Clever pressing and formation shape: Tactical analysis of Milan’s win against Roma

By Rohit Rajeev -

Milan took on Roma at the San Siro on Thursday and there was a partial crisis for the home side, with the team missing the three main defenders in Kjaer, Romagnoli and Tomori. The former two were out due to Covid-19. 

With a makeshift backline, Milan came out with flying colours, defeating a distraught Roma who seemed out of ideas and after 90 minutes were down to nine men. Down below are a few of the noteworthy tactical points.


Milan are largely identified as a pressing side and pressing was part of the team that played on Thursday. To the naked eye, the second goal seemed like a goal borne from an individual error, but it also came from clever pressing by blocking the passing lane.

Comparing Milan and Roma’s pressing stats, Milan made 139 pressures (attempts to press the ball) against Roma’s 145. However, Milan’s success % from pressing was 41% while Roma’s was only 33.8%.

For Roma, they pressed only in their defensive half and not high up the pitch which speaks to a classic Jose Mourinho set-up. Milan, meanwhile, pressed mostly in the middle of the pitch (56 times).

4-1-4-1 and Diaz-Krunic partnership

With Kessie and Bennacer gone for AFCON, Milan lined up in the double pivot with Krunic and Tonali. However, there was a slight difference in their approach. Tonali sat back more, guarding against counter-attacks, while Krunic pushed up to join Diaz and Milan thus lined up with a 4-1-4-1 formation.

This gave a bit more freedom to Diaz to sit deeper and receive the balls from Tonali or Maignan, to then find his man. This also gave numerical superiority for Milan in the midfield battle given that Roma fielded a 3-5-2

Messias vs. Vina

Milan have always depended on the left-wing for creativity but with Leao injured and Messias fielded on the right, Pioli focused on that side. Identifying Vina as the weakness in the 3-5-2/5-3-2 lineup of Roma, Messias was tasked with taking on Vina and beating up. Messias was able to do this on many occasions, even drawing a frustrated challenge from Vina which, however, went unpunished.

Quality over quantity

Milan had three shots on target out of 17 they made in the match, while Roma had five out of 11 shots. This maybe speaks about how Roma were taking their chances. However, the xG or expected goals tells a different story. Milan’s expected goals stood at 2.9 while Roma’s expected goal was 0.8, which speaks to a superior quality of chances that were created.

Milan also had 23 Shot Creating Actions (SCA), while Roma had only nine which once again points to the disparity in the control of the match.


Milan put their covid issues behind them as they dominated at San Siro and showed Roma some real quality high octane football. The Giallorossi were, in fact, kept at bay for large parts of the game.

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