GdS: Pioli abandons courageous and aggressive style in search of solidity

By Oliver Fisher -

Stefano Pioli has drawn some scrutiny from La Gazzetta dello Sport over his decision to abandon his previous tactical approach after so long working on it.

The paper (via write how, at the height of crisis, Pioli made the call to sacrifice his trusted 4-2-3-1 formation in order to add some stability and extra coverage to a team that seemingly had a worsening defence.

He worked on the 4-2-3-1 for nearly three years and with it the Rossoneri became the champions of Italy last season. That ‘aggressive, courageous, dominant’ style was the pride of a young team that found more and more self-belief by running forward, with or without the ball such as at Anfield against Liverpool.

However, the run at the start of the year saw a lot of that belief and the certainties of the previous formation vanish, culminating in a run of seven games in a row without a win prior to the Torino victory on Friday.

Pioli has been forced to change to give protection to a defence traumatised by letting in 18 goals in 7 games, and now he has turned to a three-man back line.

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli


  1. think 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 is more practical. they can still play ‘aggressive, courageous, dominant’ style after they get their confidence back

    1. That formation was chosen to suit some players at that time:
      – an old CF (Ibra) who can’t cover much but very effective in the final third and can bring others into play
      – an AM who isn’t good with penetration but can pass and shoot (Calha)
      – a MF who is not creative but can shield the defence almost alone (Kessie)

      The problem right now is Milan do not have replacements for Kessie and Calha. CDK is actually more suitable for that role, but we all know what’s going on.

      1. Exactly. The “brilinace” of Pioli was matching the formation to the players available at the club. Apart from the ones you mentiond, he also helped to unlock Theo by playing a lobsided 4231, which at the same time (for some part) hides the fact that we are toothless at the right side, by having our RW be much more defensive than LW.

        No point in sticking with this formation if most of those players are gone and it’s not working anymore. Management was supposed to enforce the squad with players that fit the system. But CDK is a foreign object; Kessie was not replaced; neither was Hakan (2nd year in a row); Theo repecement is missing. The only thing that semi-works is Giroud doing a passable impression of Zlatan.

        Time to find a system that fits our current roster, which is still a very talented bunch.

  2. Other players who benefited from 4-2-3-1 are Leao and Calabria. Particularly Leao, I think he was the main reason why Pioli hesitated to move to a 3-5-2, as Leao is more effective out-wide. Reducing the effectiveness of your best player is the last thing you wanna do. Now that Leao isn’t on form and the defence suffers so much, Pioli has all the justifications to switch to 3-5-2.

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