Here's an assessment of Giampaolo's darling formation the 4-3-1-2 that has not impressed thus far.
The 4-3-1-2 Formation
The 4-3-1-2 is Giampaolo’s staple, it is the formation he used to establish himself at Empoli and Sampdoria. The formation focuses on a trequartista to link up the midfield and the attack. The use of fullbacks is vital to overlap the midfielders and deliver crosses into the box while the three central midfielders play an important defensive role as a buffer for the defence. The attackers tend to have more flexibility in a 4-3-1-2 as they can fire on goal from crosses or from layoffs thus offering more of a threat. The trouble with the formation at Milan during the pre-season and the opening game has been the displacement of players from their natural positions. Suso has been deployed as a CAM switching from his natural RW, Calhanoglu featured as a CDM instead of his natural LCM/CAM and Borini played as a RCM as opposed to a ST. The issues could easily be solved by replacing the players with Milan’s actual starters such as Paqueta, Bennacer and Kessie respectively however Giampaolo seems to be shifting away from this formation.
The Line-Up and Key Substitutions
(DEF) Calabria (RB) - Musacchio (RCB) - Romagnoli (LCB) - Hernandez (LB)
(MID) Kessie (RCM) - Bennacer (CM) - Paqueta (LCM) - Suso (CAM)
(ATT) Piatek (ST) - Rebic (SS)
(SUBs) Bonaventura (LCM), Calhanoglu (CAM) and Leao (ST)
Suso as an Attacking Midfielder
Suso would be the make or break player in a 4-3-1-2. His ability to create chances and continuously supply the strikers is key to the offensive output of the squad. Suso has not yet shown his ability to handle himself at CAM as he continues to levitate back to the right wing and attempt his signature cutback. He needs more versatility to succeed in this role and the team would rely on that him adapting.
Calabria at Right Back
Calabria will be pivotal in a 4-3-1-2 as the fullbacks will be needed to provide width to Milan’s play. The job is relieving pressure will fall to the full backs and they will need to pass the ball well and maintain their defensive line. More importantly, Calabria will have to kick it into high gear on attacks to provide numbers and an option for a cross due to the narrowness of Milan front three.
Theo Hernandez at Left Back
Similarly Hernandez will have a huge role to play balancing between the attacking and defensive phases of the game. Piatek is a player who scores all sorts of goals but needs constant service to find that one goal in a game. Hernandez with his speed will be expected to drive forward on counters and put the ball into the box to give Piatek as many chances as he can possibly get. Furthermore, Hernandez will have to support Paqueta and Bennacer as being an open player to pass to when holding possession.
The formation has huge question marks over it. Can Suso handle the trequartista role? Can the fullbacks contribute effectively to the attack? Can Rebic and Piatek keep themselves from being isolated? Can the midfield shift between attack and defence in a timely manner? Giampaolo has used this formation for about 5 years and thus it would be a good bet, however, Milan does not seem to convincingly fit into this formation and nor do they seem to understand how to create when playing with a trequartista - as evidenced by the preseason and the Udinese game.
My verdict: I rate the formation 6/10. If Milan stick with this all season, we will end up at 6th place.
Come back tomorrow for the second part of this series where I analyse the 4-3-3.
If Giampaolo Runs With The 4-3-1-2, Where Will Milan End Up?
This poll is closed
1st - 4th
5th - 6th
7th - 10th
He'll be fired