AC Milan have departed for their tour of the USA, and it is during their time over there that Stefano Pioli hopes to continue working on his new-look team.
La Gazzetta dello Sport talks about the ways in which Pioli is aiming to change Milan’s ‘DNA’, starting with physicality. Before the midfield triangle was Sandro Tonali, Brahim Diaz and Ismael Bennacer, who had technical quality but lacked size.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has arrived to address this with his muscle and technique. Pioli is clearly looking for intense players, who can attack, win many duels and create superiority in the middle of the park.
The 4-3-3 was also born like this. Pioli tried it yesterday against Lumezzane and will continue to experiment with it in the United States. Not even he knows if it will become an alternative to the classic 4-2-3-1 or the usual system, but the arrivals of Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders are a good fit either way.
As Reijnders alluded to in his first press conference, there is the idea of playing with ‘two attacking midfielders’ with Rade Krunic (or perhaps another new addition) in front of the defence and two Mezzala-type players good in both phases.
The balance must change too. In the 4-2-3-1 formation of the Scudetto and last season, Milan leant heavily on the left with Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leao on that side then Davide Calabria and either Alexis Saelemaekers or Junior Messias on the right.
With Christian Pulisic or Samuel Chukwueze as right wingers, Milan must ask for balance from the three midfielders. Once the Charles De Ketelaere experiment failed, Pioli decided to give up on pure attacking midfielder and will instead ask the box-to-box players to push up when the moment is right.
Pioli is designing a team capable of increasing ball possession, which certainly won’t be limited to intense football made up of aggression, pressure and duels.
A Milan more accustomed to dribbling may find it less difficult to open the safe against the smaller clubs who bunker the defence. Thus, unpredictability from the wingers will be key, as will runs from midfield and the movement of the centre-forward.
The final area where Pioli is looking to add value is through set pieces, given that the Rossoneri have struggled in that particular department with too many conceded and not enough scored.