Everyone might be saying whoa right now, but yes I write about things in other multiples than 9? Here are a few things about a match that predictably, yet chaotically, went in AC Milan’s direction. I am writing only a few things about this match because FBref does not track Coppa Italia matches. Milan played Torino FC in Serie A on Saturday, and again on Tuesday in the Coppa Italia. Tuesday’s match was in the third most important competition for Milan this season. So, without further ado, here are a few things, plus a conclusion, about it.
1: A Little Tactical Wrinkle
This was awesome and I loved it. With three different right-backs on the pitch and a true winger on the right side, Stefano Pioli created a strange overload on the right side of the pitch. Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Samu Castillejo, and later Brahim Díaz, all covered for each other in multiple instances and interchanged positions consistently. These four helped overload the left side of Torino’s defense and became the focal point of the Milan attack.
The constant rotation around the right side of the Milan attack opened up yards of space which Milan truly exploited at the beginning of the second half. Rafael Leão reacted to the chaos occurring on the left side of Torino’s defense. He clearly changed his run-making plans after halftime and helped open more space for the attacking midfield trio to run into or pass into. These actions and realizations took advantage of the poor Torino backline and created chance after chance, especially in the second half.
2: Chances Don’t Matter If You Cannot Score
Here is the thing about chance creation, it really only matters if you score on the chances you create. A team can create all of the xG in the world, but it simply does not matter if you hit two posts or only shoot at the goalkeeper. Milan put on a masterclass of not scoring against this Torino side and it almost cost them a spot in the Quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia. I think this came down to almost every player shooting being a fullback or trying to put too much power on their shots.
The most frustrating miss was Brahim’s skied shot deep in the second half. If he had let the ball run past his body he might have had a better chance to score. This is obviously not a certainty, but his body positioning was wrong in every aspect of this shot. He was leaning back, he almost stubbed his leg swing, and he had overrun the ball. This was a collection of wrong ways to shoot, but I am happy he exploited this space to at least get this opportunity.
3: Hakan Shows His Magic
This match was going in Milan’s direction before halftime but there was a noticeable shift in the run of play when the Turkish midfielder entered the pitch. Interestingly, he supplanted Castillejo and pushed Brahim wide. This doubled down on the overload on the right side of Milan’s formation. The two playmakers used each other to clamp down on the Torino backline and helped spring Leão into the box regularly.
Something I noticed in the first half was a lack of passing ability in the center of the park. I think the introduction of Hakan brought more passing skills into the side and helped unlock Il Toro’s defense. It was the perfect move from Pioli and it led to a bevy of chances.
4: Overall Thoughts
The Coppa Italia is important, but it is not crucial to the season. I was overjoyed that Milan won, even if it was in a long-drawn-out, and frustrating fashion. This was a must-win match against a side that the Rossoneri demolished just a few days prior. It was nice to see Zlatan Ibrahimović come back to the starting eleven, even if his influence was minimal. There are tougher matches ahead, but any win is crucial for rebuilding confidence after the Juventus FC loss. Now Milan passes into the quarterfinals and will play… FC Internazionale. I think we all feel the exact same way about Inter, negatively.