concerning. But hey when you are playing a striker in the middle of the park then that is what you get I suppose. And a winger up front. These guys played their whole career in these positions and then are asked to play a completely different role. When we have the players in those positions sitting on the bench.
Worst of all the hint that we will revert back to old tactics in 433. Shambles!
on the 26th August, 2019 at 7:14am

Yes, lets play laxalt, Duarte, and Andre Silva..... You're kidding right?
on the 26th August, 2019 at 6:43am
Players need to compliment each other. If one player is slow and technical, we need a pacey, physical player to make up for their weaknesses. The Man Utd side that won the treble had Beckham (passer), Keane (battler), Scholes (goal scorer) and Giggs (pacey, dribbler) that is why it worked so well. Juve once had Pirlo (passer), Vidal (battler) and Pogba (pacey, dribbler) and they all chipped in with goals. All top teams have had players complimenting each other. The squad is what it is. Giampaolo just needs to do the best he can with what he’s got. One game down. 37 to go.
on the 26th August, 2019 at 1:12am
One issue that has persisted with Milan for years is the lack of balance in the squad where we have too many similar players who do not compliment each other. Against Udinese we had Çalhanoğlu and Paquetá and Suso and Castillejo. They’re basically cancelling each other out which is why it looked like we had 9 men.
on the 26th August, 2019 at 1:10am
Well there you go. Good to see Giampaolo acknowledge that his tactics didn’t work and taking steps immediately to change things. Last season Suso finished joint second in the assists charts so that was not an area that we needed to change. We needed to focus on the lack of assists or goals from the left by ideally signing someone with pace. Maybe Leão can provide that pace.
on the 26th August, 2019 at 1:09am
contradictions to this article by giampaolo himself after the udinese loss. the positive from this is that he recognised that he cant fit square pegs into round holes. cala, borini, casti cant play in their given roles so just worked extremely hard, supply to suso was cut off meaning no supply for piatek. suso came to life when he went to his natural rwf role. piatek im not convinced by. for nxt game xi should be dona, conti, duarte, romag, laxalt, kessie, bennacer, paqueta, suso, bona, silva
on the 25th August, 2019 at 10:21pm
This is gonna be another looooong season full of disappointments for us....f3
on the 25th August, 2019 at 9:34pm
It's going to be an other long long season.
on the 25th August, 2019 at 7:20pm
FYI I'm not the same person as "Milan Fan".
on the 25th August, 2019 at 4:59pm
If Maldini heir reaches the end of his tether we need to all prepare ourselves for a tsunami of words!
on the 24th August, 2019 at 11:05pm
I never called for an overhaul, you must be confusing me with someone else, but I respect and understand a new coach wanting a few new faces suited to his formation and ideas.

5 or 6 new players, some of them for depth, is not an overhaul, specially since we had many players running down their contracts.

And I will never compare Giampaolo to Guardiola. My point was, he had a similar view to game and certain kind of players, and it's hard to get results with average teams that way.
on the 24th August, 2019 at 10:14pm
@Milan Fan
He had an above average squad (same as Milan) including the top scorer last season and managed only 10th place. All my point is is that we shouldn’t rush to think he’s the next Pep just cos he plays a more attractive style of football than Gattuso did. I’ll wait to judge him by results (which he didn’t achieve with Samp)

And now you are saying Milan players underperformed, of course they did, hence no need for an entire rebuild which you are constantly calling for every other FI blog
on the 24th August, 2019 at 3:31pm

Of course Milan have had a better squad compared to Samp. You trying to say Gattuso and all the other non-coaches we had were better than Giampaolo? Because according to you they finished higher up the table with comparable squads.

That's nonsense. Also because Milan and it's players underperformed due to the lack of a proper coach in these years.

But I guess we'll have to wait and see.
on the 24th August, 2019 at 12:55pm
@ AC Milan Fan Milan haven't had a proper coach in 5 years and have signed about a million players so it's pretty pointless even talking about this anymore. We will simply never know what level those players could have reached. It is what is. There's nothing we can do about the past and all we can do is hope (because that's all that's left really) that things somehow improve and we get some kind of stability. I am getting very close to the end of my tether.
on the 24th August, 2019 at 1:44am
(Cont'd) over the same period are (season, record, points, goals for/against): 16/17, 12-12-14, 48pts, 49/55; 17/18, 16-6-16, 54pts, 56/60; and 18/19, 15-8-15, 53pts, 60/51. These stats are telling. Particularly the fact they won as much as they lost, but could not draw. This to me implies matches lost that could have at least been drawn. This is a defensive problem due to deficient defensive talent.
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 7:29pm
I disagree that Samp had a comparable team to Milan's in recent years. This undercuts all the arguments that the players we have are good enough! I just reviewed their squads for 16/17, 17/18 and 18/19, and with the exception of Skriniar and Anderson the defenses are substantially inferior to ours over the same period. The attack is alright, but still lesser than Milan's. The only area where they're truly comparable is midfield. This dovetails neatly with their goals for/against stats (Cont'd)
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 7:19pm
@Milan Fan
He had 3 years at Samp with a squad fairly comparable in quality to Milan's in that time and couldn't progress them further than a comfortable mid table finish - in all 3 years. An elite coach can perform miracles with limited resources. Lets see how he does, I agree with the formation change as I believe it suits our players better. But to say he is a tactically great is a bit extreme, just because he plays attacking football.
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 10:52am
I also agree that Giampaolo's Samp didn't really punch above their weight. I mean in many one-off matches against the big boys, sure, but in the end they finished where they were supposed to.

Thing is, he has this certain idea of football around attacking play with pressing using high quality technical players that is hard to implement successfully with mid-table teams. It's a bit like Guardiola, you can't expect him to play his football in a team like Samp.

So I'm curious. We'll have to see.
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 9:18am
Nice write up but I have to disagree with the premise that Giampaolo and Sampdoria punched above their weight. They were predicted to be mid table for the last 3 years and that's exactly where they finished.

When you see them play, that sometimes looked like a top four teams, other teams they would lose 4-0 to Udinese. Don't be surprised if EDF leads Samp to a higher finish than Milan this year!
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 7:43am
Well I guess we’ll have to see. I wish the season would start already so we could get back to watching football rather than talking about it. Give me and the manager until Christmas as we both need to get to know all of our new players!
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 3:17am
I think the days of Milan boasting a "young Italian core" are just about over. We have Gigio, Romagnoli, and Calabria + Conti and Caldara who are never fit with Jack's fitness still shaky. When Locatelli and Cutrone were still around, sure.
Teams like Roma have an Italian core... heck even Inter with Barella, Sensi, Politano, Esposito, D'Ambrosio, Candreva.
on the 23rd August, 2019 at 2:01am
If he makes it to christmas it will be a great achievement.
on the 22nd August, 2019 at 11:05pm
You need a Kessie in your team, someone physical who can win the ball, play box to box, I know he has no end product but that is not his main role in the team, I hope Giampaolo is this tactical genius everyone says he is, he will need to be
on the 22nd August, 2019 at 10:33pm
@Milan Fan
Finally you are seeing the effects of needless transfers!!!
Kessie is one of our few players with near limitless energy. So to say he can’t adapt to Giampaolo’s tactics is completely false. Completely false, because he will be the one to provide aggression and intensity in the middle of the park while the other more technical players build attacks.
And if he goes for €20m we are short a starting midfielder, and we will pay much much more for his replacement. Pray it’s a stupid rumour
on the 22nd August, 2019 at 10:19pm
What the freaking hell is these news about Kessie to Monaco for 20m? There are so many things wrong with this I don't know where to begin. First of them is they screwed us once on the Andre Silva deal, now no one wants him, they think he's broken. And for God's sake 20m?

For me Kessie is instrumental, he was great in his cameo against Cesena. If this happens then I don't know, there's just no hope for us.
on the 22nd August, 2019 at 9:41pm
It seems to be forgotten that gattuso had to make up for half a decade of transfer austerity than a transfer window of pure insanity buying 11 players no of whom were any good at playing left wing despite the fact that milan used 433 for the entire season before.

Gattuso only real fault was that he cared too much which as a fan i love but i can see how it can be counter productive professionally. If milan are successful it is because gattuso put in the building block first
on the 22nd August, 2019 at 6:11pm

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