Gennaro Gattuso opted to go with a 4-4-2 in AC Milan’s win over Sampdoria on Sunday, and the same system is expected to be deployed against Genoa.
The switch ultimately had its desired effect, with the Rossoneri securing three points in a much-improved display as they bounced back from bitterly disappointing performances and results against Inter and Real Betis.
As seen in the video below, not only did both Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone score a goal apiece, they linked up brilliantly for the second as Milan fought back and eventually secured the win.
GOLLL!!! GON. ZA. LO. pic.twitter.com/RThzUcIBu8
— Milan Talk (@MilanTalk1) October 28, 2018
It’s not the first time that the pair have shown their ability to play alongside each other, as they also showcased excellent understanding and awareness of each other against Roma earlier in the season which led to Cutrone’s dramatic late winner, as seen below.
Cutrone and Higuain have scored eight goals between them in just 232 minutes when both are on the pitch. That’s a goal every 29 minutes.
The first match of Serie A weekend 3 was a brilliant encounter between Milan and Roma. 20 year-old Patrick Cutrone scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 win for the Rossoneri in the final seconds of added time thanks to a beautiful assist from new signing Gonzalo Higuain pic.twitter.com/gTQlmR3eWg
— ™ (@Tacticomotion_) August 31, 2018
In turn, it’s hugely impressive that they’ve been able to strike up such a partnership with such little playing time together. Further, given the fact that Cutrone in particular has struggled with injury and fitness issues so far this season and so perhaps hasn’t been able to perfect that understanding in training, it makes it all the more impressive.
With the above in mind, there is no doubt that the two can co-exist and are an effective partnership, which is also strengthened by the stat that they’ve scored eight goals between them in just 232 minutes when both are on the pitch. That’s a goal every 29 minutes.
The issues with playing 4-4-2
However, there are drawbacks that come with the 4-4-2 as well. Given the lack of depth up front, Gattuso is severely limited and playing both in the starting line-up doesn’t give him an option off the bench to change the game.
It’s hoped that is addressed in the January transfer window with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato linked with a return, and so adding that third option could help Milan overcome the issue of not having the necessary quality and depth to play two up top and compete on various fronts.
Nevertheless, the win over Sampdoria also exposed other issues. Suso and Diego Laxalt did well to offer an attacking threat out wide and create for the frontmen, while they also put in an excellent defensive shift to track back, as they must do in such a formation.
In contrast, while Lucas Biglia put in a good performance overall, neither he nor Franck Kessie looked particularly assured in a two-man midfield as they were exposed at times and Milan found themselves in trouble.
Particularly against a technically gifted side, as we might find out against Betis next Thursday, there is the threat that we get overrun in midfield and effectively get outplayed, outclassed and given the run around.
That in turn will leave the backline exposed, and it could lead to a setback and question marks being raised over deploying a 4-4-2.
With that in mind, Gattuso has to be sensible as to when he can use it. Against ‘inferior’ sides where we’re expected to dominate possession and create chances, having both Higuain and Cutrone in the box is essential to help break those opponents down.
However, against top teams both domestically and in Europe, reverting back to a 4-3-3 or perhaps even a 4-3-1-2 or a similar variation must be used too as Milan have to show such flexibility to succeed this season.