GdS: Inverted full-backs and Reijnders’ advanced role – the new Milan tactics

By Isak Möller -

AC Milan have made several changes to their squad this summer, signing nine players and parting ways with quite a few as well. As a result, Stefano Pioli has also decided to use different tactics for the current season. 

In the opener against Bologna, which the Rossoneri prevailed 2-0, they looked like a completely different team compared to last season. Today’s edition of Gazzetta Dello Sport (see image below) has taken a closer look at the main changes.

In the defensive phase, Milan are pressing very high with Tijjani Reijnders acting almost as a second striker at times. He forms a four-man initial press along with the other attackers, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek drops down.

When going forward, Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek both push up high and thus allow the wingers to stay wide. To make up for the lost midfield presence, Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez (or just the former) act as inverted full-backs.

As became clear in the opener, Milan like to put their wingers in place and that certainly makes sense with Pulisic and Leao on the flanks.

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli


    1. This idea comes from Guardiola, and his understudies (arteta etc). It has been extremely effective (3-2-2-3) but some teams have started to understand how to stop it from working and pep seemed to have tweaked it by making ederson an advanced sweeper keeper who’s move far up to pitch moving the LCB and RCB of the 3 back in game to the wings and opening the passing options as teams have started to close the passing options of that inverted fullback pivot. What Pioli seems to be doing is doing this same inverted fullback philosophy but giving Theo a slight bit more freedom so that he can interchange from inverted fullback to darting runs on the left flank while Calabria or Kalulu (RB) seem to have to be more disciplined inverted full backs

      1. Thanks for the input. Personally I based my opinion based on what I saw during Bologna game. I think it’s down mainly to the formation being new, so players aren’t used to it yet. But from what I saw, Calabria was out of position very often and Bologna seems to have targetting him more as a result. This is surprising as he is supposedly a more defensive minded player than Theo, and as a captain, it’s just disappointing to see him always stray off. I just fear that a more potent team would capitalize on it.

        I think the idea of inverted wingbacks is to help shore up the midfield, considering how often we got dominated last season in that sector. However, I believe this tactic requires a set of highly disciplined players and Calabria unfortunately to me, is not suited for this.

        Just my 2c

        1. I definitely agree with what you’ve said. I think Pioli wanted a more dominant midfield after how we got out numbered by most teams with midfields loaded with players such as inter with the 3-5-2. Calabria has not impressed me either so far in that inverted fullback position and exactly as you said he doesn’t have a positional discipline to make it work and to make it worse he doesn’t even have the pace to make a recovery so he can be a liability.

          1. Playing against a team in the 3-5-2 is going to be the acid test. Torino, Roma and Inter all play variations of the 3-5-2 and they are the next 3 games. Pioli is trash against these formations. I think this inverted fullback experiment will backfire, particularly against the better sides in 3-5-2, as it still doesn’t solve the overload on the flanks. With our fullbacks cutting in, and our wingers doing very little defensive work, the opposing wingbacks are going to have a party. Look for Dimarco and Dumfries to have banner days.

          2. My main worries still remain Calabria and Krunic. You could say that with this setup you’re counting a lot onto Tomori as well to string passes together and not make mistakes which is another risk that could come into play, but overall I like this adaptation by Pioli to further evolve in possession play

  1. Quarterback invertiti? E’ un’invenzione di Pioli? Pep e Klopp se la giocano da molto tempo. Arnold è spesso dentro. Smettetela di dire sciocchezze e scrivete che il pericolo è della destra di Milano perché la Calabria è lenta e cattiva.

  2. Reijnders basically makes the same runs into the box as Frattesi but is technically so much better of a player.

    Excited to see him play in front of the home crowd today! FORZA MILAN ⚫️🔴

  3. I think what we are seeing now with the formation and tactics is giving us results and with time there will be more adaptability and serenity in our play. However we ought to have an alternative against teams playing efficiently with 3-5-2 formation like Inter, Juventus and the rest. Forza Milan Semper ❤️ 🖤

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