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What Formation should Giampaolo Run With for AC Milan? Analysing the 4-3-2-1

Here’s our analysis of AC Milan shifting back to a 4-3-2-1 formation for the season.

Udinese Calcio v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Here’s our analysis of AC Milan shifting back to a 4-3-2-1 formation for the season.

The 4-3-2-1 Formation

Milan lining up as a 4-3-2-1.

The 4-3-2-1 was debuted by Giampaolo against Brescia and resulted in a higher tempo and more direct path at goal for Milan. The formation tends to favour playing the ball on the ground and close control in attack. The workload of the midfield is much higher than in the 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 as the mezzallas will have the responsibility to link up play and drive forward. The roles of the secondary strikers is quite interesting as they have the option to go straight into the box looking for a through ball/pass or they could go wide and cross the ball in. The key difference is that more often than not the attacking diamond will be expected to play close together and string together passes looking for an opening. The role of the fullbacks tends to vary in a 4-3-2-1 depending on the coach as they can provide width in attack or they can act as a layer of defence allowing the midfield to push higher up. This is an intriguing formation as Milan’s current squad fits quite well into it and there is decent depth at each position.

The Line-Up and Key Substitutions

(GK) Donnarumma

(DEF) Calabria (RB) - Musacchio (RCB) - Romagnoli (LCB) - Hernandez (LB)

(MID) Kessie (RCM) - Bennacer (CM) - Paqueta (LCM)

(ATT) Suso (RSS) - Piatek (ST) - Rebic (LSS)

(SUBs) Krunic (RCM), Calhanoglu (LCM) and Leao (ST)

Key Variables:

Krzysztof Piatek of AC Milan in action during the pre-season... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Piatek as Striker

Piatek is the core of this formation. The role as a sole striker with two attackers playing off your back means that Piatek needs to be more aware positionally and must improve his passing. The key to the success of the formation is the ability of the attacking triangle to hold up play and to create goal-scoring opportunities. Piatek needs to be able to pass and finish clinically.

AC Milan v Brescia Calcio - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kessie as the Right Midfielder

Franck Kessie will have a pivotal role to play in this formation as his work rate is needed to drive play forward and keep the intensity in the game. Kessie played an increasingly advanced role for Milan in the pre-season and against Brescia, this role could see him support the attack and score a few goals of loose balls. Kessie’s role for Ivory Coast should be emulated at Milan to bring him out as a box-to-box.

Lucas Paqueta of AC Milan in action during the pre-season... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Lucas Paqueta as the Left Midfielder

The other variable in this formation is Lucas Paqueta. The Brazilian could be the key to success as a 4-3-2-1 by acting as a bridge between the defensive and attacking phases of the game. Paqueta’s dribbling and passing are top notch when he’s focused and he could be a blistering force to blow past the opposing midfield to create opportunities up front. His set of skills is unique and his flair should be used to the advantage of the team to draw fouls in key spots.


In my opinion, the 4-3-2-1 looks like the most exciting prospect for the season, Milan have not taken a direct approach at goal since the days of Kaka. I feel like its time to try a narrower approach considering Milan’s general lack of pace and skilled dribblers, the possession play and closeness of the attacking three could create immense pressure on opposition defences leading to more quality chances. Also, this formation would make the most of the midfield power and create a stronger field of play for Milan.

My verdict: I rate the formation 8/10. If Milan stick with this all season we can finally get that top 4 finish.


If Giampaolo Runs With The 4-3-2-1, Where Will Milan End Up?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    1st - 4th
    (176 votes)
  • 21%
    5th - 6th
    (57 votes)
  • 1%
    7th - 10th
    (4 votes)
  • 10%
    He'll be fired
    (29 votes)
266 votes total Vote Now