GdS: Pioli’s midfield tweak that stifled Atalanta’s attack against Milan

By Euan Burns -

AC Milan coach made a change to the midfield of his team for the match against Atalanta on Sunday evening which had a profound effect on Gian Piero Gasperini’s side. 

As this morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes, Milan appeared to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation against Atalanta in Serie A, rather than the 4-2-3-1 that everybody expected.

Ismael Bennacer appeared to be the furthest forward of the midfielders, and this had the effect of nullifying Atalanta’s Ederson. His job was clearly to mark Bennacer very closely but he was forced to drop very deep to do this, as Bennacer was so advanced for Milan.

Ederson is one of Atalanta’s most energetic midfielders but he was unable to impose himself on the game. It also meant that Yacine Adli, playing in front of Milan’s back four, could face Teun Koopmeiners one-on-one, rather than try to keep tabs on Ederson as well.

With some help from the likes of Christian Pulisic and Theo Hernandez, Milan were able to nullify the two most dangerous Atalanta midfielders.

Atalanta were clearly a lot worse on the ball in this game than they have been for most of the season, which is part of why Milan took an early lead in the match that ended 1-1.


Tags AC Milan Milan Atalanta


  1. Thanks for the quick explanation. Why, however did we not suffer from the counter attack? Was this because Atalanta was just “off” or was it something we were doing in addition to Benny so far up the field?

    1. Milan didn’t really lose posession all that often, well at least in dangerous positions. This limited the counter-attacks that we have become all too susceptible to.

    2. I think that would be due to the high pressing from the CBs. Both Gabbia and Thiaw were positioned very high up the field most of the time and I remeber those two plus Adli made a lot of very clear and quick interceptions on through and free balls.

  2. Interesting article.
    It reminds me of the recent comment of Spalleti that Milan are the most interesting team to watch, because of the way Pioli plans his game match by match.
    If only Pioli can play a fluid possession game, I would stick to him staying without any doubt.

  3. Have a feeling that Gasperini was playing for a draw and try to milk a Milan error.
    The idea was to defend deep, frustrate Milan and possibly try to get something in a counter-attack.
    Plus they want to conserve energies for the Inter game next Wednesday.
    They got a goal out of nothing from the penalty, so their plan worked, if Leao hadn’t scored, we might be discussing a different game.

    A draw against Milan in San Siro is a good result for any teams, plus unless we screw up badly in the upcoming games, Atalanta doesn’t see us as direct competitors, rather they are fighting with Bologna, Roma and Lazio for 4th-5th place which means a CL spot next year.

    1. Anyone that knows Gasperini knows that that’s never the case. Even when he played against City in the UCL. He attacks as a form of defense; we just forced his hand this time.

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