MN: Milan’s defensive struggles nothing new – the numbers of a continued trend

By Oliver Fisher -

It feels as though the narrative regarding AC Milan’s defensive record is that there has been a big drop-off this season, but in actual fact the struggles have remained consistent.

The problems for the Rossoneri rearguard have been evident and clear for all to see since the beginning of the season, in particular that 5-1 derby defeat against Inter in which a lack of balance and organisation in transition were ruthlessly ignored.

For example, after recording two consecutive clean sheets in the matches against Napoli in the league and Rennes in the Europa League, the Rossoneri conceded four times against Monza on Sunday evening, something objectively unacceptable for a team that wants to win the Scudetto.

As MilanNews points out, Milan are 11th in Serie A in terms of goals conceded, making them the ninth-worst defence. Analysing the last three seasons, we can see that the trend of struggles at the back remains constant.

This season Milan have conceded 39 goals in 31 games played, amassing 11 clean sheets, while last year after 32 games the goals conceded stood at 39 with one more clean sheet.

In the Scudetto campaign, after 32 matches Milan had conceded 37 goals with 10 clean sheets, but they ended the season strongly and the average goals conceded was significantly better.

All of the above will surely make the management reflect, not only on the idea of signing a new central defender in the summer but perhaps about how the team are coached.


Tags AC Milan


  1. From these numbers we can see that Milan defensively was never good under Pioli, except for the last 14 games of the scudetto season.
    During that stretch Milan gave up only 5 goals in 14 games with 10 clean sheets. The reason for that is that Pioli played with 3 defensive minded midfielders Kessie, Tonali, Bennacer/Krunic, after benching Brahim Diaz.
    The offense suffered for it because in 14 games Milan only scored 20 goals during that stretch of which 6 came in 2 games vs 2 teams that had nothing to play for in Verona and Sassuolo. That means in the other 12 games they scored 14 goals.
    But defensively they were solid.
    During the summer Pioli chose to go with 433. Management gave him say in the transfer window and he picked to sign box to box offensive minded midfielders. He chose to not let go Krunic leave in the summer so Milan can sign Dominguez. And from the Adli’s interview today we found out that Management was looking to sign a DM but Pioli told them Adli can fill that role.
    Inter meantime, with no defensive midfielder, has the best defense in Europe. Only 14 goals given up and 21 clean sheets.

    1. Yes so we need to play with another Kessie type in midfield to get good defensive numbers again. Says enough about Pioli’s decisions that he wanted Adli. Also about Inter, I don’t agree that they don’t have a cdm. 5-3-2 is different from our tactics but Calhanoglu does a lot of defensive work aswell+ Barella is a motor.

      1. As you said the tactics are different at inter compared with Milan. Tactics. They still don’t have a Kessie type DM.
        Hakan does a lot of defensive work in their system but he is naturally offensive minded mid. Barella is also mostly known for his work in the opposition half of the pitch.
        With proper tactics Milan current midfielders can also do what Hakan does at inter, Bennacer for example.
        Speaking of motor, Reijnders and Musah have it but they are not used properly.
        Inter has a coach who makes them play as a team, they use zone defending and that’s why they are solid.
        Milan has a coach that ask the players to play 1v1 all over the pitch.
        Switch the Milan and Inter coaches. Milan will get better, inter will get worse.
        If you make inter midfielders and defenders plays 1v1 they might have the worst defensive numbers ever. Their defenders are poor in 1v1.
        Example. Romagnoli was very good prior to Pioli because he was a zone defender, but it looked bad in 1v1 under Pioli. He goes away from Pioli, and he is back to being that very good defender.

        1. What you are saying is correct.
          It’s true that zonal defending (which I personally prefer to a man marking approach), the 3-5-2 and the counterattacking style together lighten the burden on each player individually when it comes to defending the midfield.
          But I still see Inter’s midfielders as better than ours when it comes to defense.
          Barella does a lot of work in the opposition half of the pitch but he is still better defensively than all of our midfielders aside from maybe Bennacer.
          We also talk a lot about Hakan and Barella but we don’t mention Mkhitaryan, and Brozovic prior to that. These 2 do/did help a lot in the ball recovery department.
          When it comes to us, Bennacer is the best in this department but as shown last year, without Kessie he gets overloaded and is injury prone.
          Adli was a natural attacking midfielder.
          Reijnders has a good engine (seriously) but has lot to learn when it comes to defense.
          Musah is green and Loftus-Cheek has never been tested in this position.
          So while I agree that our problems are mostly tactical, I still think we need to look for a defensive midfielder this summer.

    2. Inter plays with three centre backs and they have far more talented midfielders. This is the biggest difference between their success and our struggle. I doubt that any low cost DM that this management could have bought last summer would have made a big difference over Adli. The « gems » that moneyball brought in, Reijnders, Musah, Chukwueze and the others have still a lot to prove.

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