A few weeks ago we compared two possible paths for the summer with a budget of 100 million euros. Scenario A (Red) focused on spending more on fewer players and choosing experience (See Article) while Scenario B (Black) that focuses on investing lower amounts on more players concentrating on youth (See Article). Here is the comparison of the two line ups:
4-3-3 vs 4-2-3-1
G’s Pick - 4-3-3
In recent years Milan have tried many formations, including 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1 and 4-3-3. With the team struggling across the board, I still feel that when 4-3-3 worked, it worked well. Ibrahimovic gives the team an outlet and finally with pace on the wings using Rebic and possibly Mertens or Leao, the front three could click well and score goals across the board. We had Pato, Robinho and Ibrahimovic scoring freely during our last league victory, so i would be hoping for something similar coming from a solid midfield 3 and getting the ball into the final thirds as much as possible.
Muqi’s Pick - 4-2-3-1
Based on the players I hope Milan buy this summer, I will go with a 4-2-3-1 formation to strengthen the midfield and avoid Milan getting overwhelmed. More importantly, I think having three attacking midfielders given us more options going forward and having one focal point as a striker allows the team to alternate between using the wings and going centrally. I believe the 4-2-3-1 trumps the 4-3-3 as it allows for the 2 CDMs to anchor the midfield where one can be a deep lying playmaker whilst the other can be a defensive midfielder can play as a box to box.
G and Muqi agree - Gianluigi Donnarumma
Donnarumma is currently in negotiations for a renewal of his contract and Milan must push this through. He is not only a world class goalkeeper but the heart and soul of the team. He is a fan favourite and the only solid academy graduate to survive and thrive after Cutrone and Locatelli was sold and as Calabria begins to struggle. He needs to be a central figure in the project and eventually don the captain’s armband.
Davide Calabria vs Denzel Dumfries
G’s Pick - Calabria
Calabria has not had a great season, any Milan fan would agree that this year he has not improved and shown his fight like we had all hoped. Calabria has played 16 games providing 1 assist and picking up 1 red card. With Ibrahimovic in the box, this tally should really be much better. Dumfries has played 25 games scoring 7 goals and assisting 3, picking up no red cards and 7 yellows. He is 24 years old, tall (1.89 meters) and very powerful with strength and pace. Milan would benefit from someone willing to work hard up and down on the right, just as Theo Hernandez has done on the left, but even with the better stats coming from Dumfries, I still think Calabria has what it takes to make it for Milan. Right back is an important position, but unless we can sign a proven upgrade on what we have, I would rather stick with Calabria and hope that we see more of the young hard working strong right back he has shown in glimpses.
Muqi’s pick - Dumfries
Milan need an upgrade a right back. Calabria and Conti are pretty average but they collectively do not contribute enough to the squad going forward. Moreover, they are both often the most vulnerable member of the defence. Dumfries would be a major upgrade given his propensity for contributing to the attack, he has demonstrated that he can score goals and his blistering pace would give the Rossoneri an additional attacking outlet. The arrival of Hernandez has shown us what a modern wing back looks like and the benefit this brings to the team. Most importantly, Dumfries physicality and aggression are important traits to shut down wingers in the league where Calabria in particular has struggled.
Jerome Boateng vs Nikola Milenkovic
G’s Pick - Boateng
Romagnoli needs a partner who can compliment him, offering power in the air and providing the muscle needed against larger strikers. Milenkovic is 1.95 meters, and Boateng is 1.92. Both fit the requirements of the large strong partner Milan should be aiming for moving forward. Milenkovic has had a strong season in Serie A, playing 25 games, scoring 3 goals and picking up no red cards. Boateng has played 20 games in the Bundesliga assisting 1 and has picked up 1 red card. The German is 31 years old while the Serb is 22. Both would be top additions to the team but I do think experience coming from Boateng would be a huge boost to all of the young Milan defense, including Calabria and Theo Hernandez. If there is one area we want a calm presence, it’s at CB. Not to mention the ever growing Matteo Gabbia who has already put in some promising performances this season.
Muqi’s pick - Milenkovic
Romagnoli has struggled to have a consistent partner since joining the Rossoneri as he has partnered with Alex, Paletta, Zapata, Bonucci, Musacchio and Kjaer in five seasons. Milan need to make a significant investment to fix this issue to build up a solid defensive partnership and to allow Romagnoli some consistency and space to grow. Milenkovic represents a reasonable option and a defender with a huge ceiling. The youngster has a lot of experience in Serie A and will be able to grow under the wing of Romagnoli. He is good in the air, physical and has decent acceleration. I pick him over Boateng or Thiago Silva as these are short term fixes that will bring us back to square one in a year or two.
G and Muqi agree - Alessio Romagnoli
Romagnoli is the Captain and the core of the project alongside Donnarumma. He is becoming more of a leader with each passing game but needs to develop some composure and control the team better to avoid the flurry of bookings Milan have become accustomed to. He needs a solid partner to truly become a world class centre back and to give him some ease when defending.
G and Muqi agree - Theo Hernandez
Hernandez is untouchable for Milan at the moment bar an outrageous offer. He has transformed left back from one of our biggest weaknesses to our biggest strength. His six goals have secured crucial points for Milan and he has held his own defensively. Looking forward to another blistering season from him.
Central Midfield (Deep Lying)
Sandro Tonali vs Tiemoue Bakayoko
G’s Pick - Tonali
Taking into account both players would cover central areas, albeit from deeper or more advanced areas, both would be in charge of growing into roles to provide a huge presence in midfield. Tonali in 2020 has played 23 games scoring 1 and assisting 5 in the Serie A. Brescia sit dead last in Serie A and this is something I find promising about the young Italians work rate and motivation to do more than just pass the ball. When I think about the level difference in the leagues and teams, I can’t help but see Tonali as the more technical player, fighter and midfielder better suited to join Milan, a club that requires all round performances.
Muqi’s Pick - Bakayoko
Bakayoko was incredible with Milan in 2018/19 and it was a blow when the buy out was not exercised. Now imagine him alongside Bennacer, that synergy and intensity would be thunderous. The duo can both drive forward, pick out passes and most importantly recover the ball. The duo could form a tight line ahead of the defence anchoring the midfield and dominating the midfield against any other Serie A side. Tonali is incredible but he is too expensive for us at the moment and Milan have multiple gaps to fill. If Bakayoko joins on a loan with an option or at a fee around 25m, this would be a huge win. He knows the club, connects with the fans and proved he can thrive in the league.
Central Midfield (Box to Box)
Franck Kessie vs Ismael Bennacer
G’s Pick - Kessie
Kessie has an engine fitting of the box to box role, with endless running and reserves to challenge even the fittest of players in any league. He has a lot to work on, including decision making and passing ability, but, if we can mould him into a set up that allows him to play to his strengths, it would be similar to Gattuso. Tonali and Kessie would fit well, leaving the more advanced plays to both Bennacer and Tonali. Kessie would provide the muscle and extra man willing to work at both sides of the field. At 94 games in the Milan shirt, he has had time to settle, but possibly not the right players to let him do what he does best.
Muqi’s Pick - Bennacer
Despite being a huge advocate of patience with Kessie, I do believe Bennacer deserves the box to box role in both a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. The Algeria international has much more to offer higher up the pitch and despite being stunning in his regista-esque role this season, he does look better higher up where he can take on players, shoot and pick out key passes. When his national side won the 2019 AFCON, he played a free flowing role in the midfield where he created incredible passages of play and was a major threat in the final third as he could unleash a rocket of a shot or slice open the defence with a precise pass. Kessie is still key to Milan and should be kept as part of the rotation, if he develops further he can win back his starting role.
Central Midfield/Attacking Midfielder (Creative)
Ismael Bennacer vs Dominik Szoboszlai
G’s Pick - Bennacer
Immediately Bennacer has given the fans a midfielder worth watching. He has been caught overplaying the ball in some games, but overall his work rate and tight control have been a great asset. It isn’t surprising at all that PSG and other top European clubs are circling. Milan have relied on individual players for too long, and I hope that by making a midfield three that can all contribute to defense and attack, either from passing or stamina breaking teams in later stages, it will finally allow a game plan and rhythm to show in a style of play. Bennacer makes the team tick, and isn’t afraid to take the ball.
Muqi’s Pick - Szoboszlai
For the attacking midfield role, I would want Szoboszlai from RB Salzburg not for his creative ability but for his tenacity and versatility. The midfielder is a good fit for Serie A because he knows how to hold the ball close to his body and has the ability to burst through tight defences. He is great at set pieces and is agile enough to weave through the opposition but also strong enough to handle physical tussles. His versatility will allow Milan to swap between a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 and 4-4-2. He has a wicked shot and is comfortable in free flowing roles as he sometimes plays on the wing for RB Salzburg. I would prefer Bennacer as the midfield covering more space both defensively and in attack whilst Szoboszlai can focus on just feeding the striker.
Dries Mertens vs Samu Castillejo
G’s Pick - Mertens
In 21 games Dries Mertens has scored 6 and assisted 5. He may be 33 years old, however he has the skill set to cover all 3 front positions as well as contribute goals and assists. With interplay between Ibrahimovic and Rebic it would give Milan countless outlets and options to help confuse any defense, with all capable of playing provider and scorer. Too often have teams sat back and waited for the long ball to Ibrahimovic and completely nulled Milan’s attack in recent years. Piatek quickly got found out and never recovered.
Muqi’s Pick - Castillejo
More than anything, I believe Castillejo has done enough to be given a full season as the starter based on his performances since the departure of Suso. No one has missed Suso since his departure which says a lot, given how many die hard fans he had. Castillejo is pacey, creative and can take on his man well. He draws a lot of fouls in dangerous areas and is extremely hard working. At the moment I do not believe this area needs investment especially when the option is Mertens who would command a huge wage. Moreover, I doubt Mertens would join Milan after years at Napoli because he would opt for a huge paycheck or an opportunity to immediately win something.
G and Muqi agree - Ante Rebic
We both feel that Rebic needs to be bought outright from Eintracht Frankfurt and integrated as a core part of the Rossoneri project. He is agility and awareness has been vital to his recovery in the second half of the season and he could vastly improve with consistent game time. His attitude, physicality and drive are vital to Milan as these traits have been missed for so long.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Arkadiusz Milik
G’s Pick - Ibrahimovic
Question marks will always come for Ibrahimovic, with age and fitness both at the forefront. However, quality, has always been an answer Zlatan replies with. This season Ibra has played 8 games, scoring 3 and assisting 1. His ability to play in other team mates is a big reason why Milan could stick with him, not to mention what he brings to the teams mentality. Over the years Milan have seen some top poachers join, but rarely is it enough with supply being hard to find from other areas.
Muqi’s Pick - Milik
As much as I love Ibrahimovic, I also believe that is not much more than a stop gap at this point. He has a incredibly high wage and is not a long term solution thus it is a mistake to continue to build the team around him when a replacement is imminent in a season or two. I believe Milan should invest more to replace him now and build around a proven striker thus I picked Milik. He is proven in Serie A, he is clinical and he can function at Milan without injuries as the side plays with much less intensity than Napoli do. He is nearing the end of his contract thus Milan could get a good price as he is better than the alternatives who will likely struggle to get used to Serie A just as Silva did.
G's Picks - Plizzari, Silva, Paqueta, Calhanoglu, Leao
Eventually Milan will want to be challenging for the top places and aiming for the last 32/16 stages of the CL every year. Plizzari,Paqueta and Leao all have potential to form into strong players, even if it isn’t at the highest level but just below. Milan have some talented youngsters all across the pitch, and this is where T. Silva, Boateng, Ibrahimovic and Mertens can pass along tips and tricks of the trade. Calabria, Conti, Gabbia and Leao all need to learn much more if Milan want to recoup what was spent, or better, have them form into what they were meant to do in the first place.
Muqi's Picks - Plizzari, Kouassi, Kessie, Maldini, Leao
For my bench, I want Milan to keep Kessie at all costs because he can be the quintessential depth player and an important substitute to shore up the defense in tight games as well as to inject energy. I believe the youth need to be brought into the fold with Plizzari and Maldini getting the opportunity to break in. I would get Kouassi from PSG to fight Milenkovic for the starting spot and he can play as a defensive midfield thus can cover multiple positions in a similar role to Marquinhos. Lastly, I believe Leao should be kept and given the opportunity to slowly integrate and break in to a starting spot but to be used as a super sub.
Which AC Milan Squad Would You Want To See?
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Red (G's Picks)
Black (Muqi's Picks)