Hopeless crosses and a frustrating low block: Key tactical points from Milan’s draw with SPAL

By Rohit Rajeev -

AC Milan were left totally and utterly frustrated despite earning a last-minute draw in a midweek game against bottom-placed side SPAL.

Whether this point will be decisive to Milan’s chances for Europe next season remains to be seen, but it certainly isn’t the ideal way to prepare for a run which will see the Rossoneri face Lazio, Juventus and Napoli in three consecutive games.

Here are the thoughts and tactical analysis related to yesterday’s game, courtesy of Rohit Rajeev

First half

Milan played a line-up varying between 3-4-2-1 and 2-4-3-1, with Calabria pushing really high up from his original position.

Milan chose to bring the ball out from the back through Alessio Romagnoli who had different option such as wide pass to Theo Hernandez or a diagonal ball to Alexis Saelemaekers, and at times you could see Paqueta (who had a free role) dropping deep to collect the ball and pass it to Hakan who occupied the half space created by the Brazilian’s movement.

SPAL on the other hand played a 4-4-2 out of possession. While on the ball they were quite content playing horizontal passes between the centre-backs which drew our players out of position, and they then played a quick vertical pass to either a striker dropping deep or a D’Alessandro who was free on SPAL’s right wing.

Milan conceded a goal from a poorly defended corner in the 13th minute, and this made Pioli’s side come out and be extra aggressive to try and quickly get back on level terms.

SPAL’s second goal came courtesy of an absolutely world-class striker from a 38-year-old Sergio Floccari. Bennacer committed to an aerial dual with Dabo, who won the header due to his monstrous size.

While Bennacer was pulled out of position, it caused a half space which Floccari ran into and shot from around 40 yards to score his goal. Petagna kept Gabbia busy but, Floccari made got his shot away before Romagnoli could commit a challenge.

SPAL’s D’Alessandro made a studs-up challenge on Theo and was sent off, so the hosts quickly dropped into a deep block and were happy to not keep possession and give the ball to Milan as they were clearly running out of ideas.

An opening came via a Hakan Calhanoglu goal when Rebic shifted out wide against a narrow defence and he crossed for the Turkey international to score, but it was ruled out as Rebic was offside.

Second half

SPAL’s deep block in action.

SPAL set up in the second half typical of a lower table team trying to defend a lead. They sat back into a deep block chose to play it narrow and concede possession without committing any players forward, especially a man down.

Milan countered the deep block with a change of their own by bringing on Leão for Calabria and shifting to a two-striker formation.

Both forwards played close to the centre-backs and tried to exploit the gaps between them as they were stretched at times under constant pressure, but SPAL were resilient. With no pace and a lack of technique, Milan were forced to shoot from distance or cross into the box.

Pioli missed a trick in seeing that Milan were forced to play crosses into the box as they were not able to bypass the deep block, as he should have brought on Zlatan sooner to cause panic and give the deliveries something to aim at.

All in all Milan had 39 shots of which only nine were on target. Yesterday’s performance were a stark reminder of how Milan have failed to break down teams that defend deep and lack quality to come up with alternatives when faced with a low block.

Tags AC Milan SPAL Milan
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