GdS: Pioli ponders playing Leao as a striker in new system – his record in the role

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has decided to switch to a three-man defence and he chose to start Rafael Leao on the bench on Sunday, but he could find a place for him starting on Friday.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the latest idea in Pioli’s constantly evolving tactical chessboard is to slightly tweak the 3-5-2 formation to a 3-4-1-2 and put Rafael Leao next to Olivier Giroud, a role that is not new to him.

Milan fans are now used to Leao’s dazzling runs from the left wing but he has actually played as a striker 40 times at Milan: 21 in the 2019-20 season, 19 in the following one. The stats? Eight goals, three assists and a lot of skepticism about whether he can play the role.

In the past two seasons, he has played 69 times on the wing, with 23 goals and 21 assists, earning the title of being the Serie A MVP last season and essentially fired the Rossoneri to their first league title win in 11 years.

In France, with Lille, Leao played as a No.9 on 19 occasions across Ligue 1 and the French Cup, more often than not from the first minute. He scored seven goals and added two assists. Going back to his time at Sporting CP, he played a couple of games as a centre-forward, scoring two goals in the 2017-18 season.

Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao


  1. Pioli has revealed himself to be a limited coach who is afraid to try new things, and is your typical Italian Coach who is set in a very unflexible way, why can’t he use both Origi and Leao as a double attacking unit, many players were once wingers, but we’re converted to strikers, and they excelled.

  2. So pressure has forced Pioli into a formation change when really it should have been personnel change that would have been a better outcome.

  3. Milan needs fresh legs. Giroud is tired, it is better he come in as a sub. Play 4321. Let CDK and leao be the amf and rebic striker.

    1. This formation will suit Charles very well. It will also help leao because they will still have the pace to tough-line. And for the striker, I would play Origi.

  4. Those stats don’t mean that much. Leao usually played with us as a lone striker. Playing in a 2 striker system is a completely different beast.

    That being said I dont see it working out with Giroud as his partner.

  5. I hope pioli grows some balls, take a little risks and give a changes to other players we have. Unfortunaly that will never happend so.. to my Dream lineup 3 4 2 1

    Thiaw Kjaer Kalulu
    Aleksis Tonali Adli Theo
    CDK Leo
    With Adli, CDK and Leo we have enough of attacking creation

  6. Pioli should have stayed with the same 4-2-3-1 formation, which works well for this team, but have substituted some players when needed. When you concede too much goals with a system that previously did work, it’s the players that have to be changed. In this system I would have put a more defensive player as a central midfielder. It could have worked with:
    Calabria – Kjaer – Gabbia/Thiaw – Theo
    Kalulu – Bennacer/Tonali
    Saelemaekers – CDK/Diaz – Leao/Rebic
    Giroud / Origi

    Moving Kalulu to defensive midfield could have brought a big change. The boy can play and wouldn’t be that exposed as a central defender. He wouldn’t always come too late in defensive phases as Bennacer and Tonali tend to do.

    Now with the 3-4-1-2 Kalulu will probably be on the bench in favor of Calabria, but he’s one of our best footballing players. With a better physical training he could become our next Desailly.

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