MN: 10 goals conceded in eight friendlies – Milan’s ninth signing must be a defender

By Oliver Fisher -

Any notion that AC Milan’s defensive frailty from last season had been fixed in preseason seemed to evaporate pretty quickly, and now the management must think about acting.

MilanNews recalls how Milan faced eight teams in preseason: Lumezzane, Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, ​​Monza, Trento, Etoile du Sahel and Novara. In those eight games, the Rossoneri conceded ten goals, keeping just two clean sheets

Although they are only friendlies – even if the season start is in eight days – they are certainly worrying numbers for a team that wants to play on the front foot and must have rearguard stability to do so fully.

Malick Thiaw and Fikayo Tomori are the two starters it seems and while the defensive effort is not concentrated on only two players, the errors made by individuals seems to suggest that they are both not at 100%.

Above all, much more is expected from the Englishman. This year he will be a leader and he will have to lead the defensive line, so he must raise his consistency level and not have periods like last season where he was error-prone.

Looking at the two alternatives, Pierre Kalulu and Simon Kjaer, there are also some concerns. The Frenchman was initially adapted to right-back due to the injury to Davide Calabria and with Alessio Florenzi’s sub-optimal form.

Florenzi and Kjaer certainly cannot be said to be 100% based on the game against Novara. The Danish defender is not yet in top condition and he struggled against Corti, who with all due respect is not at the level of the best forwards in Serie A.

Therefore, Giorgio Furlani and Geoffrey Moncada’s ninth summer signing must be a central defender and must arrive with a certain urgency, especially if Kalulu finds himself playing full-back more and with Matteo Gabbia having left.

Tags AC Milan


  1. Agree on Tomori replacement. Disagree on defender signing. Just have faith in two young defenders we already have. Simic, Bartesaghi.

    1. They are not that experienced.. so we cannot rely on them. They can be grown further by giving a few minutes in every match. Because matches In Serie A/UCL will be totally different.

      1. I agree with you Milanfan. However this is exactly what Pioli never does. He never did it with Adli Vrancks and Thiaw (until he was forced yo use him). Why would he do it with Simic and Bartesagho?

        1. Are you serious? Kalulu went from 0 pro minutes in France to 1100min in his first season, Thiaw played a similar amount of minutes compared to his last Bundesliga season at much stronger Milan (he only was a starter in their second league season).
          Adli is simply too weak, I mean sorry that was obvious from yesterdays game, you cannot be a passenger in Milan midfield. If that is obvious in a training game of course he doesn’t get minuets.

      2. How experienced was Kalulu during the scudetto winning season? How experienced was Maldini when he became a starter at 18? Sometimes you just have to give a talented player a chance. There will be a learning curve, but given 1/3 to 1/2 a season to learn they will come good, and then we might not even need to spend money on that department come next summer. It just takes balls to make the call. Sometimes that is the real question, not “who can we sign”.

        1. The truth is Pioli never really develops youngsters. It’s a false narrative when people point to Leao, Theo, Tonali or even Kalulu and Thiaw.

          Kalulu got on the field only because of the injury crisis. Pioli never brought him on as a sub to play in any game. Thiaw played only one game as a sub due to injuries to our CBs until January when Pioli had absolutely no option.

          When Theo arrived, it was clear he was better than Rodriguez, even though Giampaolo kept playing RR.

          Tonali was already a mainstay of Brescia before joining Milan and everyone already rated him high. While he wasn’t on top of his game in the first season, it was clear that all that was needed was team chemistry. It had nothing with Pioli improving his game.

          Pioli didn’t trust Kerkez as back up to Theo and made a requested which brought Ballo-Toure.

          1. Interesting 🤔 Nino. Didn’t expect that from you but very interesting take. I guess we’ll have to see what he does with Romero, Simic and Bert this season

      1. Look at Barca. They play young players without any problems. Look at Thiaw. So yes I agree it is down to Pioli to believe in them.

  2. or you know, sign a destroyer. Someone who can destroy attacks before they come too close to our defense. 2 years have passed and we still don’t have Kessie’s replacement.

    1. 433s don’t use destroyers unless they have good ball skills. They play defense by pressing high to get the ball back and holding possession. Defending in this situation is the responsibility of the forwards and 8s and wingbacks. The defense should just retrieve balls and make the play if a couple counters get through

        1. He doesn’t have the profile of that role typically but he seems popular. If he’s willing to stop playing as a mezzela he is better than krunic.

      1. Depends on what you call a destroyer. To take some of the best 433 I think Busquets, Casemiro or even Fabinho (not counting Rodri cause City is too polymorph) have excelled at destroying attacks by their placement and understanding of the game. I Definitely agree with the point that defence comes with the forwards at the 8s at first, but there are no 433 with a top 6. I believe that Milan isn’t going anywhere without it.

        1. Fair question. I usually break it out into Destroyer, Anchor, Deep lying playmaker (regista)

          To me Casemiro represents the destroyer:
          “The destroyer’s main attributes would be speed, anticipation, and tackling ability. That being said anticipation would not be critical on that list as athleticism could help cover for poor reading of the game. His function on the pitch is to use these attributes to break up opposition attacks.”

          deep-lying playmaker
          “primary attributes are offensive one, i.e. Luka Modric. Unlike the defensive midfielder however, the holding midfielder has the luxury and willingness to roam a little farther up the pitch. This of course sounds contradictory to the function of the position, where protecting the defense is the first priority. But the regista is capable of fulfilling this function too, albeit not through physicality and athleticism like the destroyer. As his role’s type might imply, the regista mainly ‘holds’ his position in front of the defense and opportunistically makes key interceptions to cut out opposition threats.”

          Anchor: (this is what I consider Busquets, kinda of a combo of the top 2) and a requirement for a 433.
          “In modern football, this type of player would most likely be known as a holding midfielder or a central defensive midfielder. Despite the name changing through the years along with what is expected of a player playing in that particular position. They are the core of the team, helping to protect the defence and be the first line of attack when a team wins back the ball.
          Some would even argue the anchor midfielder is the most important player in the team and is almost like the glue which keeps the side together and who without, a team would fall apart.”

          But I know its not that simple.

  3. The press would take the longest to come together as it’s all understanding of your teammates positioning. So it makes sense they have struggled with new players in the midfield and a striker with limitations.

  4. In some weird way I dont mind outscoring the opponent on our way to 3 points even if it means we ship some goals 🤷‍♂️
    Out attack has the potential to steam roll ops but our defending hasn’t yet been sorted. Plus the switch to 433 while in attack somehow the spacing makes us more vulnerable and the switch back to 4231 when defending takes too long to transition. It would require one of the wide mids to do an overtime shift tracking back. We’re still working on that. But I believe we have gaps in midfield that can easily be exposed which came at the expense of aggressive attacking

    1. given that most of those goals came in the first three games against, barca, juve and madrid, first 3 games in a new press…i don’t think its as big an issue as made out here. unless it persists, but it already looked better organized, although against lower competition in the last game.

      1. Man I hope I’m wrong. But I also wasn’t wrong when we lost Kessie on this very forum last year and everyone tore me a new one. I’d say be warned lol 😂
        That spacing don’t look right in the 433 take what i tell ya and even with a double pivot, the personnel isn’t there either..
        And I’ll throw this out now as a bonus lol …Leao is going to have problems if Tijjani becomes really good as we expect. Leao is great when we wait for him to execute his 1v1 but it holds the play up in alotmof ways . if we’re creating a dynamic free flowing team, it’s not going to bode well for him.

        1. Sure. Look at the Real Madrid goal. Leao comes way too deep and loses the ball trying to take on his man. Defender beats Tijjani to the rock and jacks a perfect ball over Kjaer.

          I agree on the spacing. I think it can be fixed but you know the team better than me. The obvious one to me is RLC turning off on defense accounts for like 4 of the 7 first team goals against. What are the other concerns?

          You care to be more specific regarding this personnel issue?

          1. The personnel issue is this. If we play a 4231, we don’t have proper or worthy pivots. The only one that can play there is dare I say… Krunic but he’s not the quality we want there either. We lack a proper DM for the double pivots as much as we lack a proper DM for the 433. Either way, that spot is the problem and will be the great debate in the comments section this season. This will impact the sevice to the wings and one of Leao or Chuk will face issues (likely Chuk as he needs to adapt). We have a game against a formidable opponent in a week and we don’t know what we’re playing. Is it 4231 cum 433 (I think so) or a full on 433. Also I’m the 4231 we really don’t have a designated CAM. So I’m assuming we’re playing 433 which brings us back to the lack of balance we have with that formation.
            We also bought Okafor (who I foresee struggling the most this season, both for minutes and for adaptation) which we really don’t play the dynamic roaming striker tactics. We’re really the target striker tactics. We literally don’t have a game plan for him except hope and perhaps subbing Leao and struggling. I also think once serie A figures out our playmaker Tijji they’ll mark him to death and nullify our offense and I don’t see Pioli creating a counter measure. I know I sounds highly pessimistic but to me I’m dealing with reality. Same as last year when I knew we’re going to leak goals, same as now

          1. LMAO 😂😂 ….hey I put my neck out before and I can put it out again.. I was pretty right on missing Kessie and Pobega being crap last year. Also i didn’t buy the Adli hype last preseason. Sort of reminds me of Tijji this pre but I think Pioli doesn’t have a choice but to play him🤷‍♂️. If i give you my real verdict it’s not going to be pretty. I think we’re in bigger problems than I care to admit. Plus our schedule will not help us. I don’t think we’ll come out of the group stage for UCL for instance. If we’re lucky we can be out altogether but with our luck we might be playing on Thursdays which always hinders team’s league commitments. The reason I say this is we’re in pot 3 and we’re only going to get a weak higher seeded team in Feyenoord or Benfica in pot 1 and Leipzig or Porto in pot 2. And those are the “weakest”. Our team is not familiar enough to cause those teams problems. We’re too “new”. Oh then hope we avoid Newcastle in pot 4. We should be very VERY happy with a 4th place finish again. The ground lost early will dictate our season..

        2. well ill go on the record that i agree with everything you have said. The first half of the season it will be a win just to see flashes of what the team could look like consistently, but not expecting great results. If it happens, then ive overestimated the competition. You don’t buy 8 dudes under 24 years old to win right now. Management was very open about that.

          Sacchi called them up and said some words like this:
          “The founding fathers had thought of an offensive and team sport. Here we have lost these original characteristics, transforming it into a defensive and individual sport.

          “But this is not the path to follow if you want to continue entertaining the public. Pioli was the architect who designed the beautiful creature of last season and was able to win through intelligence and ideas, generosity and courage.

          “His Milan played with eleven men always in an active position, as Napoli do now. So I hope he will return to that path, which can only be followed if one strongly believes in his ideas.”

          And they were like, alright but its not gunna happen overnight, and he said something else smart sounding and they hung up.

          Once they find Tijji is the playmaker you bring out musah and give them more to think about in the build up. As RLC is still getting away with this whole box to box trick on the team sheet. The pieces exist…it sounds like a lack of confidence in the coach to put them together right. You would know better than me. I think its more realistic than pessimistic, they just need to clone Tijji because hes the perfect holding for a 433…

          1. Lol I was thinking you’d disagree 😂 damn we’re both in trouble now 😬
            I like the Sacchi quotes. I hope other teams stall enough for us to get our stuff working “Once they find Tijji is the playmaker you bring out musah and give them more to think about in the build up. “… exactly this 💯
            Btw I def don’t know better than you or anyone here for that matter lol. I do have a little bit of experience but that is all. I just say it as I see it.

        3. I’ve watched teams rebuild across multiple sports. Multiple ways. Young players, superstars joining forces. It didn’t matter if you combined the best players in the world. It took longer than you would think to figure it out, the roles, the tendencies, the dynamics between personalities, having some people let go of roles they loved, etc. But if you have team players (which it seems everyone they signed appears to be), it usually turns out well. But fans typically aren’t as patient as management/coaches.

  5. And the media demands more….

    8 signings?

    We want more. 9, 10, 11, more, more, feed the machine!

    Defending is mostly about systems (as well as individual errors which have been particularly problematic for Tomori), so the starting point should be what’s going wrong with the system that sees ALL of our defenders struggling in some way (and Tomori struggling the most).

    Tomori and Kalulu were the foundations upon which our title winning side were built so what went wrong?

    There was also a period during last season’s champions league run when we kept 5 clean sheets in a row and conceded 1 goal in the round of 16 and quarter finals before it all fell apart against inter in the semis.

    So the question is how can we get that back.

    Because signing some shiny new player isn’t going to solve the problem of the system isn’t working.

    In fact transfers are a great distraction from failings in the system where nobody questions why the exact same players who performed at the club or at another club suddenly stop performing.

    But we’re not likely to get much scrutiny from the media who just demand more and more signings.

    1. the assumption would be that the formation change comes with a tactical change with the 433. A high press, high possession game.

      The players signed to do that need time to prefect it as they need to work as a unit. Assuming the system is to play defense with the attackers, 8s, and wing backs in the final third/middle third. They would be the ones most responsible. Unless goals are coming from set pieces.

    2. considering most of the goals came against barca, juve and real, its maybe not surprising that they were able to break a press in its first 3 games of existence (with the current players)

      1. Hey Dan but here’s the thing. Did we improve defensively (as a unit, not just the back four) since those 3 games you mentioned?

        1. Impossible to tell against a couple teams that aren’t that level. Pressing a low block is a whole different ballgame.

    3. Point taken btw MH. I’m not seeing first of all the reasoning as to why we needed to change formation in the first place. We could have just upgraded on the players that could hv worked for the existing system by Pioli. So now not only do we have brand new players for key spots we have a whole new system (433) that’s not very advanced, balanced or innovative (except that it’s a transitory between phases which I kinda like). Of course with the exception of the RW which regardless needed changes.

      1. I believe based on comments I can’t recall if they were from a journalist or team member it was a response to games against inter.

        1. Oh yes it could be. But a 433 doesn’t mean more players in midfield. That’s that dumbest thing I’ve heard. A 4231 can easily be a 451 when you think about it. I suppose what they meant was having options against a team playing 5 (3) at the back which could create superiority in certain areas

          1. I think the problem with 4231 is that it requires a top quality AM (which we didn’t have and it’s always hard to find) and that it puts a lot of pressure on the double pivot. in 21/22 we had Kessie who was very useful but after that the pressure was to much for Tonali and Bennacer and of course Pobega and Krunic are subpar. Perhaps also the 433 used by Spaletti last year inspired this change, but that’s just my guess

          2. @Giga below…bingo. when we lost Hakan we lost alot. I had been preaching here last year we didn’t have a proper CAM (even during Scudetto win lol) and a proper DM. We’ll see how quickly 433 goes out of fashion before we adopt quasi 5 at the back like Inter and Juve

  6. I heard that Man UTD are interested in Tomori lol. Just apply PL tax and sell him ASAP ffs.
    He has been playing against us since Milan – Chelsea 0:2 match last season.

    1. That’s a call that should have been made 1 month ago, not now, with 10 days to go until the beginning of the season. I say give Simic his chance as the no. 5 CB and see if he can climb the depth chart.

  7. Samardzic’s move to Inter is near collapse after he did his medical. He never signed a contract because of some disputes that came up.

    Now is our chance lol.

  8. Move kalulu to RB and buy esteve or scalvini
    . Problem solved . We still have gabbia & simic (on loan) if kjaer contract expire. We are safe on CB . Lets close this transfer market before we buying / signing too many player. Focus on get rid origi,ballo toure,caldara first before signing anymore player

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