GdS: How Pioli’s moves turned Milan-Rennes into a ‘tactical landslide’

By Oliver Fisher -

The media are full of praise for AC Milan after their commanding 3-0 win over Stade Rennais in the Europa League play-off tie first leg last night, and La Gazzetta dello Sport have spoken about Stefano Pioli’s tactical moves.

The paper (seen below) talks about how Milan were always in control against their French opponents because Pioli knows that Rennes’ tactical conformity and their 4-4-2 system could not be broken into with an open battle.

Different strategies were needed. He then continually moves his figures on the chessboard, disorientating the eleven French soldiers who were reluctant to offer any variation on what Julien Stephan told them.

Pioli moved one key player in particular: Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to the midfield of the 4-3-3, but had him very wide on the right to open the defensive line of Stephan’s 4-4-2.

The second trick: Yunus Musah was high and central, to keep the midfielders low and leave the two attackers alone, Kalimuendo and Terrier, competing with each other to see who does worse.

Finally, but fundamental, the attacking battery: Milan always attackd with five players, unleashing a triangle with Theo, Leao and Musah in continuous variations of roles, one winger, one midfielder, one added attacker. A bit like Manchester City moves their players through the midfield.

All this helped to create space for Rafael Leao too, who is the outlier for this Milan team. Against Napoli some errors seemed irritating, but in other situations it seemed like a matter of centimetres more or less.

What is undeniable is the amount of opportunities created by his quality and he could have had an early goal, but instead his effort was deflected onto the crossbar. It would be just a matter of time.

Milan crushes Rennes on the left but moves in from the right too where Christian Pulisic, with a different physique, played a midfielder-forward role like Mario Mandzukic. Alessandro Florenzi pushed on wider, and his delivery created the first goal.

Rather than sitting back at 3-0 when Rennes were pushing for a goal to perhaps provoke some doubt in view of the second leg, Loftus-Cheek was instead freed up front for a 4-2-4 which triggered counter-attacks.

Pioli ‘won the tactical match by a landslide’ for the paper. From December to today: 11 wins, two draws and two defeats against Atalanta, who the Rossoneri will face again on 25 February. With tactical moves like this, he might finally get the better of Gian Piero Gasperini.


Tags AC Milan Milan Rennes Stefano Pioli


  1. “A bit like Manchester City moves their players through the midfield”

    Sure, but they have Rodri the DM there with Stones the CB supporting between defense and midfield. Pioli goes from 541 to 505 with box to box players which is highly risky.

    Rennes didn’t tend to attack on the counter therefore having both Musah and RLC high up in te final third leaving only Reijnders behind wasn’t as risky. Inter would eat us alive considering their counter attacking 352.

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