There’s been a lot to like about Milan’s form since the restart of the season, and a number of players have stood out for positive reasons given their influence in the last three games.
From Ante Rebic’s goalscoring form to Simon Kjaer’s solidity in defence, Stefano Pioli will be delighted for the most part by what he’s seeing from his side as we look to try and put together a strong finish to the Serie A campaign.
Perhaps slightly lost in that discussion though is the partnership that is developing in midfield between Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie, as both have been crucial in a three-game unbeaten run since the season got back underway.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that the 4-2-3-1 system in general seems to be suiting the players well across the pitch as they look more comfortable and effective in their current assigned roles and that in turn is leading to a more organised and threatening Milan side which ultimately is reflected in the recent results.
Our goalscoring troubles were well documented given we managed just 28 in 26 league games, but we’ve now scored six in our last two outings and we’ll certainly hope to see the players continue to improve that tally when we face SPAL on Wednesday.
The foundation of that good form though is set not only by the defence, but the two-man midfield duo who sit in front of them, as Bennacer and Kessie have been important in both phases of the game.
The pair are a bundle of energy and tenacity as they regularly show great physicality and reading of the game to offer protection in front of the backline, and throw in some combativeness and not shirking away from getting into a tackle, they are helping us to win midfield battles.
On top of that, whether it’s Bennacer’s ability to break forward or pick holes in the opposition lines between the midfield and defence with accurate and swift vertical passes, or Kessie’s bursting runs into the other half to offer support, they are creating problems for sides as an attacking threat too.
Kessie has struggled to make much of an impact in the final third since he joined us, and that’s reflected in his tallies of 13 goals and nine assists in 124 appearances.
Ultimately though, that’s not really his strength and his job in the side, and by reigning him back into this more defensive role playing deeper in midfield as opposed to being on the right side of a three-man midfield, it allows the 23-year-old to keep things nice and tidy and more simple with his distribution.
That in turn allows Hakan Calhanoglu, Giacomo Bonaventura, Samu Castillejo and Rebic the freedom to work out how to break sides down, knowing that we now have two players behind them capable of manning the fort. That said, they should also be commended for the work they put in off the ball as we now work as a real collective out of possession.
It’s an important and arguably undervalued part of our improved form, and it’s hoped that these two can continue to get better and build chemistry to become more dominant in midfield in the 10 remaining Serie A games.