Auxiliary solutions for a gap not addressed: Milan still suffering from a No.6 problem

By Rajath Kumar -

AC Milan sit third in Serie A, occupying the position with unwavering determination. Stefano Pioli’s men have fortified the spot since early November, barely threatening Juventus and Inter seated higher on the table or being perturbed by the chaotic mediocrity below.

Over the last three months, the team has exited two competitions and entered one by design. Not much has changed otherwise. Not even the management’s inexplicable ignorance towards a ‘6’ sized hole in the squad.

Sandro Tonali, Milan’s midfield prodigy, was a uniquely versatile player. He seamlessly shifted between being a ‘6’ and a ‘8’ as and when required.

His steely partnership with Ismael Bennacer established a defensive screen that aided the defence and the team’s run to the semifinals of the Champions League last season.

Milan sold Tonali to Newcastle for a record fee in the summer, replacing him with Tjjani Reijnders, a ball-playing central midfielder who can also carry the ball proficiently.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yunus Musah were added to the ranks as well, deepening the squad and providing Pioli with multiple options. Unfortunately, Pioli’s new options largely resemble one another.

This season, Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders have demonstrated similar strengths and weaknesses. Taking the last 365 days into account, Loftus-Cheek is in the 99th percentile of midfielders in Europe for progressive carries, while Tijjani Reijnders is in the 90th percentile.

The former Chelsea player also ranks high on successful take-ons (94th percentile), and the Dutchman is slightly behind (in the 83rd percentile). 

Formidable moving up the pitch, both these players have proven to be equally ineffective in the defensive phases of the game. The towering Englishman is in the 10th percentile for tackles and 5th percentile for interceptions.

Meanwhile, Reijnders is in the 18th percentile for tackles and 12th percentile for interceptions – a woeful record for a player Pioli insists on positioning deeper, at the base of midfield.

To make matters worse, Musah’s lack of availability has severely hampered his minutes. When available for selection, Pioli deploys him as the ‘joker’ in the pack. In the 1344 minutes that Musah has played so far this season, he has covered six positions on the pitch.

While on national duty, Musah excels at the base of midfield. But, his inconsistent performances in the red and black of Milan have perhaps chipped away at Pioli’s confidence, who refuses to give him a run of games in that position and opts to utilise him as a tireless engine down the right flank.

With Tonali swapping his favourite colours for the black and white of Newcastle United and Brahim Diaz returning to the Santiago Bernabeu at the start of the season, Pioli switched to a 4-3-3.

He insisted on not wanting a ‘destructive’ midfielder, cramming the much-maligned utility man Rade Krunic into the ‘6’ role, resulting in abysmal performances by the Bosnian.

Regularly among the first names on the team sheet, Krunic could not be dislodged or challenged, seemingly wrapped in a bubble of invisible invincibility. Before being damned to the bench in December, Krunic had played 686 minutes of football for Milan.

Beyond the usual suspects, deemed a misfit last season, Yacine Adli patiently waited in the shadows before pouncing on a rare opportunity, leading to Krunic’s permanent expulsion from the starting line-up in early January 2024.

Adli – traditionally an 8/10 hybrid, was remodelled by Pioli into a ‘6’ in the summer. The Frenchman has repaid the gaffer’s trust and risen to the occasion, topping the number of tackles (3.25 per 90 vs Reijnders’ 1.52 per 90) and interceptions (1.54 per 90 vs Krunic’s 1.4 per 90) compared to the other midfielders in the squad.

The unmistakable caveat is that Adli has faced one top-five team domestically in his 621 minutes of football. He remains to be tested against high-quality opposition to know beyond doubt if he can make the ‘6’ his own.

Milan’s deep-lying playmaker, Bennacer, has returned to the pitch after 204 days, clocking under 200 minutes since. He is far from reclaiming a starting spot, evidenced by his injury woes at AFCON this month.

Conditioned by player availability or results, Pioli has reverted to the familiar 4-2-3-1 since late December, further accentuating the necessity for a traditional ‘6’.

The likes of Nicolas Dominguez left the sub-continent for greener pastures, costing Nottingham Forest a meagre €10m. The legendary Fernando Carlos Redondo’s son is available for roughly the same amount.

Despite this, the management is actively searching for a centre-back and Milan’s heir to Giroud. Those are pressing priorities. But, so is finding Milan’s missing ‘6’.

Tags AC Milan


  1. The only explanation, is they are counting on offense and possession being our best “defense”, hoping our transition improves with these players on hand over time when players develop better chemistry in between one another. Which is another gamble.

    They seem content with letting the team, sporting directors and coaches squueze every drop possible out of every resource before making an investment into our team that goes outside of tgeir pre-established parameters. Something we have paid for dearly since winning the Scudetto. That may have been the worst thing to happen to us with our run to the semis in terms of them unlocking the purse since it hid the gaps in our squad. Last summer was a merry go round and not an actual mercato for additions to our squad. just a sudden, panicked, onorganized reshuffle.

    Many of our best assests CDK and Adli were not even part of our team’s plans. Romagnoli could have saved us money and the need to purchase a cb too, they never offered him a contract. it would have been more economic and helpful so they could focus on a striker and a midfielder. His salary at Lazio would have been way less of a hurdle and investment to deal with than our issues in defense at his position this year.

    1. I agree with most of what you said, but I’m sure I follow you about Romagnoli. We replaced Romagnoli with Thiaw who didn’t cost much and doesn’t earn a lot. Had we kept Romagnoli we might have missed the chance to go for Thiaw. And our issues in defense are mostly due to tactics and lack of a N°6, we pretty much have the same defenders who won us the scudetto.

      1. The issue is, you count on Kjaer to stay as good as he was vs a 28 year old CB who was a club captain for relatively similar economic terms?

        They didn’t offer Romagnoli a garanteed minimum of minutes. You can never promise a starting place to a player anyway. When the choice is a long term asset, one having a good performance at a very advanced age or a younger one who might night be as good, but good enough to not be a liability and perform well eniugh to justify a low salary, because he wasnt asking for 4 million, it was 1.8, you keep the younger one. If they thought Kjaer could realistically maintain his levels when he had career best season with us and an advanced age, you have to question and ponder their squad planning and ability to make viable decisions regarding our roster. As good as Kjaer was, the probability of his perfromances tailspinning downwards, quickly were higher than Roma’s. At equal cost, or even lsightly more, Roma is the easy keeper. We wouldn’t be in a worst spot having him as a number 3, with Tomori, Kalulu and Thiaw.

    2. Agree on many things. A few things I don’t agree
      1. We offered Romagnoli a contract, we couldn’t offer him a starting role after the explosion of Kalulu, and him being behind Kjaer in pecking order.
      2. CDK at the beginning of the transfer market was still an unknown and so was Adli.
      3. We needed to replace Diaz , and get a substitute for Bennacer (as well as a backup leftback and a backup striker and a replacement for Rebic).

      Overall, imo it was an ok transfer season (even though they didn’t get a proper backup fot Theo and Giroud). The parts that I don’t like about the current management is their chest pounding, and ffs they shouldn’t buy La Liga players, they’re expensive and I can’t remember the last good player we got from La Liga.

    3. In the end I was ok with Romagnoli leaving because he never recovered his form and we had established a young defensive partnership in Tomori and Kalulu.

      The real shame is that due to a combination of injury and distraction we didn’t build on those two.

      Injuries are one thing – one serious thing that needs to be investigated if we are to stand a chance.

      Distraction is just unforgivable.

      And all we see is constant distraction.

      Take Krunic. Whatever about other people’s opinions of the player, the one opinion that should matter the most is Pioli’s.

      Less than a year ago Pioli described Krunic in the following terms:

      “I don’t care if he’s not praised enough, I know he’s important. There are things that cannot be explained through numbers and images. He makes those who play near him play well. He is smart and occupies spaces properly, with and without the ball.”

      So how just 6 months after Pioli (not me) started Krunic in every game in the run to the semi-finals of the champions league, and a few months after he started him in every game during our most successful run at the start of the season, did Pioli suddenly change his mind?

      This player went from the above description to being frozen out and dumped.

      Meanwhile Adli who Pioli seemingly had no faith in last season became his preferred option?

      People change their minds, they adapt, players improve and drop in and out of form, but how do you go from the above description to now?

      Note the characteristics that Pioli is praising are intangibles and are not really affected by form.

      And this happens multiple times across positions. Bartesaghi to Jimenez to
      Terracciano – just constant distractions.

      And that is where things went wrong with the Scudetto win. We lost focus and dismantled the Scudetto winning squad.

      It’s infuriating that it has become an acceptable narrative that Milan are in some kind ‘rebuilding phase’ when we won the Scudetto just 2 seasons ago with a young squad.

      That’s like building a new house and knocking it down again a few years later.

      I honestly don’t have a clue what are level is right now. The new signings still are finding their feet and we have a ton of injuries. I also have no idea what would happen under a different manager.

      All the certainty and nonsense that spouted by people on here is just guesswork that often ignores recorded historical facts.

      The truth is nobody has a clue. We’ll have more a clue at the end of the season because a league table is the best measure for measuring a team’s level. If we finish third, as seems likely , then maybe we can say ‘the re-building phase 2.0’ is part complete. But by then we’ll probably sell another key player and we’ll be onto re-building phase 3.0.

      1. It’s simple, Krunic always played hard, but he was still payed like a rookie … when management didn’t even get him a salary that was close to that of other starters, he stopped caring.
        At the end, we lost a player that would have been very useful for the team during the injury crisis and we still don’t have a replacement, while Krunic got what he wanted somewhere else.

        1. Read Pioli’s quote.

          That’s not a rookie.

          That’s a player who has a multiplier effect on the players around him.

          That is priceless.

          We lost him because it became an acceptable narrative that he was “not at Milan level” and that narrative caused another distraction.

          It’s not just Krunic. There are multiple Krunic’s and multiple distractions and they’re happening across the squad.

          There’s just no focus.

          We don’t even have consistent dead ball specialists. It’s all random.

          Ironically the only time Krunic was allowed to take corners against Newcastle he proved to be one of our best. But then we change our mind again, and again and again and again.

          There’s zero chance of us returning to the top if we can’t keep our focus.

          1. For Krunic the answer is simple, he was doing well in a certain system (4-2-3-1) with certain midfielders (Tonali, Kessie, Diaz and Bennacer), once that was gone there was no guarantee he was going to do well in a midfield that is simply not the same.
            In our reference season 21/22, Krunic played MOSTLY as an AM instead of Diaz with Kessie and Tonali behind him. This worked well in many games because Tonali was tasked with the creative aspect, Kessie with the recovery aspect. Krunic, the lesser technical player did well marking the opposition N°6, often times their most important midfielder.
            This season, we often played in a 4-3-3 and he was asked to be the sole defensive midfielder. This was simply not a role for him, he neither had the physical presence or defensive capabilities of a player like Kessie, not he had a superb vision or passing hence he was no longer a starter. Krunic was good as a joker player who can plug many holes, but a role as important as the sole defensive midfielder was too much for him.
            Now, none of this is his fault, is the coach who knows Krunic better than anyone who should have known that, but because of his stubborness and incompetence, he neither allowed the player to leave when he wanted, neither allowed us to get a N°6.

    4. True, Pioli himself clearly stated Milan did not play with any traditional DM because they simply didn’t want to. And this season, he also stated that he’d like to play more possession and less dependant on quick counter attack transition (something that has been like our ‘DNA’ on this Pioli’s era).

      That’s why starting this season I won’t be a true defender of Pioli no more. We all can see that he’s getting more and more ahead of himself. Unlike the humble and modest coach we’re all adore. And we know better what will happen when someone starts to get ahead of himself.

  2. We have been saying this all along. There hasn’t been a Kessie replacement. Benny can’t do it all by himself. Reijnders and Adli aren’t 6’s.

    We need another proper 6. an absolute physical unit. This will help our midfield and defense.

    1. Federico Redondo! We have budget restrictions, he has the talent , the genetics and the potential to be world class no.6

      Plus his contract expires in a year, that’s the Moncada sweet spot

    2. Kessie played in a AM position for our title run in!

      What number is the AM position in modern football?

      I do find it quaint people use the number 6 when most Serie A players love wearing numbers like 66!

      1. Kessie did play as an AM in something like 8 games out of 39 games. He wasn’t tasked for being creative but rather an advanced destroyer if you want, with more creative players (Tonali and Bennacer) behind him.
        It was a bit like (but different of course) like when we had Gattuso and Ambrosini in front of Pirlo. Pirlo was the DM on paper, but he was technically the playmaker, with Gattuso and Ambrosini tasked of destroying the opposition’s midfield.

      2. Sorry my earlier reply was a misunderstanding of your post.
        Anyways when we say a N°6 we refer to the position this number was originally refering to back when a 9 was the striker, a 2 was the RB, a 1 is the goalie…

    3. Musah is a 6 but seems to be played in every role but that one. Sigh.

      I’ve enjoyed him coming off the bench and changing our complexion. I hope to see him more at the end of games.defending leads and earning that Kessie role of wrecking ball.

      1. Musah’s problem is carrying the ball as a 6. He does it well but not perfectly and that’s the issue. As a 6 you have to have almost a zero dispossession rate. Because once that ball gets stripped and you’re the first wall of the defence, it causes problems. He can also recover lost balls well, but that’s more suited if you’re upfield and you’ve lost the ball but his offensive skills aren’t the greatest. Hence the reason why Pioli can’t figure out where to use him.

      2. He may have played DM for USA, but I don’t see any of the characteristics to excel there.
        He likes to pick up the ball and run with it, he’s also very dynamic tracking back – thats a Mezzala

        A good DM requires Positional Discipline!
        They hold their position and offer a hub through which play filters in both defense and attack.

        They need to be someone with the technical ability to keep the ball in tight spaces, the inteligence to control the tempo and the quality to play the right pass.On top of that the work rate and tackling.

        I like Musah but a DM/Regista he is not

        Think Rodri, Amrabat, Busquets, Casemiro etc

  3. We have such a short memory.
    So far this season, Milan has
    given up 25 goals in 22 games.
    Last season, with the “midfield prodigy” Tonali and his steely partnership with Bennacer that “established a defensive screen that aided the defense” gave up 43 goals in 38 games.
    Basically, Milan is on pace to give up the same amount of goals as last season even though all of their defenders have been injured, while last season they were all healthy besides Maignan, but Tatarusanu didn’t make mistakes that cost the team.
    Also, the players that played last season were all there for few years, so the non existing defensive drop can’t be blamed on the too many new signings.
    Tonali and Bennacer were not good. They were constantly out of position, behind the play or getting beaten just like this seasons midfielders. Same issues as this year.
    Prime Kessie wouldn’t solve Milan problems. It’s a tactical issue. For the millionth time Pioli luck is over. Teams have figured him out, and he isn’t capable of counteract.
    Can someone please tell me who the destructive midfielder is in the Inters lineup. Which one of Mikhitaryan, Hakan, or Barella are a defensive midfielder? They are all offensive midfielders by nature, just like Milan’s midfielders, and yet inter has the best defense in Europe.
    That’s because of their tactical and positional set up. They have a coach that has them playing as a team offensively and defensively.
    The bald fool that stands on Milan sidelines have Milan playing 1v1 offensively and defensively. Milan can fire Pioli and don’t bring another coach for the rest of the season, and there will be zero drop off in Milan’s performances because he is absolutely useless.
    Sacchi constantly praises Pioli but at the same time says that Milan plays like 11 individuals out there. Well, whose job is to make sure the 11 players play as a team? That be the coach.
    A new coach is a much bigger need than a DM.
    Also, Milan had Dominguez on standby and wanted to buy him, but Pioli vetoed the Krunic sale just so that 2 months later he can bench Krunic and never play him again.
    Get a new coach and you will solve Milan’s problems offensively and defensively.

    1. The Inter coach hasn’t won anything despite arguably having a better squad.

      This year it might have clicked for him but no doubt you’d have sacked by now.

      Let’s not pretend you have the patience to build an inter.

      Oh and Bennacer and Tonali are by definition players capable of winning a Scudetti and taking teams to the semi-finals of the champions league as evidenced by….. Your opinions of them don’t really matter but it might help your credibility if they were founded in reality.

      1. Fact check.
        Simone Inzaghi has won 5 trophies with inter in 2 and a half seasons and I think he has at least 3 other trophies with Lazio.
        Even after inter wins this season scudetto you will still pretend that Simone Inzaghi hasn’t won anything with inter.
        Not to mention that he is Pioli’s father when it comes to derbies.
        Pioli has just 1 fluke scudetto.
        Just stop embarrassing yourself

        1. I hadn’t realised he’d won stuff but he hasn’t won a Scudetto and that is the only trophy that matters.

          The Scudetto is the ultimate measure of a team’s level because the league table doesn’t lie.

          All the luck and incidents level off over 38 matches.

          Cups come down to luck.

          Are you seriously going to argue that Inzaghi has done a better job than Pioli with the resources available to both?

          I mean apparently Milan needed 10 new signings last summer such was our inferiority.

          I wish people would make their minds up. Are we in a Scudetto-Winning-World-Dominating Phase or a Rebuilding Phase 2.0 where need to sign a load of new players???

          1. Cups come down to luck?
            Make sure you remember that when you want to praise Pioli as you usually do for going to the semi-final of last season UCL. But we all know that you will flip flop with whatever fits your narrative after you say something ridiculous and you always get proven wrong.
            The ultimate measure is to win trophies and when you have won only 2 trophies since 2011 you can’t go around pretending that only scudetto matters.
            Inzaghi has had less resources than Pioli in his tenure at inter. He thought he was walking in to work with Lukaku, Hakimi Eriksen, but all 3 were gone before the summer was over. He also has lost Brozovic, Skriniar, Perisic, Onana etc over the last 2 years. Inter brought in 12 new players last summer, since you wanna talk about work force turnover, Milan brought in 10.
            Milan has spent more money than inter during his tenure there and inter has sold or lost many way better players than Milan has during the same time period.
            You don’t know what you are talking about, as usual, just utter biased unobjective nonsense.

          2. Yes luck.

            Most things in life come down to luck.

            Depending on how far you want to go back, if it’s the Big Bang then 99.999999999% of your existence comes down to luck and if it’s to your birth it’s something like 51% (since you had no control over when, where and to whom you were born).

            This is why it’s important to focus on things we control and to focus on the long term. It’s also why it’s a good to make incremental changes because we never know what variables are the key difference makers.

            In football league titles are the ultimate measure because the luck factor is diluted. I’ll happily admit luck played a huge part in Milan’s run in last season’s Champions League e.g. the draw, and also cost us this season in the same competition e.g. the draw.

            For me Inzaghi, or any other manager, will never be a great manager until he wins the Scudetto. It looks likely this season but he also has a tendency to choke. And I only ever wish bad luck on Inter.

            As for Juve, I obviously don’t like them but I respect them as serial league winners.

          3. @Maldini’s Heir, Football Italia is more your cup of tea. There you can be the delusional, obnoxious Milan fan arguing with delusional obnoxious inter and Juventus fans.
            Over here everyone is a Milan fan and a dose of objectivity and facts are needed.
            You didn’t even know that your biggest rivals coach has won 5 trophies in the last couple seasons. If you don’t know that why are you even talking? The man basically wins 2 trophies with inter per season, one of them just last week btw, but you said he hasn’t won anything.
            Just utter nonsense.
            Oh and wining a scudetto doesn’t make you a great coach. Winning with consistency makes you a great coach.
            In their careers Simone Inzaghi is much closer to that than Pioli will ever be.
            Pioli has been a coach for 25 years in 15 different clubs and has won only 1 trophy. Never stayed at a club more than 2 years prior to Milan.
            Simone Inzaghi has been a coach for 8 years, with 2 clubs and has won 8 trophies and in few months he will unfortunately have 9, when he wins the scudetto. Let’s hope he doesn’t get lucky and win the UCL. But undoubtedly you will block that fact out of your memory as well because you can’t deal with reality.

        2. Inzaghi so far is just a great cup coach. True he has done well with Inter but it remains to be seen if they can tough it out for the Scudetto, and (not likely) CL.

          Sounds like we’re getting Conte in the summer. So we’ll see if he’s gonna shape something stellar out of this team.

          Pioli, for all his deficiencies and tactical shortcomings, will still go down in Milan’s history as one of its most successful coaches.

        3. Over at Football Italia those obnoxious other team fans show more respect for Milan players than fans on here.

          You’re not being objective because there’s no such thing as objectivity when it comes to expressing subjective opinions on players and managers and what may or may not happen in the future.

          And this reason is the issue I have. You’re all obsessed with having these insights which you are all so convinced are based on something definitive but it’s just your opinions – your glass half empty opinions.

          A fan should not have a glass half empty opinion of their own club, manager, players. They should actually take a glass half full approach because their judgment should in fact be impaired.

          Fans on here should be throwing their full support behind the team rather than attempting to second guess everything and everyone.

          Sure we might speculate about stuff and give opinions and have different ideas about how to make the club more successful but it’s got to be founded in respect for the team, and its achievements.

          Otherwise you’re just downplaying the successes and joys, whilst pining for a future that may never be realised. How depressing.

      2. Maldini’s heir has to be by far the most delusional bigot I’ve ever seen on the internet, inzaghi has won 5 trophies with inter,in less than 3 seasons, pioli has 1 trophy in his entire 24years of coaching, only fools still blame players like they’ve been doing for the past 5 years of pioli’s reign

        All of a sudden kessie is what we need, but while he was here, they said he wasn’t good enough,

        Tonali was also not that good in their eyes, but now he is what we need.

        Delusions upon delusions trying to fake where the problem is, inter uses a midfield trio of all natural attacking mids, yet they are defensively resolute,

        Calhanoglu wasn’t up to our standard while he was here according to these same delusional fans, but now calhanoglu is what we need, how stupid can people get?


      1. Yes short memory.
        Bennacer got injured vs Inter in the UCL semi final on may 10th. Missed the last few weeks of the 2nd half of the season.
        Season ended on June 4th.

    2. I’m all for getting a new defensive midfielder because we need a strong player with good defensive skills but I agree with you that until we fix our tactical problems, even prime Kanté won’t be enough.
      The reason we won the scudetto in 2021/22 was thanks to Kessie. He pretty much allowed the midfielders flexibility and freedom while plugging the holes and standing as a stronghold before our defense. With him gone, those tactics became impractical. Tonali, Bennacer and Krunic simply do not possess the defensive and physical tools that he had and were often lost against crowded strong midfields.
      The problem with the current Milan is the persistance with Man marking/pressing which can only work when every player does it and does it well (see scout7calcio for me reference on that). Currently many players don’t do it enough, leaving the defensive midfielder the task of plugging the holes and thus the opposition find itself with a lot of spaces and free players to operate with. Our tactics are pretty much allowing 1vs1 which we have no business allowing.
      It’s also funny that Sacchi, a man renown for zonal defense, is backing a man who goes for man marking

    3. The perplexing strategy of employing man-to-man marking in the final third, coupled with our midfield’s occasional ventures into the opposition’s territory, creates an absurd defensive setup. Even a defensive legend like Maldini would find it challenging to navigate within such a structure.

    4. “Can someone please tell me who the destructive midfielder is in the Inters lineup. Which one of Mikhitaryan, Hakan, or Barella are a defensive midfielder? They are all offensive midfielders by nature, just like Milan’s midfielders, and yet inter has the best defense in Europe.”

      Exactly. I’ve been saying for years that it’s not “mandatory” to have a DM as it’s all about how the players work together / play as a team.

      1. That’s kind of true but inter plays with 3 defenders and their midfield pretty much always has 5 players, I don’t know if having only creative midfielders work well in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 especially when your coach insists on pressing high and man marking.
        Also while Barella, Mkhitarayan and Brozovic were not technically destroyers, they certainly have more positional awarness and better defensive capabilities than all ouf our midfielders aside of “maybe” Bennacer.

  4. A gap that was clear from the summer and was not addressed. Benaccer is also not a pure n6, not Ac Milan player in the squad is a positional DM.

  5. I’d think Billy the magic Beane’s algorithms showed these awful defensive stats of our new midfield acquisitions when they brought them. We fans saw it and were sceptical, so why didn’t the masterminds in the business addressed the matter?

    I said before and I’ll say it again, this midfield is not functional in either system 433 or 4231. Bunch of runners and chasers apart from Bennacer.

    They can add as many defenders they want but won’t solve the problem. Defence was leaking even before all the injuries. Because there’s no proper cover. Numbers in this article show it.

    1. @Ted. It was Pioli who decided against getting a DM in the summer as he planned on using Krunic there instead.

      This is why I beleive Pioli should leave this summer. He also endorsed Jovic who cannot play as a lone striker. Jovic scored most of his goals while Giroud was on the pitch with him.

      Pioli has to go. No question about it. He is sabotaging the team. We won’t many any further progress with him.

      1. That is what I meant with “masterminds in the business”, Pioli as coach of one of top club in world of football is one of them. Don’t know what his idea of midfield was, probably possession based, ball carrying football but at the same time he exposed our fullbacks with inverted fullback system that was supposed to support midfield and compensate for the lack of DM. It backfired and then he panicked.

  6. This article is about 5 months late. Amongst the excitement on the new signings (again, no issue with them per se or their perceived quality), there were a few of us who were wondering where/when the defensive midfield reinforcements would arrive…but alas they never came. It was an issue before last summer that needed to be sorted and it never did up til now. What happened was we went further away from addressing it by selling one of the more defensive midfield types and kept only one. I thought RLC would have been used for a more defensive role but so far he’s in attack. Instead we have two 20m backups for RW and whatever position Musah plays. Money which could have been spent on a proper DM, for the 3rd or fourth year in a row now we’ve been saying 🤦‍♂️. Boggles my mind two consecutive managements can’t see the glaring issues in defensive midfield coverage. Even in this transfer window, I don’t even know why we’re looking at centre backs 🤷‍♂️

    1. For me strikers are usually the big game changers capable of turning a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th or 5th placed team into title winners e.g. Ibra at pretty much any club he went to.

      However DMs can also be game changers.

      One of my favourites is Carrick (yes Michael Carrick) to Man Utd….

      In 05/06 Man Utd had finished 2nd but 8 points behind Chelsea. They signed Carrick as their only signing that summer and were transformed into a title winning side.

      Now Carrick is probably not considered one of the greatest ever players to grace the game but it didn’t matter because he solved the specific problem that needed solving in that Man Utd side.

      And that’s what transfers should be about – solving problems. How novel!

      1. My brother is a Man Utd fan so I automatically see all of their games too. I remembered Carrick, this was after Keane had left and they needed to plug that hole in the middle of the park, a very crucial role. Most teams have either a solid DM or they have functional midfielders who collectively bring sufficient defense in the middle of the park. We have neither.

      1. At least that many! No DM, No striker, No worries

        Whats worse is we can’t afford a decent player and we fritter away a few mill here and there on unsuitable players or prospects who get no playing time

      2. Giga I have no clue what that was about. I’m praying and hoping it just media hype and not that we’re actually interested in a CB. We’re third, we built up a cushion so even if we lose a little here and there it should give us enough breathing space by the time the CBs come back from injuries. We literally bought ourselves some time and we’re still fishing for who know what 🤦‍♂️.

        1. I thought it was media hype as it seemed so ridiculous, until Pioli came out and said we need a CB.
          Sure why not spend 20m of the summers paltry budget on a CB we need for 3 weeks until others return
          Is that not another case to sign a DM, who quite often can play CB if required or at least can protect and help cover for our young CB’s.

          The main issue with this team since winning league is no clear tactical plan, and recruiting accordingly

    2. It is indeed about time this article appeared, better late than never!
      We used to laugh at EPL teams for their kick and rush football and now that is what we play in our pursuit of a “European Milan”.
      EPL teams learned from the success of Spanish and Italian teams and the better sides know how to control a game.

      I miss watching a team that is smart and moves the opposition around, carefully probing. In essence I miss having a quality midfield.
      How we have let our strongest department from the title winning season disintegrate is saddening

      A DM is what any sane fan has been screaming for. We don’t need bl00dy defenders or bl00dy mezzalas.
      Many pundits and fans have described Rodri as Man City’s most important player and I agree.

      If we put in a good DM that will shield our defense, give our midfield control and offer a platform from which to attack. All departments would thrive.
      I also believe injuries would be reduced as our players wouldn’t be running around like headless chickens all day.

      Bennacer is wasted as a DM, and none of the rest can do it. So either play 4231 with a DM beside Bennacer or Adli, or 433 with a DM and 2 mezzala’s (Bennacer & Reijnders, with back up from Adli,RLC and Musah.

      I don’t know who is to blame for this mess, I don’t really care, but it needs to be addresses!!!!!
      Even try Eletu, he looks a gem, though very young.

      Wake up Milan!!!

      1. I’m with u SJF. There’s a declining quality in midfield as you mentioned. We went from Kessie, Bennacer and Chalha with Tonali and Krunic as backups/reliable subs , with Adli as emergency. There’s no way Reijnders and Adli filling those boots currently as starters much less our subs being reliable. This is what I’ve also said it’s a transition year too. These are new players many of whom we didn’t know what we would have gotten, new formation/tactics etc (though we went back to the ol’ 4231 in the end lol). And it takes time to gel. Come next year they’ll do better but there’s still the underlying Kessie replacement problem.

        Bennacer imo as well is wasted as a DM because he’s not one. He just looks like a DM in a room full of mezzalas because he has the most defensive abilities out of the lot. Funny you mentioned Rodri who imo is probably the best DM in the game rn. When I think of City I think of Haaland and then Rodri right after. Absolute beast

        Note, I haven’t seen Eletu enough to give a verdict but Im extra cautious with youth players.

        1. I find the idea that we’re in a ’transition year’ completely unacceptable just 2 years after winning the Scudetto with a young side.

          We need to be careful that this doesn’t remain the narrative for the next 10 years.

          1. Well I agree to an extent , there’s always transition some minor, some major. This is more the latter. I didn’t believe we needed an overhaul or change in formation/tactics but I’m also not the owners and they have their ideas. But we basically gutted the midfield and attack so it’ll take time. Add to that the subs are all new also, so they would also take time. Tbh, they’ve been doing far better than expected. I think the CEO/owners expectations were too high given what they did over the summer

  7. There is an excellent twitter account (scout7calcio) that pretty much pointed out that the problem with the current Milan is the tendency to go for man marking. Since not all players get involved, some forget, some are lazy, overlap happen, the midfielders are in a situation to plug holes.
    Here’s a link for those interested:
    This is very bad because since we’re out of position and far from our box yard, the opposition team has often space and free players to capitalize on our mistakes. And oh boy that happened very often.
    The reason we did so well in 2021/22 is thanks to Kessie. He allowed our players flexibility and freedom, plugged the entire midfield by himself and stood as the last stronghold before our defense. Once he was gone, no one could replace him, and this type of play became impractical. Tonali, Bennacer and Krunic didn’t have the physical or defensive tools Kessie had and were sometimes lost against crowded midfield.
    I’m all for getting a true 6 because I think we need a player who simply good defensively, but it’s true that with the current tactics it won’t change much.

    1. I’d be fine with bringing back Kessie. Man marking has its strengths and weaknesses. But when the opps know you’re man marking across the field they can just use decoys and pull you away to create space. And that’s basically what everyone does now. Like.yiu said, no Kessie to run back and stall the play until reinforcements arrive

  8. I’ve been saying it all season. The current group of midfielders is a downgrade from last season, both in terms of compatibility and individual qualities. The recruitment failed in that department.
    Someone here wrote that Inter don’t have a number 6 so we don’t need one. Inter play a different style and more importantly Hakan, Mkhytarian, and Barella are miles ahead in skill. The only comparable player we have is Bennacer who has been out almost all season.
    We needed a defensive midfielder and an attacking midfielder to replace Diaz. Not only did we not do that, we let go of Tonali and CDK to create a bigger void. We could afford to wait. The club was finally making money profit off of their performances in the league and the champions league. There was no NEED to sell a good young player and fan favorite like Tonali.
    I will continue to support my team but after the disrespectful treatment of Maldini, this season is a failure without a scudetto.

    1. Inter’s midfield defender is Barella. He’s everywhere plus drifts to the right to send very dangerous crosses in the offensive phase. Not sure how one can say Inter midfield isn’t defensive. Our beloved Snake (Hakan) is miles ahead of Reijnders and Adli defensively, and as a collective, the three function well together to stop threats and I’m including old man Mikhi there. Plus their formation helps them force the play away from centre. Our gameplay invites people in.
      Inter play total team defence.
      We need a DM because we don’t defend as a group

      1. “We need a DM because we don’t defend as a group”

        Would be easier to just make everyone play for the team and do their part. You play with what you got – not with “who we’d like to have”.

        1. I agree to a certain extent but we had a choice to make better based on what the coach and management themselves had in mind. Its more “we should have”. Keep in mind that we literally changed our formation/tactics to require a DM and we didn’t get one 🤷‍♂️. Plus we haven’t had one since Kessie.
          The midfield players we have are defensively deficient esp Adli and Reijnders so …🤷‍♂️
          I’d love to see us defend as a team but reality kinda is smacking us in the head right now that they aren’t functional to level required

  9. My best guess is that Musah has been too shaky as a 6 so Pioli chooses to use him on the RW. But I feel that maybe with more minutes in the 6 role, Musah could improve there. He’s pretty physical and pacy and VERY YOUNG still.

  10. Gonna reiterate.a comment from @Z above. We are on concede 43 goals this season.

    Same as last season.
    Our top 3 CB have been out with long term injuries.

    I love Kjaer and am happy to see I was wrong about Gabbia. I’m excited by Simic and want to see more of him.

    But these are not the dominant Tomori and Thiaw of our Scudetto season.
    And a host of other injuries as well.

    Deep breathe y’all. We’ve done well and will finish strong.

  11. I’ve been saying this since last summer, we need a proper CDM, one who is good defensively and can shield the defence, win the ball back before the opposition team can start a counter attack, also one who can dictate the tempo of the game. Arguably of our current players have these characteristics, we need a player like Al Musrati, Redondo or Florentino to play alongside Bennacer in the double pivot.

  12. That’s why I threw the idea of bringing Kessie back, instead of seeking of players that might not even fit in. This management is all about data, statistic, result, with less emotion approach, less personal reasonings, right? So personal reasons aside, bringing him back will make much more logical sense.

  13. Folks saying Inter have no DM but one of best defense record in Europe. Inter also play with 5 in the middle. Sure 2 of them are wingbacks but it gives more cover and density in the middle and faster play in transition.

  14. There are reports of Conte taking over, I hope that’s not true for several reasons.
    The most obvious being he plays a different system that requires a different set of players, we simply don’t need another over haul!

    There ought to be a new tv show called
    “when yanks think they understand football”

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