Sunday February 23 2020
Rebic right for new-look Rossoneri

Ante Rebic went from Milan benchwarmer to decisive goal-scorer, as Kaustubh Pandey analyses what changed around the Bullish Croatian.

Ante Rebic’s goal against Fiorentina wasn’t the prettiest of all. But it worked, like it has so far this season. The manner of it was hardly surprising, as the man has made a career out of dirty goals. But this one coming against his former club was meant to be and it was proof that the Croatian is proving critics wrong this season.

The game didn’t go Milan’s way, as La Viola got a controversial penalty that Erick Pulgar slotted home. But it was another reminder that without Rebic, Milan may not have been competing for Europe this season at all. The Eintracht Frankfurt loanee has now technically won as many as 10 Serie A points for the Rossoneri, excluding his recent Coppa Italia goal against Juventus and the non-decisive goal against Inter.

When the season had begun, there were question marks about Rebic and why he wasn’t playing under Marco Giampaolo. Under the former Sampdoria boss, Rebic played only three games and couldn’t make a single start. Playing in a technically obsessed system could have been a reason, but the fact that Rebic had played in a technical system under Adi Hutter at Frankfurt made it strange.

What made it even more strange is that the Eagles had been playing in a 3-4-1-2 shape with a narrow front three, exactly how Giampaolo likes in a 4-3-1-2. No one knew what was wrong.

The former Fiorentina man was linked with a premature exit in January. There was talk of a return to Frankfurt and he did admit a desire to go back to the Commerzbank Arena.

Stefano Pioli did give him his first start against Lazio in a 2-1 defeat, but it came on the right-wing of a 4-3-3 shape. Over time, Pioli has changed the club’s system and shape to mould it into a variable 4-4-2 formation. Ever since that has happened, Rebic has come to the fore with aplomb. It worked to his strengths.

The idea of the 4-4-2 isn’t the usual one. It isn’t the one in which Milan’s wide players stay wide in a kick and rush style. Theo Hernandez has been given a free role down the left side, while Samu Castillejo dictates everything attacking-wise from the right. This has made sure that Andrea Conti doesn’t have as much distance to cover and has to stay in the defensive zones more often. But this also allows Rebic to drift into central areas off the ball.

Milan first played the 4-4-2 against Cagliari to end the three-game unbeaten run. It was Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first start, as Rafael Leao played as the second-striker. It sparked the re-emergence of Castillejo, but Rebic could only play one minute of the game.

He got a start against Udinese, playing on the left channel of the 4-4-2. Since then, Rebic has scored six goals in six Serie A games, not scoring only when he was playing as the striker against 10-man Verona.

And that says a lot about the bulldog-like 26-year-old. And that is why Jose Mourinho wanted him at Manchester United. He has that determination and graft about him which makes him a no-nonsense player. When things got tough, he put the hard work in, and it is paying off.

Because of Hernandez’s attacking impetus from the left, Rebic pops up in unexpected areas around Ibrahimovic. That catches the opposition off guard - like it caught Martin Caceres at the Artemio Franchi on Saturday. He comes up in goalscoring positions of a striker and finishes them off like one too.

What was wrong under Giampaolo is anyone’s guess. But that hardly matters now. Milan have taken a lot of stick for poor recruitment over the years, but this past summer was a success. Rebic has been part of that success, along with Theo and Ismael Bennacer.

Milan might have sold Krzysztof Piatek and could regret not having a target-man. But Rebic has shown that sometimes that bullishness goes a long way in winning games for the team.

Have your say...
A relatively positive blog on Ac Milan, how bizarre. I am feeling better in the short term about milan but dread what the summer will bring. I predict maldini gone and another new coach god knows where that will leave us, could see Donnarumma sold if Italy have a good Euros also. Hopefully we start making some logical plans and signings from who everis in charge. Would Thiago Silva come back for a swansong like ibra?
on the 28th February, 2020 at 10:39pm
@ AC Milan Fan It's very confusing around here sometimes since FT allow anyone to use any username and then you get idiots impersonating regular posters. I cannot for the life of me understand why our last 4 (is it?) coaches have liked Çalhanoğlu but there is, still there, the last man standing after we got rid of all the others. He even seems to be preferred to Paquetá. I don't understand but if we qualify for the EL then that's a good result.
on the 25th February, 2020 at 10:19pm
@Maldini's Heir. Not ALWAYS thinking of you! Just sometimes. There also seems to be a "Milan Fan" vs. myself, which can be confusing. Glad you have a sense of humor. I still think we can dispense with Calhanoglu. The errant passes and wild shots do not help us. We don't even have to buy anywone, as I feel like Jack would be wonderful in that position.
on the 25th February, 2020 at 2:49am
Ac Milan has 4 Key players (Rebic, Theo, Gio, and Bennacer. The rest must go out next session or stay indoor.
on the 24th February, 2020 at 9:55am
If Milan really want to be bask as an elite club. Then things has to be taken more more sereiously as this club is running at ample tiny rate. Hire and fire wont going to save you as peoples know now the blame is on you. If giampaolo is bad then pioli is his dad. So hire pochetino either give respect and time to pioli. Signs hordes of players, sell some. Bring it to the showw-vertonghen/alderweld/fabinho/alaba/so on if you want to be Milan again.
on the 24th February, 2020 at 9:15am
I like the way that Castillejo has given us the option of cutting in from the right with his left foot. That's really mixed things up for us.....(joking)
on the 24th February, 2020 at 6:26am
Now for my positive comment, Pioli seems to be finding his side playing 451. The key always is consistency and I feel like I can nearly name his starting line up which is a positive. As paolo said above, Rebic was setting up to be another failure but seems to be finding his groove which is positive. The hilarious thing is that many of the players currently doing well I would've wanted to get rid of like. Çalhanoğlu and Castillejo! Shows what I know.
on the 24th February, 2020 at 6:25am
@ AC Milan Fan I'm glad you're always thinking of me...I was going to post something positive and now I have to respond to your comment.....The fact is Rodriguez, Biglia and Suso have all performed better at other clubs so the question remains why did the former two not perform and why did we get rid of our leading assist for the rest my consistent argument has always been to call for consistency....
on the 24th February, 2020 at 5:52am
It just shows how bad a start to the season milan had that rebic was almost out of the door at the beginning of the season piatek suso hell even borini was in front of him when it came to getting game time.

The problem is milan for years hasn't built a team which has made any sense they played 3 up front but never brought the wingers to fit that system, they buy a bunch of youngsters without signing decent experience players to back them up than you consider the management situation.
on the 23rd February, 2020 at 9:36pm
By The Way why Reàl making ruiz bid?? Aren't zaniolo is tailor-made for them!
on the 23rd February, 2020 at 5:54pm
According to Maldini's Heir this past summer was just more churn. Why would we need to bring in Theo, Rebic, and Bennacer when we had titans like Rodriguez, Biglia and Suso? Why Leao, or later Ibrahimovic, when we had bombers like Cutrone and Piatek, who are leading their current respective clubs in goals? I'm objecting in advance to this summer's purchases of a CB to partner Romagnoli, a RB, & a CM, because we already have champions like Kjaer, Conti, and Calhanoglu. All they need is a chance!
on the 23rd February, 2020 at 4:15pm
Castellejo is finally playing in a system that exploits his strength. Way more effective at RM than Suso ever was in RW position. 4-2-3-1 is perfect for this team to get the best out of the current players. I'd like to see Leao playing behind Ibra in place of Hakan while restricting the forward moves of Bennacer and Kessie to maintain defensive cover.
New potent RB is badly needed in the summer. Maybe another CB and CM cover. Then Milan can challnge for CL.
on the 23rd February, 2020 at 3:40pm
It really worked wonder that 4-4-2 as that let perform a player in the mould of hamit altintop give freedom of moving that is both hakan and bonaventura. And rebic and leao now and in future can play fatally together. In this system samu has to go and sergej milinković-savić has to come in this team to give this uprising team a real weight and verbe.
on the 23rd February, 2020 at 1:10pm

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