The evolution of Milan’s playing style under the current management: a comprehensive analysis

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan, one of the storied clubs in world football, has undergone a significant transformation under the guidance of Stefano Pioli.

This detailed analysis explores how Milan’s playing style has evolved, focusing on tactical adjustments, key player roles, and strategic outcomes.

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Tactical overhaul under Stefano Pioli

Formation shifts and strategic implementations

Since his appointment, Pioli has experimented with various formations, primarily pivoting around the 4-2-3-1 setup, which has brought a balance between defence and attack. This formation supports Milan’s traditional attacking play while solidifying their defensive line.

Key tactical adjustments

  1. Full-backs as pivotal attacking elements: Theo Hernández and Davide Calabria have been crucial in Pioli’s system, often acting as wing-backs who push high up the field to supplement Milan’s attacks.

  2. Midfield configuration: Ismaël Bennacer and Franck Kessié (before his departure) played vital roles in controlling the tempo and breaking up opposition plays, showcasing the importance of a dynamic central midfield.

List of strategic formations used:

  • 4-2-3-1: Mainstay formation emphasising width and depth.
  • 3-5-2: Occasionally used to add numerical superiority in midfield and defence.
  • 4-3-3: Deployed to maximise forward pressure against defensively weaker teams.

Evolution of player roles

Forwards and wingers

Rafael Leão’s development under Pioli has been phenomenal. As a winger and sometimes playing as a forward, Leão’s pace and dribbling have become central to Milan’s attack.

The role of the attacking midfielder, often filled by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, involves creating chances and linking play between the midfield and the forward line.

Defensive and midfield anchors

The defensive strategy has also evolved, with a higher line of engagement and a focus on pressing. Milan’s defence – led by Fikayo Tomori – emphasises speed and aggression, enabling the team to maintain possession and recover quickly.

Challenges and achievements

Challenges faced

  • Injuries: Frequent injuries have forced Pioli to adjust his tactical plans and player selections regularly.
  • Consistency: Balancing between league and European commitments has tested Milan’s squad depth and consistency.


  • Return to Champions League: Milan’s return to the Champions League was a significant achievement, marking their progress under Pioli.
  • Coppa Italia and domestic success: Competitive performances in domestic cups have shown the team’s growth and resilience.

Integration of analytics in game strategy

Milan under Stefano Pioli has increasingly integrated data analytics into their game strategies, leveraging technology to enhance player performance and tactical planning.

The club utilises advanced metrics such as player tracking data and game simulation models to make informed decisions regarding player fitness, tactical formations, and opponent analysis.

This analytical approach has allowed Milan to optimise their training sessions and tailor tactics to the strengths and weaknesses of both their players and the upcoming opposition, demonstrating a modern approach to football management.

The Pioli effect: a new era at Milan

Cultural and psychological impact

Pioli has not only altered the tactical approach but has also instilled a winning mentality within the squad. The blend of experienced players and young talent underlines a culture of continuous development and ambition.

Future prospects

Looking ahead, Milan’s focus remains on solidifying their status in Italy and Europe. Continued investments in the squad and youth development are expected to enhance their competitiveness.


Under Stefano Pioli, AC Milan has transformed into a formidable force in Italian and European football. The strategic evolution of their playing style and the development of key players reflect a club that is both respecting its rich history and forging a new path forward.

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