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9 Things: Two Hours of Soccer, Two Hours of Stress, Milan versus Torino, 4-2

A late equalizer allows Milan to run riot during extra time. I will eat my words about Hakan for a week.

AC Milan v Torino - Coppa Italia: Quarter Final Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

1: What the Analytics Said

Milan created 4.63 expected goals to Torino’s 1.84. That is domination. It also justifies the score line. The most dangerous chance was Bonaventura’s goal. An open goal tap in will always be dangerous suffice it to say. Hakan’s first goal was a strange chance as the shot location itself was not particularly dangerous, but the deflection took the ball into the net. Of the Milan attackers, Rebic shined the most in expected numbers. However, Leao, in his brief appearance, generated an impressive expected assist total. Leao’s support striker role has suited him well. With Piatek’s rumored departure, it will be important for someone to teach Leao how to finish better. Rebic and Leao should see a game as a partnership some game soon. Expect that partnership to generate a lot of dangerous chances. Piatek was largely ineffective, but he pressed well, like always. Zlatan had another strange day in front of goal. He missed his most dangerous chance, but he still scored later. His last two games have seen him miss two glorious chances. He should not miss more of these chances in the future.

Torino created well in the second half and their two goals are high expected goal shots. However, their defensive woes and their inability to hold onto the ball sank the team from Turin. Milan was expected to win this game and they did just that.

I do not have a shot map for this game because Between the Posts does not track the Coppa Italia. Everything is per WyScout this go around.

2: Hakan Calhanoglu Turns the Tide

Rade Krunic struggled to attack successfully all game and his overall influence was minimal. Hakan’s introduction in the eighty-second minute pushed Milan into a 4-1-2-1-2 (a friend of mine referred to it as a high school formation). Hakan played on the left of the midfield two and attacked centrally. Hakan’s inclination to shoot whenever he reaches the top of the box paid off against Torino. His first shot hit the defender directly in front of him. His next effort was directed at Sirigu, however, a strong ricochet off Djidji sent the ball past the diving goalie and thundred into the goal. Hakan’s second goal was better attacking play. Kessie whipped a pass into Hakan’s path. Hakan ran into the box and shot a laser across the goal that Sirigu got fingers to but could not keep out. Hakan’s second goal would prove to be the winner for Milan.

Hakan played Theo in for an opportunity that the Frenchman should have finished but did not.

What does this tell us as Milanisti? It is good that Hakan had a confidence building game. He has needed to either pass or run into the box more often. Seeing the ball cross the goal line will help any way that it happens. Unfortunately, this may encourage Hakan’s bad habit to shoot whenever he has any idea of space at the top of the box. Those shots have not worked until today and the one that went in took a deflection. I do not want to dump on Hakan, I thought he changed the game. I am glad he proved me wrong for one match.

3: Rebic Has an Inspired Ninety Minutes

He has arguably been the most important attacker since the turn of the decade. Rebic’s willingness to run at defenders, and his success creating space to shoot has been astounding in this last run of form. Piatek was largely non-existent all match, yet Rebic was still able to generate offense even without his strike partner. Rebic sprung Theo in for a through ball, which the left back could not connect on the ensuing cross. Rebic later beat a defender, ran down to the touch line and played an inviting cross that Bonaventura ran onto to score. Rebic’s offensive creativity allowed him to be a problem for the Torino backline almost all game. The Croatian International deserves more starts, and hopefully Milan will see a Rebic and Leao strike pair soon.

4: Strong Wing Pair, Part 1: Bonaventura

Fluidity, fluidity, fluidity. Pioli’s plan is to have both wingers invert and press like crazy. Typically, Samu presses more than whoever plays on the left, but the player on the left inverts more. Bonaventura inverted well and played defense deeper in the pitch well. Bonaventura’s best play was running onto Rebic’s cross and scoring. He displayed his awareness of space and did well to realize he needed to slide into the cross. Pioli has been having Bonaventura play as a winger in defense but as more of a mezzala in attack. It is similar to an inverted winger; however, he is supposed to run into the space right behind the strikers. Bonaventura’s first half was sublime, and he deserves another start.

5: Strong Wing Pair, Part 2: Samu

Samu played the wide role fantastically all match. He has done well to replace Suso’s crossing while also adding a more direct flair. Suso’s issue was that he refused to move centrally. Samu is not shy about driving towards the box. Samu is more unpredictable with his shooting as well. The Spaniard has done well in his wide role and has pressed well. It is evident that he is the starter now, which in my opinion is smart. He and Bonaventura have done well in unison to switch sides, drive centrally, and open space for the strikers. The formation change has helped the strikers a lot, but it is crucial to note how much a wider role has helped Samu. He has the highest expected goals per 90 at 0.46 (leads by 0.18, a large gap) and highest expected assists per 90 at 0.41 (highest by 0.15) since January 1st. He should be included in the players who have turned their season around.

6: Leao Sparkles

The young man had a composed assist on Zlatan’s goal. His introduction helped provide another attacking option for Milan, and he did well to get Zlatan involved. Leao turned Zlatan’s game around. Leao’s propensity to run at defenders and his movement to beat the men guarding him has been impressive. It is a good problem to have too many players on form. Leao has been a part of this turn around and I am glad that he has found the form that he had at Lille.

7: The Goals Against

Kjaer and Romagnoli struggled to follow players within the box, especially on crosses. Theo and Conti fail to duel on Torino’s second goal.

On the first goal, Romagnoli stepped into a challenge too aggressively and late. Bennacer is left tracking the player that Romagnoli was supposed to be following. This gave Bremer space to run onto a peach of a ball from Belotti and score.

The fullbacks were at fault for the second Torino goal. Conti did not step up on Ola Aina and Theo did not track Bremer in the box. Bremer’s header was free and goes in. Do not try to repeat this in your Sunday league.

8: Conti’s Struggles Again

The right back was begging for a red card. His play late in the first half and throughout extra time was rash. He went into aerial duels especially aggressively. Conti struggled to keep players in front of him and did not get involved offensively. It was another bad day and Milan should make the switch back to Calabria.

9: Overall Thoughts

The 4-4-2 has been a strong switch for Milan. Another fantastic offensive performance. However, defensive solidity has been sacrificed. Donnarumma did not necessarily have the best day today, but both goals were fairly difficult saves. Bennacer did what he could in the midfield. He tackled effectively and progressed play well. Krunic had a bad day which hurt the midfield solidity. Milan should still attempt to find a centerback to start alongside Romagnoli, but that is a fix for the summer. Boban and Maldini are closer to that answer then they may have been for a bit, but another centerback should be considered. I think Calabria should start at right back as well. That position is offering not a lot defensively and absolutely nothing offensively. Calabria can at minimum add the offensive aspect to that position. Milan is attempting to play two offensively aggressive full backs. Conti has yet to offer the offensive acumen to make this work. Putting in Calabria would give Milan more width. Playing him will allow Milan to get Samu to free roam more, cross more, and provide more support to the strikers. To me it is a no brainer (as always, I am happy to answer questions).

The formation change is the most important moment of the season. The fruits of the switch are being seen right now. The offense is here, and it is fun.

Finally, we are close enough to the Derby where I can say Inter bv Merda, Forza Milan.