GdS: Midfield three, physicality and pure wingers – how Pioli is changing Milan’s DNA

By Oliver Fisher -

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.

Tags AC Milan


  1. “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.”

    Well… Selling Tonali and having Bennacer injured 80% of the season kind of fixes that “not scored enough”-issue by itself as those two couldn’t get the ball past the first 2 opponents even if their lives depended on it.

    1. That’s just false. Bennacer was more than capable of beating people and progressing the ball forward, he just wasn’t capable of that final ball in the offensive third. It was Tonali who couldn’t do anything on the ball in open play.

      1. Interesting. Quite interesting. 2 set piece assists and 5 other assists in open play and still u write this. Really remarkable really

          1. This!!! Especially when over 90% of the corner kicks were intercepted by the first opponent and less than 1 in ten found an own player. Compare the corner kicks to e.g. Inter’s or Napoli’s and you’ll see how incredibly poor/miserable we’ve been in those.

        1. Remarkable? Remarkable is when you can’t get the ball past the first opponent from dead-ball situations more than once in 10 tries.

      2. False? Open your eyes. Look at the dead-ball actions from last 2 seasons and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And yes, I was referring to the cornerkicks and not open play.

  2. Well, Pioli can’t bring that fluidity and rhythm in our game play. He is an average coach with no vision or new ideas. If we want to establish ourselves as a top team playing signature football along with results a top class coach is needed. Pioli may bring results as our new squad is above in quality than any other in seriea currently, but I am sure we still play dirty, inconsistent football with no coordination among players and relies on individual brilliant moments to score.

    1. LOL You have some interesting opinions there. Salty a bit are we? He is a top class coach. Even took us to a semi-final finish in the CL when we had a ton of injuries and a team that had more deficiencies than it does now.

      1. Results, yes, but the quality, the brand of football we play.. thumbs down..
        individual brilliance from leao theo is what keeping him safe.
        A top class coach like Inzaghi can easily dismantle Pioli. We were lucky in UCL to draw against Spurs, Napoli etc. Can’t imagine Pioli against City, Bayern etc who plays such a great brand of football. We would have lost 10-0.
        Pioli lovers must see a full match live instead of highlights and evaluate our performance. Can’t even assemble 3 forward passes. Leao or theo get into their bike creating chances keeps him safe.

        1. Top class coach like inzaghi????? Wow , only win coppa & supercoppa now make you top class coach . Simone inzaghi are lucky too meet porto & benfica in knock out CL , let see what can he do after losing his senior player like lakaka,dzeko,brozovic,skriniar,handa,onana

    2. I am not a big fan of Pioli as I personally want Sarri, Xabi Allonso or Julian Nagalsmann as our manager but saying that he has no vision is disrespect to our scudetto winning manager.

    3. Pioli is been exceptional winny the scudetto and reachy the UCL semis with such an average squad
      But I feel now it’s the best time for judgement after the investments

          1. And, what? They play penalties and only goals count? Your comment is like you are special.

            And Giroud created all the goals he scored on his own…The tap in against Napoli was all Giroud…

          2. The game is called football, not goals. If you watch Milan play you know I am right. Leao was the solo attacking threat and he did most of the stuff on his own.

    4. I do criticise Pioli a lot. But He doesnt deserve that much disrespect my friend. The only problem this season is, the first 10 matches. if we win all of those matches, we will win Serie A. If we lose them, we wont even make it to top 4. I really don’t like Pioli switching to 433 because of Pioli’s past records. EVERY TIME he switched to 433 he got fired. And we are building a team for 433.

  3. Instead of selling fode to fullham, let’s give Bologna balo Toure plus Adli to get Dominguez. Musah deal is now a night mare.

    1. @ That’s a good idea 👏

      I quite like Musah but a) we’ve signed enough box2box mfs and b) Valencia playing hardball, no need for us to break the bank here.

      Plus, anything to offload some of our unwanted players is probably smart business. I think Adli could be decent in a few years but Pioli clearly doesn’t trust him, so let’s move him on

  4. Imagine in the 4-2-3-1 the attack is far balanced than the 4-3-3 because in the 4-3-3 is more of central midfielder while in 4-2-3-1 is more of central midfield and attacking midfield to support winger and this suit Pulisic and Romero too but because Romero will use right wing with chukwueze then consider Lindstrom and Pulisic for. No 10 let me fact out this analysis clear even Pioli knows this system some how in 4-2-3-1 the quality players are shown in terms of maturity but in 4-3-3 those players weekends are not shown infact players like pobega,Adli can play the new Milan pattern

  5. In the 4-2-3-1 we get the best out of pulisic,Romero, rejinder, and both striker but I have evaluate the analysis 4-3-3 is Good but no to the 4-2-3-1 is just fact except we have inexperienced players which is not possible as it stands now in the 4-2-3-1 I noticed if Acmilan team is complete we do more of pressing from our opponents midfield and create chances which are goal ok look at back when we use 4-3-3 and now we use 4-2-3-1 see the pattern we noticed that Milan has changed so far all we just need is one more attacking midfield and the impact is complete ok let me surprise the fans in 4-3-3 we don’t score much goals to a strong opponents in serieA but in 4-2-3-1 we did it against Juventus from 2-0 to 4-2 Parma 7-0 Napoli 4-0 Roma last two seasons we defeated them home and away we just need a complete squad before transfer closes

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