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Tactical Review of Frustrating Milan Win in Luxembourg

Milan just about secured three points in their opening UEL game, we look at where they can improve.

Real Madrid v AC Milan - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

AC Milan dragged out a hard-fought win in Luxembourg in a frustrating fixture against F91 Dudelange for the Europa League opener. Milan took advantage of the chance to rest almost the entire starting XI except Alessio Romagnoli and Gonzalo Higuain. The fixtures saw official starting debuts for Samu Castillejo, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Diego Laxalt, Mattia Caldara and Pepe Reina. Here I will breakdown what we observed from a tactical perspective.

Lack of Quality Depth

Rossoneri fans endured about 60 minutes of groans over wasted chances and misused possession. All the new signings showed a spark; Bakayoko showing impressive ball recovery, Laxalt demonstrating his pace and Castillejo opening space with his dribbles. Caldara and Reina had a pretty quiet game so no comment for now. However the fringe players were largely disappointing with little imagination and drive except for Mauri who put in a respectable enough shift. Andrea Bertolacci and Ignazio Abate were almost invisible throughout the game and sloppy in possession. Fabio Borini was perhaps the hardest to watch as he wasted chances that could have locked up the game. This just demonstrates that our depth is not of the highest calibre outside of the new signings.

Higuain's Finishing and Frustration

Higuain scored the winner picking up an important three points before Milan’s more challenging games. He has done well with his hold up play and his movement as well as the calmness he provides in possession. However Higuain should have scored on at least three occasions in Luxembourg. Higuain missed clearer cut chances than his actual goal, possibly their keeper Frising had an extraordinary game or the centre-back Prempeh man marked the Argentine incredibly. However he needs to do better to bury the chances he gets, the layoff from Bakayoko for a shot should have opened the scoring and the square ball from Laxalt needed to be buried. Although he is the standout performer thus far Higuain can do more with the few chances to limit his constant looks of frustration on the pitch.

Attacking the Back Post

One observation that was noticed against Cagliari and again at Dudelange was the propensity of crosses coming in from the right with Suso/Castillejo and the compulsion of the Spaniards to cross to the back post. Milan need a better understanding upfront where the striker Higuain/Cutrone is making the correct runs to make use of the chances being created. Furthermore there is a glaring lack of clinical finishing that needs to be addressed. More often than not the attackers shoot in the centre or at the keeper instead of tucking the ball away. Borini attacked the back post well but was not clinical. If the striker and opposite winger can make more runs at the back post Milan will start scoring more than a measly goal a game.

4-2-3-1 a Possibility

With every passing game Fracnk Kessie is demonstrating why he is indispensable to the squad. His defensive qualities are being expounded by a strong attacking instinct with bursting runs and line breaking passes. Bakayoko on the other hand had a relatively good game with some dangerous runs forward, he almost chipped the keeper for a debut goal and was incredible when recovering the ball. The two playing side by side looked to dominate the midfield but only seem to be lacking in distribution and composure. It was a positive showing for the pair in midfield and they were accented by the stellar performances of Romagnoli and Caldara who are growing in confidence as strong passing centre-backs. The game demonstrated that 4-2-3-1 is an option and that Milan have the manpower to face off against physical midfields.

Gattuso Needs Alternate Tactics

The biggest tactical observation from the past two games is that Gattuso needs to alternate his tactics depending on the opponent. The possession game worked wonders against AS Roma but was 100% ineffective against Cagliari and Dudelange who were happy to sit back and force Milan to work harder to create space. The slow build up is not working against minnows and leaves us open to shocks such as Joao Pedro’s goal and the two chances from Turpel and Stolz. Milan need to play a quicker and more direct brand of football against small teams and reserve the slow build up and heavy possession for bigger clubs who will not sit back. This could be the key to avoid being complacent and losing critical points both in Italy and Europe.


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