GdS: How Fonseca wants Milan to play – first indications from Milanello

By Isak Möller -

Paulo Fonseca has been the manager of Milan for several weeks now, but his first training session with the team took place on Monday afternoon. Since then, he has been working hard at Milan and per a report, there are some indications already. 

Today’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport (see featured image) has taken stock of his first days at Milan, mainly relying on what was seen during the first training session. The other ones, as per the orders of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, are more or less behind closed doors.

An attacking, dominant football, but with a key focus on balance in the defensive phase which was missing too often last season. This is what Fonseca made clear during his press conference, but what are the actual principles that he would like to bring to the club? Let’s take a look.

The basics

At Milanello, in the first game situations in training, the Portuguese manager used the 4-2-3-1 formation, insisting on concepts such as possession, density, game changes and pressing. The first phase of the construction? With a classic 3+2.

This could already be seen in the first session on Monday: one of the two midfielders (for example Ismael Bennacer) lowers himself into the line of the centre-backs, forming a three-man backline, with the attacking midfielder coming down to participate in the play and the full-backs pushing up.

In Fonseca’s mind, however, the first phase of possession is not low or aimed at getting the opponents to press, but rather to bring the ball to midfield as quickly as possible. Density is created later, taking advantage of the full-backs’ high position (although the Portuguese explained how in some matches one of the two can be more ‘blocked’) and the movements of the attackers.

In those situations, sudden game changes (such as switching sides) become fundamental. This is because building density in one area helps to free and discover the opposing sides.

Winning back the ball

In addition to freeing up other spaces, having players close by also means that you can rely more on ‘re-aggressions’ when you lose the ball. Fonseca also said it during his presentation: “We have to defend away from our goal.” That is, recover the ball quickly, where you lose it.

On the other hand, when the opponent builds out from the back, Milan will line up with 4-4-2. At Lille, the first line of pressure was carried out by the centre-forward and the attacking midfielder, while the attacking wingers lowered themselves onto the midfielders’ line.

The attack

Where the Portuguese will be able to experiment most, is in the attacking phase, thanks to the talent of the individuals. In France, Fonseca loved to work wide with the full-backs, asking the attacking wingers to occupy the internal half-spaces and the No.9 to look for depth. However, he didn’t have someone like Rafael Leao. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect news at Milan.

Tags AC Milan Paulo Fonseca

27 Comments

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  1. I’m starting to get increasingly irritated by the modern day football players capitalizing on each and every soft contact to their heads throwing themselves to the ground. Bunch of softies, I would love to see them play football in the 80ies or even before that. Back in the days there was football players missing some of their teeths and they would still continue to play.

      1. No idea what computer games has to do with that but you do actually think its good for the sport that now every time there is the slightest contact towards the head every player tries to either slow down the game or trick a free kick. Absolutely pathetic.

        1. Like foden last night. Goes down screams like a hornet hot him in the ballz then after 30 seconds, when his own team didn’t send the ball off, gets up angry looks at his teammates and continues playing with 0 injury.

          I’d have him shot on the spot for simulation. And I’m not even joking. Hate simulation amd this pansy a$$ attitude. Hate it!

          1. You must be a big Neymar fan then… 😀 😀 😀

            And I bet you’ll love to see Morata twisting and turning on the ground every 5 minutes next season. 😛

          2. Yeah I think it was that scenario I was thinking about but I probably should have mentioned I was watching the Netherlands vs England match though 🙂 I freaking hate it and its getting worse and wrose by the minute.

          3. bb I know it was a reply for Flyingturtle but Neymar has always itched me the wrong way and I for one is pretty much hating the fact that we probably will end up with Morata whom ive always disliked. If he joins us though I will support him as every other player who joins us and will give him a chance to prove himself but i definitely doesn’t like the prospect of us signing him.

          4. Martin, I know! I hate ALWAYS hated Morata & Neymar from the bottom of my heart just because of the sickening theatrical acting. I understand, approve and utilize the dives to underline/highlight a contact or a foul but I draw the line to faking injuries. You can’t go rolling on the pitch in “agony” for something that didn’t even happen. Makes me sick to see that and when Morata was in Juve, he was the worst actor in Serie A. I doubt he has changed much from those times.

            But I agree with you. IF Milan signs him, I will swallow my pride and support him as much as I can. I won’t approve or enjoy his acting sessions one bit and will swear aloud a lot when I see them, but what can you do? It was the same with Montolivo back in the days… He was always acting and crying to the refs and even though it was infuriating he was still a Milan player.

  2. He doesn’t eve have his heavy hitters back. Pointless to speculate how we will play. Actually not pointless but just repeating what is already known if one seen or read the coaches voice profile

      1. Yup. Wonder how many clicks they get a day. Wonder how many of those clicks don’t have an add blocker. Wonder if Netherlands will last till 90 min

        1. Nope – England the footballing geniuses have done it again. I mean just what is the point of VAR at this point? Or refs for that matter.

          1. Yep. And AI to not put England in the easiest group in the competition for once. They have to be the luckiest team on earth.

  3. All makes sense on paper. Will it actually work on the pitch though? Will Ruben and Rafa actually attempt to actively recover the ball?

    We’ll see.

    1. Which is why the team needs competiton for every profile that offers something different. Can’t take RLC off when Pobega is his replacement lol.

      1. I think it’s more like our old midfield renaissance Fofana replacing Kessie and Tonali was already successfully replaced by Reijnders… their replacements are Musah and RLC, since the latter and Reijnders are box-to-box…

        Musah can grow under Fofana to use his stamina better, Bennacer-Adli is already a common thing. I don’t know what happens to Pobega… I would also would have kept Saelemakers for 3-4-3 flexibility and we can change from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 with Pulisic/J.David(if he comes) as N10 sometimes…

        1. I don’t want direct replacements. I don’t want RLC to be substituted with another version of RLC. Ideally, I want a different type of player with different characteristics so they can offer something new to the team. That’s why I compared RLC to Pobega, just speaking from a talent level.

          Adli is nowhere near Benny during the Scudetto season, and he is a completely different player. What made Benny so effective was his quick recovery of the ball and quick passing to get the ball moving.

          In my opinion, Adli is a different player. I wouldn’t be mad if Adli was sold and a better player was bought. I would be happy if Pobega and Adli were sold and space was given to Musah, Zeroli, and potentially another younger player. Adli is, at most, a Bologna-level player.

          1. Untouchables are Reijnders, Bennacer(although we can get 50M, we won’t be able to replace him this season), Musah, RLC. If we add Fofana that makes 5. We need at least 2 more then. Adli’s only problem is his strength, 0 muscles on that guy. But the deep playmaking that he can do similar to Bennacer is why I name him currently as his sub. Pobega just doesn’t show anything close to what he was at Torino. Zeroli needs exp and time.

            Bove and Ricci could be great signings. Bove 1 year left so under 10M deal is plausible. Ricci 20-25M minimum. Bonaventura is also free.

    2. This. I fully expect the camel’s back to break with Leao this season. He won’t pull his weight in the defensive phase and we’ll see him out the door come summer 2025.

    3. Thats the main issue we have. All these tactics will mean nothing as long as these players don’t show any signs of pressing the opposition.

  4. I just wanted to answer to the following comment:

    ” Yeah free speech should be forbidden because you disagree with other people omg what a time to be alive”

    *

    If you really think that referring here, on a website supposedly made by Milan fans and dedicated to all things AC Milan related, to our beloved team in a blatantly offensive, downright derogatory and obscene way – “s*hit club” – is some legitimate manifestation of ‘freedom of speech’, well then all you have to say is this: I’m sorry, but you represent exactly what’s wrong here.

    1. I’m sorry but while I think I agree with your intent you message misses a key axiom.

      Freedom of speech is a right. So yep people.can say nasty stuff. By way of example as a US guy I find the anti US rhetoric exhausting some days. But they have a right to say as they wish.

      What gets forgotten is the responsibility to the community in which the speech takes place. The use of anonymous monikers seems to provide a class of people the perceived.license to abuse their right.

      Okay so what to do?

      When someone steps out of bounds politely ask them not to. Explain what is expected and why. This is us moderating our community of those who support ACM.

      But when they persist remember that the opposite of love is not hate. It is ambivalence. So ignore them. Coin of the realm for this class.of person is any attention they get. Quietly pity them and the fact that this is a means by which they gain attention in their life.

      Again, I appreciate.the thoughts and history lessons of the key contributor’s her in folks like Martin, Barts, ACM1899, IKWYDLS, Maldini’s Heir, etc. So focus on those folks and their clear passion for the game and ACM.

      And … Meh … The jerks. I personally have too many other things in my life that bring joy to even spare the pity. I suspect you do as well.

      Forza Milan. I hope to continue to see you around the forum from time to time.

    2. Just to add to mykidplayedsoccer, sometimes it’s difficult to interpret tone in written words. Previously I had alot of ppl misinterpret things I used to write because I can’t convey light heartedness across words and the conversatios didn’t go the way I had hoped. Emojis have helped with that for instance but they can’t in all situations. I’ve also consciously tried to write better so I don’t get misinterpreted.
      In other situations, you also have to take into consideration the history of the person who wrote the in comment and how they generally act. There are not many but I do consciously tune out ppl, never bother with their comments and they probably do me as well and that’s fine. Maybe try that. Inter fan for instance and my known disdain.
      I say all this to say that specifically I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to Boulden who might have said it ina tone of sarcasm which one may not pick up easily (ie as a retort that another commenter would think that a player would choose another team over us that we’re so bad. I don’t think he’s saying we’re bad but mocking ppl for thinking were bad…which in and of itself is also an overreaction /extreme take). However I do agree with the others here that 95% of the times, that commenter specifically adds very little value in the way of discussion.

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