How Hakan Calhanoglu has adapted his game and become a key cog for Milan under Pioli

By Rohit Rajeev -

Hakan Çalhanoglu was destined to be sold in the upcoming summer before lockdown. The Turkey international had a paltry three goals and one assist before then, and when his agent came to Casa Milan it was reported that Paolo Maldini was not sure about a renewal for the player’s contract, which is set to expire in 2021.

Fast forward to August, and Milan are looking increasingly likely to give him a new deal with a salary increase that he has arguably earned. The reason? He scored six goals and amassed eight assists in 12 games after lockdown and was a key reason why Milan went unbeaten in 12 games and finish 6th place.

Let’s take a look at how Calhanoglu has re-discovered his good form…

Essentially, Hakan’s main strengths are his accurate passing and distribution, his work rate and decent pace for an attacking midfielder. His drawbacks are his footwork, dribbling and the fact he is not press resistant. This means that if two opposition players come to dispossess him, the former Leverusen man does not have the skill to beat them and move forward.

As a result, Calhanoglu has been taking a deeper position when Milan have the ball and he lets the full-backs overlap him.

Taking the Bologna match as an example you, can see how Hakan has taken up a deep position. With Rebic and Saelemaekers taking up the wider spaces, they tend to occupy the opposition full-backs.

With Milan’s full-backs ready to make overlapping runs or even take up the space left by drawing the full-back away, this gap is plugged by Poli or Dominguez falling back. This, in turn, leaves space for Calhanoglu to make runs into and receive the ball in space (as marked in red)

Without any defenders to close him down he is able to play his game. This is usually used when Milan play on the counter.

Another method Hakan uses – especially during Milan’s build-up play – is to situate himself in a position to receive the ball when the team attack down the flanks.

With Rebic/Saelemaekers taking up position further on the wing, Calhanoglu tries to link up with Theo or Calabria or even play as a 4th passing option when Romagnoli brings the ball out from the back.

You can see how against Bologna Calhanoglu’s assist for Bennacer came from the left wing.

The pre-assist for Rebic’s goal which was a pass to Ibra came from the right wing half space.

Hopefully Hakan keep his form up next season and can be consistent like Leverkusen days. Milan then will have a real force to reckoned with.

Tags AC Milan Hakan Calhanoglu
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