RR: Pressing and gaps – the reasons for Milan’s defensive struggles beyond injuries

By Euan Burns -

AC Milan have had a poor year from a defensive standpoint with injuries piling up in that area of the squad, but that is not the only reason for shipping goals.

As highlighted by Radio Rossonera, there is more than just the individual performances of the defenders in the team to blame for Milan looking shaky at the back throughout the season.

The way in which Milan press seems to split the team in half, with five defensive players and five attacking players. This means that if the press is played through, there is a huge space for the opposition to exploit, forcing Milan back towards their own goal and inviting pressure.

The press never seems very well thought out for Milan, and it creates a lot of weakness. Unfortunately for Milan having so many defensive injuries has only compounded the problem.

Simon Kjaer, Malick Thiaw, Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori have long injury lay-offs, mostly at the same time, means that when Milan have been easily passed through, the attacking team are met with a makeshift defence featuring inexperienced or out-of-position players.

The players returning from injury may not be enough to tighten Milan up, there has to be a change in how cohesively they press up the field.

Tags AC Milan


  1. This article is quite true but I’d like to add the additional problem.

    The midfield.

    The double pivot usually consists of: Reijnders, Bennacer, Adli and Musah.

    This is much much weaker defensively than when we had Tonali, Kessie, Krunic, Bennacer.

    This is leading to a lack of connection between midfield and defense. Furthermore, the defense has to push up in order to connect with the midfield – leaving gaps. Look at the heat maps when we play with a 4231 this year. Everyone is pushed too far forward, leaving the back exposed.

    This is also why Gabbia did well the past few games, he did was he was comfortable doing – sitting in front of the keeper and not venturing into midifield as often.

    Players like Tomori, Kalulu can cover those gaps with speed & versatility. Thiaw, Gabbia and Kjaer cannot. It’s also the reason why you see Thiaw getting more cards and making more mistakes. He’s being pushed too far forward.

    Worse? Pioli’s only solution thus far is to invert every position and send them forward. ??? What? Who needs defense.

    I’m also disappointed with our set pieces & defense on set pieces too. Continues to be a black spot on the team.

    1. Seems like there is an omerta about the lousy midfield. Honestly I don’t understand what people see in Reijnders, to me he’s an average Serie A midfielder. I like the guy though, I would keep him for rotation but I think we need an upgrade in the starting XI. Someone good at corner kicks and free kicks would be great.

      Loftus-Cheek is good but he’s no Kessié (yet?), Musah is promising but far from ready to be a starter for a UCL contender. Bennacer seems back in fashion, that’s good news.

    2. Nice analysis. I believe we are a sharp decrease in goals shipped because of Tomorri return.

      I really hope Gabbia or Kalulu is second choice but your point about speed being key makes me worry about my new found Gabbia enthusiasm some.

  2. I like this article a lot. Many don’t know the importance of an organized press in modern game. It’s not possible to keep pressing all game ,but when doing it, go wholeheartedly.. you either press really hard or you don’t at all.. I much prefer pressing but would just completely drop back and close the gaps than being moderate with it in fear of taking too much risk. That doesn’t work. Now all the defenders and goalkeepers are good with the ball, you are not going to win it off them by pressing with 3 players. Pressing with as much necessary numbers is equally risky (I say more) for the opponent. There’s more chance that they’ll send the ball long ,which in general case, the pressing team’s defenders mostly end up winning and keeping most of the activities in opponent’s half. Milan played like this in the first 45 minutes against Empoli and the opponent were unable to create anything. No It work against the strongest teams too. I remember the first leg against PSG when with Milan’s little pressing the home team struggling to build up from the back and making a few mistakes in the first 15 minutes were we could of scored.. because such big teams won’t send the ball long and will insist on building up.. but then Milan gradually dropped back before PSG picking up and completely dominating. Try to rewatch the Dortmund games too you will see that whenever we pressed high the opponent struggle but then we generally gave them too much space and time on the ball. Pioli lack the courage to take more risk approach in Europe therefore he wouldn’t be successful there and this is one of the main reasons I want him replaced

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.