Too much space and attacking worries: Three takeaways from the Barcelona friendly

By Isak Möller -

AC Milan played their final game of the USA pre-season tour on Wednesday and got beaten by one goal to nil against Barcelona. For the Rossoneri, there are a few things to highlight and analyse ahead of the next game. 

Milan were pinned back almost immediately by Xavi’s side as a result of a very slow start from the Rossoneri men. They only just managed to avoid conceding a goal and eventually improved, but the Catalan side were always one step ahead.

In the second half, Ansu Fati gave Barcelona the lead with a lovely strike but the defenders didn’t do Mike Maignan any favours either. Milan came close to a goal on a couple of occasions but were denied by the goalkeeper, or themselves.

Tijjani Reijnders had a big chance in front of goal but completely mishit the ball, failing to even hit the target. The game, as such, finished 1-0. However, what did we learn from the fourth preseason friendly?

1. Too much space

Throughout the game, Milan really struggled to keep up with the passing of Barcelona. When the Rossoneri pressed high, and it looked like they were going to win the ball back, Xavi’s side managed to find a way out and had tons of space as a result of it.

Furthermore, Pioli’s men were simply not fast enough in transition from one side to another, constantly putting the defenders on the back foot. The 4-3-3 formation, in that sense, has revealed one of its main flaws at least with the current set of players.

Perhaps a more defensive midfielder will help with this but everything depends on the tactics of Pioli. Clearly, the space given to Barcelona could have been avoided with some tweaks but the manager probably feels this would take away too much from his game.

2. Centre-forward worries

As you can see in our player ratings, Olivier Giroud didn’t get a good rating. He was barely involved in the game and bar one or two good flicks, he lacked the touch needed to take control of the ball.

However, Giroud’s abilities aside, it’s also painfully clear that Milan don’t make it easy for their striker. A lot of the play goes through the midfielders, pushing high with the ball and then laying it off to a winger. As a result, the striker always finds himself in the box.

Giroud is obviously a very strong box player, but even so you simply need to get your striker into the action and on the ball a lot more. Perhaps someone like Noah Okafor would do better thanks to his movement, but it’s been a bit hard to decipher what Pioli really wants his striker to do with this new formation.

3. Three important weeks ahead

Based on what we have seen during the US tour, Milan still have a lot of work to do ahead of the season opener. There have been glimpses of very positive things, such as the strength on set-pieces and the quick transition from defence to offence (albeit not the other way round), but it’s clear that the players need more time.

Signing eight new players was never going to make it easy for Pioli, let alone switching to a 4-3-3 formation. The next few weeks leading up to the season opener will thus be decisive for Milan, who also must win some of their remaining friendlies to build some confidence.


Reijnders, along with Pulisic, are the signings that have looked the best thus far. The midfielder for his clever movement when going forward, and the winger for his quick feet and passing ability. Hopefully, the addition of Samuel Chukwueze and Yunus Musah will help Milan with some of their current issues.

Tags AC Milan Barcelona


  1. Still talking as if we were playing a 4-3-3, when obviously we still played 4-2-3-1. RLC did not play as a mezzala, but a trequartista.

    The main problem is what the author of this piece touches on, that we lack compactness. This is a tactical issue, and I am sorry to say it, it has been a key problem for Pioli many times during his spell at Milan.

    1. Finally! Someone who actually watched the match. I’m at s loss as to how everyone, even this website, is coming up with this 4-3-3 thing.

    1. Chukky – CdK – Leao.

      Pulisic has so far seemed like a downgrade on Saelemaekers, as if that was even possible.

  2. Watched the game finally and don’t think we were that bad. RLC was actually fairly decent, not sure what people r on about. Watch the game again and compare with Rjeinders, the performances r comparable. Some people r guessing adli doesn’t play cuz he slows the game down, but that doesn’t make sense cuz krunic does the same thing, he’s not milan material and piolis insistence on playing him says a lot about piolis ability as a coach. I’d also like to see pulisic as a ten with Chuky and leao on the wings, but if we go with a midfield 3 think we should play Rjeinders as a regista and Musah and RLC alongside of him

  3. People still complain about pioli. He was never a top manager and his track records speaks for him that he was an average coach! Only trophy won in his life was the acuesto he won with Milan thanks to inter fumbling…. Last season was so glaring he was such an idiot of a coach, if not for Juventus deduction we will be talking about Europa league now- we seem to have forgotten.

    1. Please don’t say we were lucky, they will come on you.

      As usual, same old. We celebrate the outcome not the process. Let’s forget together.

    2. Wait till the Pioli bodyguards, who can’t face the truth descend on you here.
      It will all be obvious when the season starts. Probably too late by then

  4. If anyone still thinks After watching this game (although a friendly) that we still do not need an upgrade at RB you are crazy lol. Florenzi was beat like a drum vs Fati and offered nothing moving forward. Calabria would do no better (offensively) perhaps a bit better defensively. But given his constantly recurring injuries he cannot be relied on. Zero offensive threat from the right side caused Barca to predictably overlaid the left side as so many teams do. Chukwueze will help but he needs an overlapping RB that can help him. We cannot and should not rely on those 2 for that position – and Salesmakers is green as they come as a RB. Yikes

  5. Musah will help the midfield, adding speed and physicality. We will back to the 4-2-3-1 very soon. I can see Musah and Reijnders in the double pivot. Pulisic at the 10 and even RLC being used there. I don’t think Pioli can coach any other way.
    Giroud was completely invisible. Looks old and slow. Interested to see how Okafor will look in that spot.

  6. We never left the 4-2-3-1, dude. And if we are counting on a combination of RLC and Pulisic as AMC, then we are doomed.

        1. It shows you can’t be taken seriously when talking about football players if you still think CDK should be starting on this team.

  7. I watched the game and the service to Olivier Giroud was diabolical it really was ,,,He is a player that commands the box ,and he does that really well .
    So please don’t single him out ..He is far from finished and will probably be a leading scorer this season .
    The team we have on paper looks good ,but it will take time for us to gel together…Rafael Leao however does look up to the task ..I am sure the understanding will come together soon ..What we need is a win and then confidence will come ..I still have no doubt that Olivier Giroud will deliver and that we will challenge for honours this season …We have got some good players indeed a completely different team from last season …This is why it does take time for players to settle into perhaps a new formation .A bit confused as to what this formation will be ?
    In a few weeks time you will all be saying what a good team we have ..perhaps I have more confidence than most of you ..

  8. Without Tonali, milan dont have true box to box midfield, RLC is lazy as leao, Tijjani is not good either in defend, when Milan used 4231 when theo climb there is tonali or krunic to cover up the hole, and now we didnt see theo comes forward with 433 coz nobody cover the hole, everybody wants to attack no one want to do dirty work, krunic lose their partner in crime tonali

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