An explanation of Milan’s De Ketelaere and Adli problem using heat maps

By SempreMilan -

There continues to be a great deal of mystery surrounding the attacking midfielder role for AC Milan and in particular the two summer additions Charles De Ketelaere and Yacine Adli.

The media and certain sections of the Milan fan base have criticised De Ketelaere for not performing as his €30m+ price tag suggests that he should, despite the fact he is playing in a completely new system at a new club with new team-mates in a new league.

Instead of using tens of video clips to try and analyse why things haven’t clicked for the Belgian – as well as for Adli – there are some quite telling signs when looking at the heat maps.

Let’s presume how Brahim Diaz plays is exactly how Pioli wants the No.10 to play. The exact area/space occupied by the Spaniard in his heat map is very similar to that of Hakan Calhanoglu’s in his last season at the club, so now we have a point of reference how the playmaker should operate in Pioli’s system.



Now let’s take a look at how De Ketelaere’s heat map in the last three Seasons at Club Brugge compares. The striking thing is that there is virtually zero overlap with the two above and therefore he has virtually nothing in common with the way Pioli asks the No.10 to play.

It must be said that he played different positions at Brugge but only when certain players were suspended or injured.




Now we’ll have a look at Adli’s heat map at Bordeaux, and it is not surprising to see that again there is very little similarity. The Franco-Algerian plays way deeper than Brahim Diaz, having more in common with how Calhanoglu is playing at Inter.




Below we see Calhanoglu’s area of operation since he moved away from Milan to city rivals Inter and Adli’s before joining Milan, and the similarity is striking.

As another point of comparison we will show Sandro Tonali’s heat map from this season. All are very similar but neither Hakan or Sandro play trequartista, therefore why should Adli play there?




If we say that Adli is similar to the way Calhanoglu plays/played – and a lot of supporters had major issues with the way the Turk operated for the Rossoneri but a position adjustment made him flourish under Simone Inzaghi – how can we expect that a ‘similar’ player will work for Milan this time in the same system?

Neither De Ketelaere nor Adli are natural in the No.10 position, while Brahim Diaz learned that role in Manchester City’s academy and still isn’t performing consistently.

Instead of putting blame on two players who are not natural to that position, journalists should perhaps be asking questions about who approved the signing of both players as trequartisti when the signs were there that they would both be very incompatible with Pioli’s demands.

Tags AC Milan Brahim Diaz Charles De Ketelaere Yacine Adli


  1. Great breakdown 👏.
    Especially I like the last part.

    “asking questions about who approved the signing of both players as trequartisti when the signs were there that they would both be very incompatible with Pioli’s demands.”

    Slowly but surely, people will come to understanding who is the person holding Milan back.
    And it’s not on purpose, but purely because of incompetence and inexperience

      1. What about his coach at Club Brugge? Do you think he knew the best position for the player that he introduced to senior football? Under whom CDK really played well and developed?
        Or is it just Pioli that knows everything?

  2. Maldini approved the signings, of course.
    It was obvious that we needed better quality on the RW position, so he brought CDK. Based on his heat map, he should be an excelent RW. The fact that he could provide cover for CAM and CF was a bonus.
    But what did Pioli say? “He can’t play RW, he’s a trequartista”.
    Then, we needed cover for Bennacer, ideally someone with vision who can set up our fast forwards with long balls, a quality that none of our midfielders have. So they brought Adli, who played mosty as a CM all his career.
    But what did Pioli say? “He can’t play CM, not even a mezzala in a 3 man midfield, he’s a trequartista”.

    1. Spot on. That guy is so stuborn injuries were actually a blessing in disquse if this team was more healty we would still be playing whitout Kalulu and Thiaw…

    2. Agree ,Pioli does’nt know to use them,position or role.We can perform better with 4-3-3 sistem with ckd rw,adli cm and oteher signs like wrancix,pobega can bave better influence in 3 cm.

  3. Also, wasn’t Adli signed prior to the 21/22 season?

    He’s essentially an alternative to Tonali who doesn’t get injured and who had a good season (while Adli was loaned back to Bordeux).

  4. Very interesting heat maps. It looks to me that Adli was bought because there were lots of talk about 433 where he would play as a natural midfielder. According to heat maps CDK might be used in the place of Messias or Saelemakers interchanging during the game with Rafa Leao

    1. Hopefully, the change into 3-4-2-1 will facilitate that. If Brahim still unfit, CDK can get the chance to play alongside Leao behind the striker.

      1. That’s what I hoped. But against fiorentina Pioli switched to playing with 2 strikers and CDK behind them, in the center, instead of playing him in the same position of Diaz and Rebic as Leao.

  5. It’s not about special position for Charles, it’s about having a freedom on the field for him, moving right and left and all over. While Padre’s football is more about players sticking to the their positions and zones

  6. It is not important where is his position.

    Belgium player is still to weak in duels, Brahim also losing a lot of balls. It will take time for Belgium player to start score couple of goals and than he will paid up.
    De Ketelaere needs tu build up strength like Diaz did in Mila for 3 season . Belgium player is tall so he can play false 9 as well.

  7. dari data ini kita paham , bahwa CDK bukan pemain dengan Typicall Cassano , Baggio , atau Dybala … CDK adalah Runer..dia pelari kedepan, bukan Trequartista…
    malang sekali anak muda ini dengan nPelatih keras kepala miskin Taktik macam Pioli yang bodoh serta anaknya yang kemana mana bawa laptop

  8. This comparison does not work as to Adli. Adli often played in a different position in Bordeaux.

    As to CdK, as I have said from the beginning. He should be playing out on the right side.

  9. Gbamm! Spot on. One of the best articles/analysis i’ve read here. But The article should have also asked who is tasked with playing the players in the right system. I doubt if Pioli even bothers with things like this. The stars just aligned for the squidetto win last season, and i thought my perception of Pioli had changed, but… Though his level has gone up a bit, he’s still tactically shallow.

  10. That Brahim can play as he does and still keep his place should tell you everything. The issue isn’t just that CdK is not performing. The issue is that his lack of performance is compounded by his lack of strength. Tonali can’t create, either. But, at least he can hit. Even Saladmakers is tougher than CdK. When you’re the weakest of a box-set of weak Belgians…

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