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9 Things: TOUCHDOWN, AC Milan vs Torino FC, 7-0

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It’s raining goals. Hallelujah, it’s raining goals.

Franck Kessie (L) of AC Milan celebrates after scoring a... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

1: What the Analytics Said

AC Milan vs Torino FC

Teams Goals xG(NPxG) Shots(On Target) NPxG per Shot Possession
Teams Goals xG(NPxG) Shots(On Target) NPxG per Shot Possession
AC Milan 7 3.9(3.2) 11(7) 0.32 57%
Torino FC 0 1.1(1.1) 14(1) 0.08 43%
FBref and StatsBomb

What an obliteration. AC Milan’s game turned into generating a few high danger chances and scoring on all but two of them. By my count, eight different shot attempts measured out as 0.2 expected goals to 0.7 expected goals - which does not include Theo Hernández’s opening goal. If a player struck a ball towards Salvatore Sirigu’s goal frame, it was most likely dangerous or destined to go into the net. That clinical edge led to the highest expected non-penalty expected goal total of the campaign. This attacking fervor combined well with the entire team’s inter-play, which led to the highest team expected assist total of the season, 3.0 expected assists. While Torino FC is far from the most formidable opponent in Serie A, they had put together a slightly more competitive recent run of form. I will never say that Il Toro is a defensive juggernaut - or even decent at defense - they have certainly been better than the consistently shelled team of last season. The Rossoneri deserved to win and won fantastically.

2: Hattricks Are Cool

Ante Rebić had a fantastic day. Most members of the Fossa dei Leoni may not look fondly on Carlos Bacca’s tenure in red and black, but before May 12th, he was the last Milan player to score a hattrick. Funnily enough, that was also against Torino. Not only did the Croatian forward score three goals, but he also had an assist. A four-goal contribution match is exceedingly rare, and Rebić should be proud of his play in Turin. He ended the game with 1.6 individual expected goals, 0.9 expected assists, 4 shot-creating actions, and 2 goal creating actions - 1 primary, 1 secondary. That is a paramount outing and a strong showing in under eighty minutes. Every moment of the second half had something to do with Rebić, and his influence took the fixture completely away from Torino. Seeing him explode on the scoresheet should calm any nerves about the match against Cagliari Calcio on Sunday. Milan’s number twelve can certainly hold his own without Zlatan Ibrahimović.

3: Tactical Wrinkles To Get An Edge

Stefano Pioli maintained his new tactical wrinkle with Hakan Çalhanoğlu against Torino. The Turkish midfielder would fall in line with Ismaël Bennacer to generate ball progression, allowing Franck Kessié to support the offensive unit. This plan is a slight divergent from Pioli’s setup during the match against Juventus FC. Against Torino, Kessié had more freedom to run forward because of the lack of danger presented by a counterattack. Because of the skill discrepancy between the two sides, Hakan was allowed or able to inflict his will on the pitch. This new role worked well for the match’s entirety except for one brief moment where Hakan inexplicably passed the ball straight to Simone Zaza, who set up Bremer. Still, luckily Gianluigi Donnarumma read the ensuing shot.

Personally, I think this plan works unbelievably well against inferior opponents because it lets Kessié command the entirety of the pitch while giving Bennacer a partner to help progress the ball. The one caveat to this tactic is how much risk is created by rotating the Ivorian midfielder forward and dropping the Turkish attacking midfielder deeper. That may leave the backline at risk of short field counterattacks. What works against Torino may not work against FC Internazionale.

4: However, It Did

Davide Nicola’s side struggled to maintain any midfield structure, which exposed their backline, which gave every Milan attacker the freedom to make cutting runs around the hosts’ defense. I am not sure why Nicola continued to commit players forward throughout the entire match, especially as Torino continued to struggle to generate any consistent offense. Simone Zaza, unsurprisingly, looked lost in the attack, as he has for years, and his support striker, Federico Bonazzoli, failed to affect the match whatsoever. These problems only reinforced Pioli’s plan to drop Hakan deeper. Like I said earlier, the lack of pressure applied to the Milan backline let the Rossoneri manager push less defensively adept players further back to generate more and better passing. It worked sublimely, and the Torino forwards and midfielders could do nothing.

5: The Kid Keeps Impressing

Brahim Díaz wants to stay. He has been on fire in the last few matches, especially as Pioli found a good position for the young man. The Spaniard attacker has been rotating between a more traditional number 10 and a support striker. Díaz’s new role lets him view space in front of him better, which is evident in some of his more intelligent runs in the last two games. He has begun to pop up near the penalty area, available for a pass and ready to shoot. That suggests a level of sustainability to his play, which is exciting. He needs to keep working on his skills in the coming weeks and months to take the next step in his development truly. However, he just turned Turin on its head.

6: Donnarumma Does What Is Needed

On his only action of the match, Donnarumma came up with a crucial save on Bremer. After Hakan’s poor back pass, the Italian netminder recovered and made a crucial save to maintain the two-goal lead. After a strange performance at the Allianz, Donnarumma centered himself and came up with another solid display. He did not need to do much, but he succeeded when called into action.

7: The Destruction of Turin

10 goals over two matches against Torino and Juventus is a strange yet welcomed development. While the majority came in this fixture, these two victories have slingshotted Milan into the ascendency in the Champions League. Without these six points and 10 goals, the idea of playing in the Champions League would probably be a distant thought. And yet, here we are.

8: League Update

93% chance of Champions League soccer per FiveThirtyEight. That is gargantuan. Milan has never had a higher percentage chance of qualifying for the Champions League this season. The reason? If Juventus lose to Inter in the Derby D’Italia, then the Rossoneri qualify. Let’s say that the ‘Old Lady’ defeat the Nerrazzuri, then Milan needs just to defeat Cagliari at home. It is three points in any direction. Pioli’s side has the tiebreaker over their Champions League competitors, and a potentially easy match left while their main competition has to play one of their bitter rivals. Atalanta BC has essentially qualified, with SSC Napoli as the only team who could still stumble. Their two fixtures against ACF Fiorentina and Hellas Verona FC may cause them to falter and drop out of the top four places on the table. Juventus are still in with a shout, but I expect the current Champions League spots to stay as is by the season’s end.

9: Overall Thoughts

Win one more game. If Milan comes out rocking in the San Siro, then we finally have Champions League soccer again. Years of frustration could be over with one strong display. Please perform one more time this year. Please.