GdS: 200 touches and a pre-assist – Milan may have found winning midfield combo

By Ben Dixon -

AC Milan have struggled to find the right partnership in their midfield this season. However, against Empoli, Stefano Pioli may have found the perfect composition for his midfield moving forward.

Sunday’s performance was not a display of champagne football, but that can be forgiven due to the context of the fixture and its timing. Milan had to deal with a squad thinned by suspensions whilst being mindful of their upcoming fixture against Slavia Praha.

Therefore, efficiency had to be paramount, and the Rossoneri were indeed efficient. Earning a 1-0 victory with no casualties sets the side up perfectly for their clash on Thursday night in Prague.

The stem of efficiency was, without a doubt, the midfield, and the partnership of Ismael Bennacer and Tijjani Reijnders controlled the game. Gazzetta dello Sport writes the partnership had 200 touches between them, almost three times more than the combined touches of Empoli’s central defender partnership (68).

Reijnders and Bennacer’s skillsets perfectly complimented each other on Sunday, and this provides a benchmark of their best, and if they can build upon this further in the future, Milan have a very strong combination for the future.

Bennacer is the regista of the two, opening himself for the ball in every scenario and not afraid to take risks when doing so. He is then facilitated by Reijnders, who is transformative and reliable in his play, whether that is as the more defensive-minded of the duo or the attacker.

Perhaps the biggest credit for the pair is that they are interchangeable and can operate in the other’s role without difficulty, as they proved with Bennacer’s pre-assist. The Algerian midfielder dropped deeper and dispatched a 20-metre pass to Okafor, who duly assisted Pulisic.

Tags AC Milan Ismaël Bennacer Tijjani Reijnders


  1. I’ve always said, since the beginning of he season, that the idea of Bennacer and Reijnders with RLC in front of them would be pretty epic.

    I don’t even think we’re seeing their best yet. I think they will really start humming next season after a full year together. Bennacer not 100% yet. And the Flying Dutchman will improve even more.

    This midfield is solid.

  2. Would prefer seeing Reijnders as an AM with Adli and Bennacer behind. Loftus off ball feels like we are playing with 10 players. Yesterday he managed to retrieve some balls otherwise he is useless

    1. How many goals has he scored in all competitions so far? He has a good work rate and uses his physical stature well to create opportunities and defend. You said he is useless? Your augment is seriously flawed.

      1. Useless when out of ball possession. Yes he did score some goals but he needs to do more in terms of build up play and defending

    2. Couldn’t agree with you more. Yesterday was RLC better performance. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he is useless, he did got some goals for us and added a bit of physicality. But his off ball movement is so frustrating to watch most of the times. His passes are pretty average. Idk maybe that’s what pioli ask him to do 🤔

  3. What? Adli is better than both of them in that position. both in attacking and on defending. Adli’s passing is better, ball recoveries are better. Is not me, is the statistics.

    The formula should be Adli with one of them.

        1. Milan needs amrabat subimendi for holding midfield /dabble pivot + reijnders in attacking midfield then we are good to go

  4. It’s crazy how a yet-to-be totally fit and sharp Bennacer is still better and more preferable than all the other mids just simply because he adds some defensive protection to the backline

    1. I find this all a bit suspect.

      Reinjders clearly needed a break.

      Benny is clearly regaining fitness and form.

      Yesterday for the first time in literally months they had the first choice defense behind them.

      So balls coming in the build up from the high quality defense coupled with the ability to take more offensive risk knowing there is better cover behind.

      I _think_ we will learn that Adli is an interchangeable part based on tactics and situation. I’d like to see a few more weeks of Tomorri + Gabbia/Thiaw.

      But the idea that cause and effect is the combo of mids and not the truth of defense seems like ignores the system as a whole.

  5. I would be cautious about using Empoli as a barometer of how our midfield is doing.

    Last season we were murdered twice by Chelsea, the conclusion was that Tonali and Bennacer lacked the physicality to compete at that level and we missed Kessie.
    After that we started using Tonali/Krunic with Bennacer as AM and that improved solidity.

    Bennacer and T.R are quality players and probably enough to compete with lesser teams. I think when it comes to better and or bigger teams we still need a proper DM.
    I would like to see Bennacer and T.R as Mezzalas either side of a good DM, that’s their natural role and it will give our defense the cover needed against better teams

    1. That DM could be Sofyan Amrabat, who will be desperate to move on from Fiorentina and whose option won’t be picked up by Man U because he’s not fitting in there and will have 1 year left on his contract with Fio. I’m guessing he could be had for ~20m, which is right in our wheelhouse, and will permit a larger budget for ST. How interesting would it be to have an “all-Maghrib” midfield with Adli-Amrabat-Bennacer?

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