Inter 5-1 AC Milan: Five things we learned – defensive and tactical struggles

By Ivan Stoev -

After collecting all the points from their first three games, Milan took on their city rivals Inter at San Siro and unfortunately for Stefano Pioli’s men, they were convincingly beaten. 

Milan came into the fixture with more enthusiasm than last season because of the new additions and the great start. This, in turn, led the fans to believe that perhaps Pioli could get the tactics right this time out.

However, the reality was quite the opposite as Inter had no difficulty winning the game five goals to one. Pioli opted for the same tactics as in the previous four derby losses and was rightfully beaten once again. Here are five things we learned…

1. Repetition is the definition of insanity

A wise man once said that repetition is the definition of insanity, and Pioli definitely looks like a madman at this point having lost as many times against Inter. What’s even more worrying is the fact that the tactics have barely changed, that is for both Milan and the Nerazzurri. Life has been easy for the latter, in fact.

It’s true that Pioli had a different squad this time out, but that’s still not a fair argument given the way he wanted his team to press that high against a side that has proven to be press-resistant and dangerous on the counterattack.

The question now is when the management will start thinking about Pioli as a potential problem for the development of the club.

2. Defensive disaster

The scoresheet speaks volumes. Surprisingly enough, Simon Kjaer was the best defender on the pitch despite his age and fitness whilst his partner, Malick Thiaw, was dreadful.

At fault for the first two goals, then struggling to keep up, the German probably had his worst game in red and black. Whilst age could be an excuse for him, he has played plenty of games now to know better, but the lack of experience did not help either.

Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez also failed to have any impact on the game. Sure, the Frenchman made a few good moves forward, but failed to materialize them. He was also very poor at the back, giving away a penalty and just jogging back on the fifth goal.

3. Midfield woes 

Although this rejuvenated Milan midfield had started the season well, the department failed the biggest test yet in Inter. Loftus-Cheek was the only positive out of the three, whilst Reijnders was always too high up the field and failed to help defensively which is probably due to Pioli’s tactics, but nevertheless a poor game by his standards.

Finally the elephant in the room: Rade Krunic. The Bosnian started the season well after a lot of fans were worried about his qualities. However, the Rossoneri couldn’t get away with him as their defensive midfielder in the derby. He did a lot of the dirty work, but also lacked too much position-wise.

4. Time for Chukwueze to get some more minutes

Christian Pulisic didn’t have a good game on the right, probably fatigued after his appearances with the USA and the travel that went with that. However, Pioli has the luxury of being able to field Samuel Chukwueze instead of the American.

The Nigerian did well with his national team and was okay off the bench yesterday. We finally saw the winger taking on some responsibility and trying to take on defenders, so it will be interesting to see him in a game that’s not already lost when he’s playing.

The game against Newcastle might just be the perfect one for the Nigerian to make his first start.

5. Reaction needed

After a shameful loss like this, a big reaction is needed in the Champions League against Newcastle on Tuesday. Inter have been an opponent that Milan just can’t seem to beat but if this downturn continues, and Milan have another period like the one at the start of this team, then the management will really need to about Pioli’s position.

Tags AC Milan Champions League Inter Serie A


  1. Limone Inzaghi has become Pioli’s kryptonite. Pioli has no answers for Inzaghi’s tactics and its only getting worse with each game.
    Pioli did an outstanding job from after the stoppage in 2020 till the end of 21/22 season with Milan winning the scudetto. But, Pioli seems to have maxed out. Matter fact he should have been fired in January but the contract extension he was given a month earlier saved his job, and that extension is the only reason IMO why he didn’t get fired along with Maldini and Massara. Ownership didn’t want to fire him and have his salary on the books for another 2 years while they pay another man to coach their team.
    Hopefully the team put this game behind them and continue winning, but management has to start surveying to coaching options and be ready in case Pioli loses the team. Just please 🙏 no Conte. Milan needs stability and there is nothing stable about that man

    1. Fired in January?

      We were keeping up with record beating Napoli in January.

      After that we suffered some poor results but those were interspersed with far outdoing expectations in Europe.

      Who sacks a league winning coach for meeting and exceeding expectations the following season?

      And if that’s your measure, then we’ll be sacking lots of coaches a season.

      1. If you have memory problems go check Milan results in January. Embarrassment.
        Milan performance and results since January 1st of 2023 thru today have been very poor.
        Some people like you are fooled by the fluke of getting to the semi-final of the UCL on pure luck of the draw. Milan scored 3 goals in 6 games vs Tottenham, Napoli and Inter. Three goals in 6 games and Milan just suffered the 5th loss this calendar year to their biggest rival.
        But , hey let’s keep the coach because that one time he won a scudetto.
        Carlo Ancelotti in his first stint at Real Madrid won the UCL in his 1st year. The following year he finished 2nd in the Spanish league and got fired, because Real Madrid has standards. You can’t finish a season without a trophy.
        Milan has been getting embarrassed left and right under Pioli this year. Remember the supercopa embarrassment? How about the Lazio embarrassment? Sassuolo? The following 3 derbies vs Inter where Milan didn’t create a single goal scoring chance? How about yesterday’s 5-1?
        You really like to live on laurels from the past while getting humiliated in the present.

        1. Oh so you’re saying he should’ve been sacked after the Roma again on 9 January?

          Or the Lecce game that ended 2:2 on 15 January?

          So when exactly would you have pulled the trigger?

          Obviously you wouldn’t have waited until the end of the season when we in fact finished 4th (our third Champions League qualification in a row) and made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

          Milan aren’t at the same level as Real Madrid mainly because we have had more staff turnover in the past 15 years than your local McDonald’s.

          So what are you going to do about the present?

          Sack Pioli and replace him with who?

          He’s 1/3 Scudetto winning coaches in Serie A, and the only other available coach out there who has won a Scudetto is Conte (who I have a bad feeling we’ll be seeing at the Milan helm soon).

          Then the ‘fun’ can really begin!

          1. Milan finished 5th, not 4th, 20 points behind the title winners Napoli. Qualified to the UCL thanks to the courts not thanks to Pioli gameplans and performances on the field.
            Worst title defense ever, embarrassment after embarrassment. Seems like you have erased those facts from your memory.
            Pioli should have been fired after he lost 5-2 to Sassuolo at home and especially after losing to Inter 1-0 in the most cowardly Milan performance I have ever witnessed Milan play.
            They defended from the moment they exit the bus and didn’t get out of their own half for most of the game. He had the team playing to lose with as little goals given up as possible, with no intention to play to win.
            That was 7 game stretch of no wins and 5 embarrassing losses , including getting knocked out of copa Italia to a 10 men Torino at home.
            Worst month in Milan history.
            Pioli has embarrassed Milan enough over this last 9 months to last one coach a lifetime.
            When it comes to who should replace him, there are people that get paid a lot of money that should do something about that. As long that new coach is not Conte, Mourinho or Allegri. Allegri is another coach that was fired 2 years too late. That fraud should have been fired after he lost the scudetto in 2012 to the weakest Juventus ever, even though he had prime Zlatan and Thiago Silva on his team.
            I know Allegri is another fraud of a coach you like to reminisce about.

        2. Look at the table. Milan finished 4th. That is a recorded historical fact.

          How and why we finished 4th is a matter of opinion.

          One opinion might be that knowing Juve were going to have points deducted Milan focused on the champions league and made it the semi-finals and still managed to secure 4th.

          We simply don’t know because we don’t have access to parallel universes.

          You stay angry and if you’re really lucky we’ll end up with Conte!

    2. The problem with the last season’s Pioli was that he got a big head and thought that he’s bigger than he already is. And this season (at least based on the post match vs. Inter), looks like he’s just getting even bigger head.

      He’s no longer a humble coach we saw 2-3 years ago that seemed like he’s never affraid to learn and try anything.

    3. I hope Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp are bored in the Premier League and want a new challenge with AC MILAN, and are willing to be paid less

  2. What? I agree with a lot of this but Theo disappointing and Loftus Cheek positive? We must have watched a different game, then. Theo was the only one who treated it like a Derby. RLC holds onto the balk way too much without doing anything with it.

  3. Sadly, like countless times before, Pioli has learned nothing. Not a damn thing. I don’t know if its hubris or he is just delusional, but at this point it really doesn’t matter anymore. Point of no return was in January, not really sure why he is still there.

  4. I don’t know what is happening in training but we continue to have individuals instead of a team and RLC is the latest addition to that annoying list. Pioli is out of his depth I must say again. We desperately needed a DM but Pioli choose to stick with Krunic who is also out of his depth on what a proper DM is supposed to be. I’ll just keep supporting this team until Pioli is gone, mind you it seems there are no smaller teams in this Seria A anymore cus with recent results, I fear the worst is yet to come. Forza Milano

  5. 4. You keep leaving out the fact that Chukwueze was 100% responsible for the final score by Inter – Florenzi and Chuk kept exchanging passes until Chuk got double teamed by two Inter players, one of whome took the ball off him as he was still struggling to control it, and then, wonder of wonders, this guy managed to sprint half the length of the field while dribbling the ball, running faster WITH THE BALL at his feet than Chuk, who only half-heartedly jogged along after him.
    Yeah, Chuk gave up on the play, no two ways about it. I hate that.
    He’s faster than Pulisic, but he just wasn’t in sync with any of his team mates.

    1. Who’s fault is it that players are yet to sync with each other ? Yep you guessed right the Coach. Has anything changed about how this team plays ?

      1. No, Chuk came relatively late to Milan and did not participate in USA tour. Ones who were in USA clicked just fine. Apart from obvious lack of quality and character.

  6. The only thing we learned is that Paolo was right and it’s a shame that the management didn’t let him fire Pioli and fired him instead
    There is no doubt that pioli contributed a lot to the team and promoted it from what we were, but already from last season you can see that he is quite unable to promote the team, he is very conservative and follows the same method every time and his choice of players is not at all clear and it seems that it is motivated not only by sporting considerations
    And always, but always, he makes the same substitutions at the same times, he doesn’t react to the game that is on the field, he works in patterns
    The time has come for the management to realize that the problem is who sits on the bench

    1. We’re not starting this.

      We’ve signed 3 new midfielders and footballers are capable of playing in more than one position and in more than one formation.

      We can’t just keep going out signing new players every time we want to change formation.

    2. I thought everyone here said we had depth for the 433? What happened?
      We can’t be singing a different tune after one loss c’mon

      1. I’ve been whistling to same tune for whole summer since the overhaul – losing your key midfielders -> selling your last key midfielder -> changing formation to needing more midfielders -> lack of proper DM in new formation.

        1. I know u were 😁, I had almost the same view. Was being a little sarcastic there. Forgot my /s

          But I do distinctly recall all the pro-transfer/new management folks talk up the Mercato and try to shove that in ppls faces when we won the first 3 games. They’re quite missing right now. I’d hope they’d come out of their shells because the ppl who’ve been trying to say calm you t!ts the entire time are apparently haters. Smh
          I know it’s only one game too but that was a derby humiliation

  7. I’m sorry to say that I think Chuk will be this years CDK. I hope he proves me wrong but I don’t see what’s so great about him. I think he mostly makes stupid decisions. Like when he ran into five Inter defenders yesterday. He was all alone. But it would have been better to do anything other than what he did there.

  8. If pioli is not fired and replace him with a coach that has a winning record, we will experience worst than this. It’s time for the management to Start looking for a better coach.

  9. Five things we learnt:

    a) the media are fickle whores who will in the one breadth celebrate the dismantling of a title winning squad and in the next breadth then turn on the very players who they gave rave reviews about;

    b) the media have the attention span and focus of a goldfish with ADHD, and get easily distracted by individual incidents in games rather than the overall picture. The fact is that game came down to one or two decisive incidents:

    – Theo’s near miss;
    – Thuram’s once-in-a-lifetime finish;
    – A couple of favourable deflections and rebounds that fell for Mkhitaryan.

    The overall picture is that Milan dominated possession for 70 minutes and actually dominated the game.

    Clearly Inter are our current bogey team although again the media seems to ignore the fact that Milan have won the most important head to head – the one that set us up for the Scudetto (the semi-final was important but Inter didn’t go on to win any silverware and have not won any silverware).

    1. I wouldn’t say milan dominated anything in this game. I don’t care if they had more posession, they lost 5-1. I can have posession too playing it to the defence and hovering into the box but we had what two shots on goal? We did nothing with that posession.

      This problem goes far beyond who we kept and who we brought in. It’s 100% on the tactics and determination. Pioli for 4 games now has kept the exact same starting 11 and with that, the exact same tactics. Inter play with a strong midfield and in reality a 5 man defence. So why did pioli insist on keeping the same tactics? Calabria as an inverted wing back against a team that plays wide? Possession against a team that will gladly sit back and counter? We did inzaghi an absolute favor because he didn’t have to change anything. They love to soak up pressure and they have the strikers and mid to counter and of the 5 goals it worked 4 times.

      Milan should have been the team that sat a little back and waited for the opportunity to exploit the 3 man defence with leao and pulisic and instead we played exactly the way they wanted us too. It’s no coincidence we’ve suffered the past year against inter it’s because the way we play caters to a 3 5 2 formation with their characteristics.

      So what worries more than anything is pioli’s reluctance to change his tactics. Nobody is saying to completely change everything you’ve worked on but some games require tweaks and something as simple as hanging back and waiting for our moment would have probably got us a win. Especially having two center backs who are slow. So Ya, his reluctance to change things and how the team just dropped their heads after the third goal is what scares me most and it should be addressed right away or were in trouble. I’m not blaming and of the new signings or too much change because it was just about tactics.

      1. They lost 5:1 with Inter scoring nearly every chance they got!

        The problem is 100% all of the changes we made over the summer.

        These are elite athletes and we’ve just randomly changed 50% of the squad around and now expect them to instantly click.

        That’s why Pioli sticks to the same 11 and why he has won the Scudetto sticking to the same 11 (and of course Inzaghi has not won the Scudetto).

        Most successful teams stick to the same 11.

        The heads dropped because we now have a bunch of strangers playing together who barely know each other from Adam. Some well coordinated social media shots are not the same as being someone’s roommate for 10 years.

        Inter are our bogey team the same way the mighty Sassuolo used to be and the mighty Spezia still are.

        It’s not about quality or tactics but mentally certain teams for whatever reason having an edge. We will eventually beat Inter and then I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a reverse in form.

      2. Thank you!!!

        Pioli got his tactics all wrong. Sometimes it seems he just sticks to one style regardless of the opponent, and without taking into consideration of his teams condition.

        Tweaks are necessary depending on particular opponent and players available but sometimes Pioli just doesn’t seem to get it.

    2. I agree especially with (a). I’m hoping to see the articles come out about how we miss out on Thuram and Fratessi, you know….to keep the balance and all lol.
      However I don’t agree that we dominated. We may have dominated possession but what we we’re doing with the ball was poor. Inter dominated through intelligence. They knew and had us exactly where they wanted us to be. They didn’t have to have the ball to be effective.

    3. milan dominated the game? dominated the ball possesion yes, dominated the game cleary no. look at the stats, how many milan created chances compared to inter? how many milan created corner kick? definitely inter half field is not ovale, so how come there was no corner kick… thinking that milan dominated the game is non sense..

  10. Well, Tactics, Formation, and self-defeat. Can sum up the horror show we witnessed yesterday.

    Bar the new signings who don’t know the importance of this fixture, the older players in the squad let the past haunt them after going a goal down in the first few minutes… they basically fell apart afterwards…

    Pioli’s squad feeds on space afforded to them. Inter gave no inch, being aggressive from start to finish. Our players felt like straws in the wind.

    Inter’s 3-5-2 in attack and 5-3-2 on the defensive would put any team in trouble. They have perfected it, and honestly it was a joy to watch yesterday.

    Demarco has Calabria on his mind like a bloodhound. Reinjders looked like he wasn’t given any instructions before the game started. Pulisic was clearly suffering fatigue.

    Who People wouldn’t admit, but Tomori voracity was solely missed. Defence was nothing to go by.

    Everything that could go wrong went wrong yesterday… we need to pick ourselves up, and move on. For starters Pioli needs to get the best formation for these crop of players to play their best game.

  11. Sempremilan- ask your analysts to create articles on PIOLIS masterpiece. Do you know it’s hilarious ?? Just accept we got agreat squad managed by a subpar Coach. Show some self respect and criticize Piolis incapability in tactical department

  12. Pioli got everything wrong but I have always been of the opinion that we upgraded the attack this summer but downgraded the midfield. On paper, Reijnders/Loftus Cheek/Krunic is not a better midfield than Bennacer/Tonali/Diaz and on Sunday, their first real test, we saw it on the pitch. It’s not the end of the world but it was embarrassing and the pressure will be immense after the club’s treatment of Maldini and Massara and the sale of Tonali

  13. Ok. We failed the first litmus test. Terribly. The season starts just like the off-season started! 6 more games to go, in order to go halfway into really understanding the standard of the squad we have. The other halfway will be in January.

    And, I hope we do not regret why Maldini and Massara were sacked instead!

    Forza Milan

  14. Five things we lEarN_eD:

    1. Pioli can’t beat Inter lately, so obviously can’t beat anyone and needs to be sacked asap.
    2. A team’s performance shouldn’t be decided over an entire season but rather over one game. If you lose, you’re trash. If you win, you’re onto something.
    3. Ergo, our season’s over. It’s done. There’s no way we’re winning a thing this year.
    4. Thuram and Frattesi are geniuses because they could run around in lots of open space and score against Pioli’s du*b tactics.
    5. Flying all over the world before the derby playing pointless internationals, more minutes than your opponent, getting injured and not having enough time to prepare doesn’t mean sh*t.
    Bonus thing: We should never have sold Tonali – he’d have stopped Inter dead in their tracks.

    1. If you lose (5 times in a row, with your arch rival, and losing the same exact way without ever learning or changing anything, better yet, heaviest defeat right after you got more power and all the players you wanted), you’re (to some extent) trash.

    2. Agreed except for some people internationals actually still matter (I know I still live in 2021).

      And it’s for this reason it’s annoying not having more Italians in the Milan side because the national team struggles.

  15. Let’s just hope that Pioli finally really learn a lot from this shameful lost and start to improve his tactics so that the team can bounce back ASAP, starting with Newcastle.
    he has now way better squad than last year,so he should be able build strong team this season..

  16. “Surprisingly enough, Simon Kjaer was the best defender on the pitch despite his age”

    Surprisingly? Only to the video gamers who still think PACE IS EVERYTHING.

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