Last weekend to of the strongest team in this season faced each other. Ac Milan came with to wins on their side to Rom, to face Lazio. At the Stadio Olimpico the fans first saw a game which was controled by the young Milan squad but Lazio scored the goals and beat the Rossoneri 4:1.
The new AC Milan
In recent years the two clubs from Milano struggled in the league, and were no factor in the European cup competitions, in the last few years they were not able to even qualify for the international competitions.
At AC Milan a Chinese investor took charge last year, he has high objectives therefore Milan was one of the most active teams at the transfer market this summer. In the end, they spent round about 200 Million euros for new, mainly younger players. With Leonardi Bonucci they even got one of the best centre backs in Europe. For 40 million Bonucci left Turin to become the captain and leader of the young Rossoneri.
Furthermore, after long discussions, Italian Goalkeeper talent Gianluigi Donnarumsa stays and signed a new contract. With him, Milan has the logical successor of Gianluigi Buffon as Italian national goalkeeper.
Along with Donnarumma, young talents like Crutone, Suso or Kessie are part of the new Milan squad. Additions like Rodriguez, who also has something more to give, Borini and Biglia give the squad a solid mix of more experienced players and young talents with a lot of potential.
Milans usual line-up
Coach Vincenzo Montella usually lines his team up in a 4-3-3 formation. Next to Bonucci who is responsible for most of the build-up from the back, his new signing Mussachio, who also can pass the ball, but clearly has not that skill level like Bonucci. On the left back position plays Rodriguez, the swiss national player, who is an extremely good crosser, plays a bit deeper. In build-up he supports the two centre backs. Later in the possession game he pushes forward to threaten the defense with his overlapping runs and accurate crosses. The right back position, played by Calabria, is a bit different. The young Italian stays wider and pusher forward right from the start of build-up. There are two reasons why. On is that Calabria is not that comfortable with the ball as Rodriguez and can´t help the build-up so much. The other reason is the player in front of him. Officially Suso is lined up as right wing, but the Spanish offensive player loves to play between the lines and rarely stays wide, compared to Borini on the left side. Who sometimes comes deeper in the halfspace to offer himself as a passing option, but usually he moves in the middle when the ball is near the attacking third and Rodriguez pushed forward.
The midfield forms himself in to a triangle. Biglia is the deepest player and also a big contributor to the play from the back. Differently to some other possession teams, the deep lying playmaker does not position himself between the centre backs to form a three-man line and consequently stretches the opponents pressing. Normally Biglia stays in midfield and gives his centre backs a short passing option between the first line of pressure. Staying there makes it harder for the opponent’s strikers to press the centre backs because they have to care about Biglia, who uses open space pretty well and from the is capable of initiating dangerous plays.
Biglia gets supported by the likes of Ricardo Montolivo and the young Kessie from Ghana. Against Lazio Montolivo played in a more advanced role, helping Borini and Rodriguez to overload the left side. Montolivo tries to connect striker Crutone and the wings Borini and Suso, furthermore he is an additional player between the lines of whom the opponent has to care. Nevertheless, Montolivo does not play as a real number ten. Often, he positions himself in the left halfspace and supports player like Biglia, Mussachio and Rodriguez. In the future, it is more likely that former Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanouglu earns his starting spot. He brings different characteristics to Milans game than Montolivo. Calhanouglu is a more offensive player who feels more comfortable between the lines as Montolivo and is a greater threat for the opposing Goalkeeper. Up-front played the young Italian striker Crutone. Furthermore, Milan signed the talented striker André Silva from Porto.
Milans clear objective in possession is the control of the game by having a lot of possession and building up the play with short passes. A lot of the build-up comes through the middle, which is the focused area in attack. With the wings who position themselves in the halfspace, Milan has a lot of players in the middle and tries to play through the lines of the opponents with short-combinations. Aditionaly they try to create an overload around the wings, with the central midfielder who support in the halfspace and on the wing.
Milans struggle in offense and Lazios aggressive pressing
After introducing the new Ac Milan, I will now focus on the real topic of this article, how could Lazio have won the battle against Milan that clearly. The biggest strength of Lazio against Milan was their compact midfield press. The rarely tried to close down Milan aggressively in Milans half, much more they concentrate on their own half especially in the central areas Lazio followed the Milan players consequently and tried to press them from the first touch on. They were curious about a Milan player turning with the ball and running towards the Lazio defence.
Playing safely through their won half, Milan then struggles to create chances. Lazio defended in a 3-4-2-1 or sometimes 5-3-2 formation. Milan maybe got access to the middle but then had to play through tied spaces in which the Milan players didn´t look so comfortable. Because of their inverted Wings switching sides was rarely possible so consequently Lazio could concentrate on closing the centre, in which they had superiority and often could win the ball with two or three men against one Milan player.
One of the rare moments in which Milan was capable of getting behind the last line. With the simple use of the 3rd player concept they could finaly play a pass in the space behind Lazios defense.
After winning the ball their main objective was to play the ball behind the defensive line of Milan, with the likes of Immoblie and Luis Alberto they had perfect players to attack Milan’s defence. Moreover, Milan’s lack of compactness and ability to put their opponents under pressure helped Lazio a lot for instance before the second goal. Lazio could easily play through the lines of Milan and pass the ball from the ten space out to the player on the right how crosses it in and Immobile could score his second goal of the day.
For the young Milan squad, it is hard to play against a Lazio team which has been playing together much longer as Milan and furthermore is more experienced than the Rossoneri. But all in all, Milan looks differently and more promising compared to the last years. Of course, it will take time to bring that team together, the team is more or less completely new. But for Milan a game like that against Lazio is a setback of which they can learn in the future.
Also, coach Montella maybe have to change some things in his strategical approach. Against Austria Wien he lined-up his team with three at the back which could help Leonardo Bonucci. Despite the problems in defence, Milan has to work on their combinations and attacking actions to create more chances. Nevertheless, Milan will be an exciting project to watch in this season.