Pioli and Kjaer confirm three-man defence is being considered – how it could look

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli could decide to use a three-man defence from the first minute against Napoli in one week, a report claims.

Rafael Leao’s expulsion at the start of the second half last night against Sampdoria forced Milan to change formation, with Fikayo Tomori coming on to join Pierre Kalulu and Simon Kjaer in a three-man rearguard. As SempreMilan.it recall, Pioli and Kjaer had their say on this tactical option.

Pioli’s said to Milan TV: “The three-man defence? I have had this situation in mind here since this summer, we have five central defenders and all five are strong, Simon is a player of great charisma. I would have liked to try it this summer, it was my idea but the other players came later and Simon wasn’t 100% straight away. It is not a problem for the players, there is this possibility: it depends on the matches and we will see when to use it.”

Kjaer added his thoughts: “We have many players who could do well with that system. Perhaps Leao would be in trouble a little at this moment with the quality he has, even if every now and then he doesn’t track back so much, it makes a difference. I know the coach is thinking about it, but with so many games to play, it’s not easy to try new things. It will be up to the coach to decide.”

Now the suggestion seems to be pretty public that Milan could line up with three defenders in a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-1-2. It would certainly help by pushing Theo Hernandez up to wing-back in order to heighten his attacking responsibilities and give him a bit more freedom, especially with Leao not there to offer his usual threat on that flank and Ante Rebic also likely to miss the game.

Davide Calabria, Sergino Dest or even Alexis Saelemaekers could then be the right wing-back, with Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali certainly in the midfield, either in a double pivot or joined by Tommaso Pobega, Aster Vranckx or perhaps Yacine Adli in a 3-5-2.

Otherwise, it would be the Italian and Algerian in the double pivot with Charles De Ketelaere or Brahim Diaz ahead as the playmaker, and up front it could well be Olivier Giroud and Divock Origi used.

Tags AC Milan


  1. Or CDK next to Giroud with Adli (or Diaz I guess) as AMC if Origi is not fit. Tonali and Bennacer in the double pivot. Later if a lead needs to be protected the AMC can come off for Pobega or Vranckx for a flatter midfield 3.

  2. Milan under Pioli have switched to 3 man defense only during games where they were holding on to a lead or being a man down. So he have used it only for defensive purposes. Trying not to concede , not to lose. It isn’t an attacking formation
    He tried 3 man in the back from the start last year vs Juve and abandoned it at half time.
    In prior seasons Milan had a ton of injuries and Pioli still went with 4231. So I doubt he change it now.
    Since Krunic is back to full fitness, I expect him to play on the LW, and if Milan has to score in the 2nd half he’ll probably throw in Origi there.
    But if he decides to change:
    4321 with CDK & Brahim(Pioli isn’t playing Adli vs Napoli) behind Giroud or 4312 with CDK behind Giroud and Messias (2nd striker is his natural position) are more realistic

    1. I think, though, that Kalulu has become much better. That makes it much easier to switch: tomori, Kjaer, Kalulu;
      Theo, Bennacer, Diaz(I like him as CM for some reason)/ Vrankxx/Pobega, Tonali, Dest/salad;
      Messias/CDK/Leao/Origi, Giroud
      goes to the 4231
      Theo, Kjaer, Tomori, Kalulu,
      Bennacer/Pobega, Tonali
      Leao/Origi, (maybe Vranckxx?), All ACM Options, Dest/Salad.
      Then Giroud/ Origi

  3. Cdk has experience on the left midfield adli or diaz can play on 10 or theo on the LM and dest on left back like he played sometimes at barca and ajax

  4. They tried the three yesterday vs Samo but that was more a 5 back to protect the lead. Having a.potent offense with 3 at the back is tricky and hard to pull off. The wing backs are crucial and Leao, our best player, would face difficulties no matter where he would be deployed

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