How Pioli changed Milan’s press during Fiorentina win to mimic Abate’s Primavera

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan made it six wins in a row in all competitions with a 2-1 victory against Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, a ground where they have struggled in recent years.

All three goals came inside a dramatic seven-minute period in the second half. The first came from Ruben Loftus-Cheek as he finished from close range after Rafael Leao’s feed to get his ninth goal of 2024.

Fiorentina then equalised when Alfred Duncan was given way too much space to stride forward with the ball and pick out the corner, but then Tijjani Reijnders put Rafael Leao through on goal and he converted to restore the lead.

That would be enough for Milan to seal a big win and in the process move six points ahead of Juventus, who were beaten late on by Lazio earlier in the evening.

A pressing alteration

ScoutCalcio picked out some interesting notes from the game, starting with Stefano Pioli’s change in pressing to a 4-4-2 which is actually reminiscent of how the Primavera press under Ignazio Abate.

Pioli changed the way that the Rossoneri would press to try make it more effective, moving Rafael Leao inside to centre-forward and then exploiting Tijjani Reijnders’ and Olivier Giroud’s work rate.

It seems simple on paper, but why did it work? The press was more effective this time largely because of Giroud’s hustle.

In the clip below the 37-year-old Frenchman shows it, because if he had stopped after being dribbled past it would’ve forced Ruben Loftus-Cheek to move away from his man and thus space would have opened up down the centre.

In the examples below you can see again that it is Giroud in the midfield tracking the player and putting him under pressure before he receives the ball.

If he didn’t put this work in, the player would have had acres of space because Ismael Bennacer was dragged out of his position to follow his marker.

The similarity to Abate

As mentioned, there are some similarities with the pressing system that Abate uses with the Primavera side, something which became noticeable towards the end of last year.

The coach changed the way that his side move off the ball and apply pressure to opponents, tweaking to a 4-4-2 as a more compact way to force the opponent to play around you since the centre is closed.

Hugo Cuenca also pressed the full-back instead of Adam Bakoune, just as an example of how the positions interchanged.


Tags AC Milan Fiorentina Milan


    1. Lol yes and rightly so. Abate is in the CL semis Pioli is Europa League! But I think he’s a down to earth person and actually wouldn’t mind taking a thing or two after watching the primavera

    2. Is there any rule that say he can’t learn from a primavera coach?

      Heck, who cares if he learn some new tactics when he eats pizza and sip a black coffee.

  1. I’ve only really realized that after Okafor came on.. Musa was pressing their RB while Okafor and Giroud/Jovic going at their CBs. First I thought why is Pioli playing with 2 CFs when we’re leading with Fiorentina desperately attacking, but then I saw Musa dropping back into the midfield with Okafor going wide ofter the initial press. Have noticed a bit of it earlier in the first half seeing Leao so close to Giroud on a couple of occasions but Fiorentina didn’t see much of the ball then so thought was just accidental with Leao failing to drop to their RB. I like the organize press. Tho I think the 442 pressing will be smother with the wingers staying wide and the CAM joining the CF up top. But perhaps the coach prefers RLC dropping in the middle to counter for the spaces left in there with his size and strength. Well it’s good to see Pioli putting some structures into the team’s pressing game because it’s very important for the modern game and seems to suit the characteristics of his squad as Sacchi aften underlines.

    1. Your definitely right bra.. The team is playing close to the highest level now..
      With so much highpressing, we hope cap the season with a beauty of a victory…..Forza Milan

  2. I believe 4-4-2 pressing isn’t created or used only by Abate. But hey, i get it the writer slap that sensational headline for clicks.

  3. Seems Pioli’s been listening to Sacchi. It’s what he used and it’s what he’s trying to present when he says “team needs to move as one whole, both in defensive and offensive phase”.

    Nice gimmick from Pioli. A lot better than inverted fullbacks thing.

    1. This 👆
      It’s the same exact thing we’ve always done. Fiorentina had their fullbacks too high and the guys weren’t lazy in their pressing, so it worked better. If anything it might be that Abate used Pioli’s pressing, not the other way around.

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