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Tactical Review of Milan's GRINTAesque Win Over Sampdoria

Milan put in a great performance against Sampdoria; we look at the changes that made the difference.

AC Milan v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

AC Milan played perhaps their worst 90 minutes of football against Real Betis with the squad looking tired, uninspired and un-bothered. However the response was great from the squad, a gritty comeback win over a Sampdoria who has the tightest defense in Calcio.

4-4-2 Encouraged Vertical Passing

*Milan scored 18 goals in their opening 9 games, the last time the had more was 2011/12.*

Milan vs Sampdoria was a defensively fragile game. This led to to the shoot-out of a game where the 3 points were at the mercy of the attackers. Luckily the 4-4-2 deployed by Gattuso worked great offensively although it left a number of defensive gaps. I don’t think Milan could have overcome the Samp defense with a 4-3-3, the presence of a pivot between Cutrone and Higuain supported by an excess of crosses from Laxalt and Suso did the attack well. 4-4-2 is really allowing more players to exploit their individuality and this is allowing for more individual brilliance such as Suso’s winning goal.

Calabria-Musacchio's Positioning is a Void

*AC Milan have conceded in 15 Serie A games in a row for the first time since 1946.*

Every week I rewatch the goals we concede and despite some criticism being thrown on Alessio Romagnoli for his positioning mishaps recently, it seems that there is a defensive vacuum between Davide Calabria and Mateo Musacchio. There is abysmal communication between the pair and this is most noticeable when they are trying to defend a counter attack. The goals of Sampdoria were both Musacchio’s fault - in my opinion - the first he was out of position and did not press for a clearance although Fabio Quagliarella was brilliant, this caught Calabria out and Musacchio could have done more to block the shot from Riccardo Saponara. The second goal was similar to the goal in the derby as Musacchio was simply ill positioned to clear the incoming cross, he does not seem comfortable in his role. With Calabria picking up an injury, this raises concerns over the RB spot; will Ignazio Abate suffice or will Gattuso choose to give Andrea Conti a run?

Cutrone x Higuain is FIRE

*Cutrone has 5 goals and an assist in only 237 minutes of play.*

Cutrone, Cutrone ... CUTRONE. This kid is unbelievable. A few games ago I spoke about his mentality and the impact of his presence on the squad. Cutrone has the heart of a Lion and every time he steps onto the pitch, it fills me with confidence. Cutrone scored a consolation against Betis but proved why he deserved a starting spot after leaving a critical impact in the game against Sampdoria. Cutrone has a great ability to know when to attempt the shot and when to pass, moreover he has a knack for goal that is truly incredible. The importance of the game is that is showed the ability of Cutrone and Higuain to play together and score. It was amazing to see Cutrone and Higuain recreate the 1-2 from the Roma game giving Higuain the chance to score. The link up play between them is good and frankly Higuain looks less frustrated with Cutrone on the pitch.

Suso is the Game Changer

*Suso has equalled his assist tally for 2017/18 in the first 9 games this season.*

Suso is truly the difference for Milan. We have said this over and over again and it is shockingly the reality of the times on the pitch - when Suso plays well, Milan win. Suso is having a monster season so far racking up goals and assists with some truly spectacular plays but this is risky business for Milan. The team is so over-reliant on Suso that when he has a bad day or is locked out of play, the team suffers. Suso needs to be a bit more consistent but it is hard to criticise him as he is clearly the stand out performer for Milan and the only reliable creative outlet. If Milan hope to deploy Suso in a similar fashion to Messi at Barcelona or Hazard at Chelsea he needs the appropriate support structure and freedom on the pitch otherwise Milan need to have an another 1 or 2 creative outlets on the pitch.

Laxalt and Rodriguez Invigorate the Left Wing

*Laxalt and Rodriguez made 6 crosses, 5 tackles and 2 key passes that included an assist for the winning goal.*

The biggest difference between the previous two losses and the Samp victory was the left wing for Milan. Specifically Jack Bonaventura. Bonaventura looked sluggish in the Europa League however Diego Laxalt was bursting with energy for the entirety of his spell against Sampdoria. Moreover there seems to be a good understanding between Ricardo Rodriguez and Laxalt allowing for position interchange, unpredictable forward runs and a surge in crosses from the left providing targets for the strikers and loose balls for Suso. Moreover the sheer speed of the pair seemed overbearing for Sampdoria and could be a good way to drive up the pitch during counter attacks. Another interesting point to observe was that Laxalt looked better in defense against Sampdoria by closing down plays and blocking crosses whereas Rodriguez looked more confident in attack attempting a number of long balls especially the assist for Suso’s winning goal. Hopefully the partnership lasts and creates a threat from the left.


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