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Tactical Review of Milan's Stoppage Time Victory Over Genoa

Milan pulled off a fantastic last ditch win at home. Here is a look at what the team did right.

AC Milan v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Finally Milan pulled off a last ditch victory. We suffered enough draws and really needed that win for confidence and consistency.

Donnarumma Rose to the Occasion

The No. 1 recipient of criticism from AC Milan fans played an enormous role in ensuring Milan took home the critical three points. Gigio Donnarumma did not have the easiest game by a long shot but he pulled of some great saves especially the Lazovic attempt to keep the game at 1-1. Donnarumma seems to be struggling with confidence and as much as his passing is improving he is making a couple of mistakes such as the misplaced pass to Kouame in the first half. He does deserve some praise for this game as his saves did make the difference halting a quick and tricky Genoa attack. Donnarumma needs to be empowered so he can rediscover his best form and this begins with suporting him when he makes the difference in games such as this. He could not be blamed for the conceded goal and was fantastic for the rest of the game.

Attacking Two is Key

One significant change over the past few games has been the deployment of a front two, Patrick Cutrone and Gonzalo Higuain. The benefit of this was much clearer against Sampdoria than it was against Genoa largely due to the incredible saves by Radu. The importance of the front two is the space it is opening up on the pitch for Milan to attack the goal. When Gennaro Gattuso had deployed the 3-5-2 and when he switched to the 4-4-2 the presence of both Cutrone and Higuain and their good tactic of vertically aligning is making it hard to defences to track them and it brings Suso, Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie into the game. This led to many chances notably Higuain’s two amazing attempts from outside the box, Suso’s goal, Kessie’s wayward shot, Tiémoué Bakayoko’s awful shot and Calhangolu’s pile driver into the defence. The two in attack is doing more than just giving more options in the box, it is allowing more Milan players to take a chance at goal.

Defenders Put in a Solid Shift

The back three did a great job. Ricardo Rodriguez has been solid all season and looked great as part of a back three - something we discussed as a possibility in the summer. Mateo Musacchio made a few last ditch tackles and seemed more comfortable although his pace could have let him down. Alessio Romagnoli put in another good performance with some good blocks and key tackles. The backline seemed a little more composed than usual with some relaxed passing however much like the rest of the squad there were nervy moments and mistakes. Ignazio Abate coming on was questionable as he literally lost the ball and led to a dangerous chance with his first touch of the ball. There is potential for growth and more solidity in this defense and the improvements need to come as Davide Caldara has now been sidelined for very long. Lastly the goal Milan conceded was tough on the defence, unlucky for Romagnoli to have an own goal but clearly a step forward.

No Composure in front of Goal

Amidst all the celebrations and the stunning victory, we must not forget that this game could have had an ugly ending. One of Milan’s biggest issues is their lack of composure in front of goal and the glaring lack of shooting quality. It was unbelievable to see how many times Milan skied shots all over the place. The biggest culprits in this regard were Kessie, Calhanoglu and Bakayoko. Higuain did the same but his shots were threatening and on target. Suso was incredible scoring a stunner and taking some dangerous shots in his usual fashion. The problem with this was that almost all these shots came from outside the box. Milan are relying too much on long shots whereas we need more clear cut opportunities inside the box. The next thing to resolve is the basic composure to place the goal in the corners of the goal instead of blasting right at the keeper.

4-4-2 is Encouraging Good Passing in Attack

The 4-4-2 formation needs to stay. Despite Leonardo’s comments in the midweek, Gattuso needs to run with it. 4-4-2 is giving Milan an edge and allowing the individual skill bring moments of magic especially from the wingers like Suso’s past two goals. More importantly the 4-4-2 is giving Milan a numbers advantage in the midfield and in attack where there are more options closer by. This is getting the Milan players to play short, quick passes and transition from defense to attack much quicker. The difference was clear when Milan switched from the 3-5-2 to the 4-4-2 as immediately the attacking output grew and Milan looked dangerous. Also Milan have the players who fit better into a 4-4-2 system as there is less dependability of key players to deliver. Lucas Biglia is not the sole defensive midfielder, Higuain is not the sole striker and Suso is not the sole creator. In the 4-4-2 more tasks are shared and there is more consistency.

Captain's Performance

This an a little addition to say Bravo Mio Capitano.

Romagnoli has inherited a difficult task to lead Milan and is one of the youngest captains in my memory. His goal was the stuff of legend. This is a great confidence boost for him and the squad honestly looked up to him as a leader who can carry them forward. Milan needed a true Captain’s Performance and this was it.