CM: Position, choices and Theo Hernandez – what is behind Leao’s recent struggles

By Oliver Fisher -

Rafael Leao has now not scored a goal for over a month and his performances have become the centre of media scrutiny. write how Leao’s contribution in front of goal has effectively stalled since last September 23rd when he netted the winner against Hellas Verona, which means that more than a month has passed since he contributed to a goal.

Not only that, but the win over Lazio seven days after that was what many consider to be his last positive performance. Something has obviously changed compared to the beginning of this season and last season, leaving Stefano Pioli needing to find answers.

Taking into consideration the match against PSG and his most convincing performance in the 4-1 win over Torino, the difference in Leao’s impact is evident first of all from an individual point of view.

The number of balls touched is essentially the same, but he had 75% of duels won vs. Torino against 40% vs. PSG, 6 attempted crosses to 1, 2 shots of which one on target against the 4 attempted and 1 on target in Paris.

Broadening the discussion from the beginning of the season to today, the average number of successful dribbles has also collapsed, dropping from around 5 per game in the first four games to just over 1 per game in the last four.

What do these numbers tell us? The Portuguese winger is perhaps making more ‘selfish’ choices, but the way Milan are playing forces him outside rather than towards the centre where he can do more damage.

However, there is another factor that has a major impact on Rafael Leao’s mini-crisis: Theo Hernandez. It may seem obvious, but when Theo is not at his best it becomes easier to focus on Leao with double marking, and then there is obviously the chemistry between the pair which has been interrupted.

Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao


  1. It’s no surprise that when Theo is not performing (and he’s not, at the moment) or he’s missing from the Team, then Leao’s game suffers.
    Just to go completely off-piste, it might be time to try him as CF and get Okafor on the left. Gives Giroud some well-needed and gives defences something else to think about other than our ‘exhausted’ left-side game. It also gives Theo another partner on the left for his runs and someone he plays well with as CF.. can’t go any worse than it is at the moment..

    1. Leao can’t control and hold the ball properly, and his close control is really suck. Those aspects are needed as a lone striker. And on other hand, Okafor can do those things. So i prefer Okafor as a lobe striker. Or milan can change their formation with 2 CFs at front, with Leao and okafor pairing of.

  2. Laziness is what’s behind as always.
    Isn’t that what both Capello and Sacchi said about Leao today.
    2 of the greatest coaches ever.

    Capello used the word indolent.

    Sacchi said “Leao is Leao if he runs, if he sprints. If he doesn’t run, I won’t let him play. Sometimes players also need a hard fist.”

    1. Leao walks around the pitch like he is 35 year old Messi. Leao takes no responsibility for helping the team defend. Leao has loads of talent but zero work ethic. He is not a good teammate and I would bench him until he starts putting in effort on both ends of the pitch.

    1. You can say that to Leao, as he is not hungry in dvery match for 90mins. But for Theo, there is problem with the new system 3man midfield.
      He lost all that space he had before and many times reijnders goes selfish to takes chances on his own than passing balls to Leao or giroud .

      Pioli should work with Theo, with the 433 how he would make runs to use him most.

  3. Both Giroud and Pulisic track back to defend. When the opponent has the ball, Leao is walking around as if he is 35 year old Messi. I want to like Leao. He has so much talent, but no work ethic. He looks lazy and disinterested. Sit him for a match and see if that lights a fire in him. The club has coddled him and now he acts like an entitled brat.

    1. Agreed, but let’s wait until Chukwueze is back so we can play Puli at LW and Chuk at RW and still have a proper attack.

  4. Lack of composure!
    I usually call it “underestimating the ball”.
    He is strong but he moves like an Ent (living-trees character in Lord of the Rings).
    Mbappe basically taught him how to play that night. Composure helps you to be more agile and control the ball better. If you can control it better, you make decision better whether its to shoot or to pass.

  5. The coach is behind their struggles hold Pioli he is the cause he knew well that leao and Hernandez are good in the 4-2-3-1 but he wants them to adapt to the 4-3-3 and now they are struggling and the coach now’s it and is pretending and saying no problem all is fine where as nothing is fine Acmilan has a problem and must resolve the problem

  6. Leao has Zero Vision, Like a horse with blinders on. Dude cannot see 3 passes ahead.
    He cant even make 1 visionary pass.
    his assist so far have been hopeful passes.

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