As seen on Sunday, there are still fundamental issues with Marco Giampaolo’s preferred 4-3-1-2 system as Milan fell to a 1-0 defeat to Udinese.
The Italian tactician will undoubtedly have worked tirelessly over pre-season to get his ideas across and transform the way in which we play, and there were positive signs both on and off the ball during pre-season.
Through the summer, we moved the ball quicker, players were moving off the ball to find space and we pressed with energy and intensity.
None of that was on show in Udine, as it was essentially a performance that could be associated with how we looked last season despite a summer of change at coaching and management level.
As noted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, such was his disappointment with the performance and result, Giampaolo even suggested in his post-match interview that he could scrap the 4-3-1-2 system as it doesn’t suit the players at his disposal.
There is an argument to support that choice, as Suso struggled as the trequarista, Samu Castillejo was anonymous for long periods and this formation isn’t making the most of Krzysztof Piatek’s strengths, namely keeping him close to goal so he can score.
Giampaolo needs to find a way to allow Piatek to stay in and around the box and get the service into him, not ask him to drop deep and take him away from goal to be involved in our build-up play.
However, should Giampaolo abandon his preferred tactical set-up after just one game? Is that a sensible decision or a knee-jerk reaction to the worst possible start to the new campaign? Perhaps with changes made to his starting XI, he could give it one more chance against Brescia on Saturday as scrapping his ideas is seemingly a drastic measure and perhaps shows a real lack of planning this summer.
So, Giampaolo has already hinted he may have to abandon the 4-3-1-2.
Scrap it immediately or make changes to XI (Kessie, Bennacer, Leao etc) and stick with it vs Brescia?#ForzaMilan 🔴⚫️
— Milan Talk (@MilanTalk1) August 26, 2019
Conti – Calabria
While there are perhaps question marks over Andrea Conti’s defending, especially at times last season as he was caught out down the right as he continued to regain full fitness, Davide Calabria didn’t do the job expected on Sunday.
With Ricardo Rodriguez continuing to play a limited role going forward and Theo Hernandez out with injury, Milan needed width down the right to stretch the play and add a different dynamic to our attack. Instead, everything went through the middle or the full-backs received the ball too deep and move after move broke down before it really got going.
Conti should get the nod on Saturday as given we’re at home and must set the tempo and take the game to Brescia, he’ll offer a bit more in the final third.
Kessie – Borini
Fabio Borini’s heart and determination can never be questioned, but sadly for him that simply isn’t enough to get by at this level. That’s been evident for so long, and yet he still manages to play a key role despite not having the quality required to influence games in a more advanced role.
For all of Franck Kessie’s limitations, the 22-year-old’s energy, physical presence and powerful runs forward with or without the ball add something different in midfield and was sorely missed against Udinese.
It was understandable to an extent that he didn’t start having returned late after the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this summer, but there is no reason for Borini to still be in the XI this weekend.
Bennacer – Calhanoglu
Hakan Calhanoglu ultimately failed to deliver as the regista on Sunday, as instead of trying to drop deep and find space to help his defence by providing an outlet, he seemed content to roam in a packed midfield and play tidy passes with no real risk involved.
In contrast, even though Ismael Bennacer was only on the pitch for 15 minutes, the 21-year-old showed a sharper mind and execution in playing quick first-time passes to improve the tempo of our play and move the ball quickly between the lines before Udinese could settle into a shape.
The Algerian international is going to be an absolutely vital part of this team moving forward, as he will be the engine in the side and the stand-out player tasked with making us tick on the ball.
Leao – Castillejo
Some will still defend Samu Castillejo, but based on his performances in pre-season and against Udinese, he has done little to suggest that he’s anything other than average as a second striker.
Lacking the physicality and grit to keep possession, coupled with an inability to consistently pick holes in a defence, he has had little influence on our play all summer and so Giampaolo has to make a change.
Rafael Leao won’t cut defences apart with his technical quality on the ball, but his pace, movement and physical presence will add something different to our attack and potentially open up spaces for Piatek in and around the box to get goalscoring opportunities with the opposition defence stretched.
We don’t need the Polish international running the channels or coming short, Leao showed against Feronikeli with his assist that he can do that job, while Suso must be better at finding space and getting on the ball to provide service to the front two.