Pulisic dilemma and midfield success: Three takeaways from the Monza friendly

By Isak Möller -

AC Milan won their first game of the pre-season last night, excluding the Lumezzane clash, as they prevailed 6-5 on penalties against Monza. So, what were the three main takeaways from the game?

Christian Pulisic opened the scoring for the Rossoneri in the 29th minute, converting the rebound of his own penalty miss. However, Milan didn’t have the lead for long as Monza equalised in the 32nd, and that ended up being the scoreline after 90 minutes.

Milan converted all six of their penalties in the penalty shoot-out, while Monza missed their sixth. Stefano Pioli’s men thus got to lift the Silvio Berlusconi trophy for the first time. Below are three takeaways from the game.

1. Pulisic best position is not right-wing

The American was decisive in the sense that he won the penalty and then scored Milan’s only goal of the game. However, besides that one sequence, he struggled to beat his man on the right flank and wasn’t really that impactful.

Now, having said that, it’s clear that he’s still very comfortable on the ball and that does make things easier for Milan, but right-wing doesn’t appear to be his best position. It’s still early days, of course, and he could improve but maybe Pioli should start thinking about another position for him.

Samuel Chukwueze will most likely be occupying the right flank soon and Rafael Leao’s spot on the left, despite his poor performance last night, is cemented. Pioli stated after the game that he could play Pulisic as an attacking midfielder.

2. Midfield signings looking good

Tijjani Reijnders and Ruben Loftus-Cheek got the highest scores in our player ratings, both at 6.5/10, as they looked very good in the midfield. Reijnders always seemed to be in the right position, also making use of his skills when in possession, and Loftus-Cheek showed great strength in the duels.

It’s clear that the new signings slowly but steadily are adapting to Milan’s style of play and yesterday’s game was further proof of that. Reijnders will be a key player this season with his movement between the line, picking out the right passes as well, while Loftus-Cheek gives the midfield a much-needed physical presence.

It will be very interesting to see Yunus Musah in action as well and, above all, which position he will be deployed in. Pioli stated after the game that he believes the midfield department now is ‘complete’ and while the fans may have a different opinion on that, last night’s clash was a step in the right direction.

3. Giroud, where are you?

It has almost become tiring to mention the Frenchman after every single game, but he continues to struggle big time up front. He was involved in the sequence that led to the penalty, in fairness, but didn’t do much more than that.

He got the ball in the box a couple of times but his efforts were blocked, apart from one overhead kick that almost ended as a throw for Monza. Lorenzo Colombo came on in the second half and looked much brighter, dropping down when needed and involving himself in the game.

Giroud has just under two weeks to get ready for the season opener and one can only hope that he will look better then. Comparing this pre-season to last year’s, the fans are right to be a bit worried.

Tags AC Milan Monza


  1. Think Giroud will be slowing moving into a role coming in off the bench especially once Okafor gets acclimated to the team. I’d like to see Pioli stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation and put Pulisic as the #10 with Leao on the LW and Chukuwueze on the RW. Rotation in the midfield that could see Musah, Bennacer, Krunic, or Pobega come into the game later and switch to a 4-3-3 would be the correct way to maximize the abilities of our team.

    1. Is there a place where it states that Pulisic must start or that Leao must play 90mins ? This is why there’s substitutions in games for some players to give way, no players can perform in all potential 50+ games and the game he is terrible, he gets subbed. Even KDB gets subbed in the 50th minute sometimes. The major problem is Pioli’s game and player management, 4 3 3 is just fine.

      1. Well, Pioli may have made certain promises to certain players about playing time or the role they would be used in to get them to come here. I don’t think he came here to be a backup. Could’ve stayed at Chelsea for that. I think Pioli will be back to his 4-2-3-1 before long with Pulisic at the AM.

        1. At the detriment of the team ?
          If you watched the match yesterday you’d agree with this article Pulisic was useless on the pitch even Saladmaker would have done better. RW doesn’t suite him and 4-3-3 is just right with them midfielders we have. Pulisic should come from the bench or start every 3-5 match, it’s the best bet

          1. Oh God. Another Saelamaeker defender. Pulisic on one leg will score more goals than Saelemaekers and his 2 goal per season average. He was useless but drew the penalty and scored the only goal. I wouldn’t call that useless. ANd they have not looked good in the 4-3-3. Haven’t won a single match yet, and if not for a few brilliant saves from Maignan would have lost to Monza.

        2. “Well, Pioli may have made certain promises to certain players about playing time or the role they would be used in to get them to come here. ”

          LOL. Yeah, “the coach promised me I’d play 90mins each game, booohoooo”. FFS… Get real. It’s a competitive sports where everyone is a professional. The minutes must be earned on pitch – not behind the scenes. If that’s not OK, then you’re in the wrong business.

  2. Giroud needs not be a starter he should be a backup right now as the 3rd striker behind Colombo but some people think he is a world cup runner up, dude is almost 40. He should come in when defenders are tired, just maybe something might click… Like the article says we should be worried with what we are seeing cus the coach is looking clueless but some dudes here feel it’s just friendlies it doesn’t count. Well okay 😅

  3. Giroud was always supposed to be a back up. Shouldn’t expect much from him. Glad we got Noah and Sammy, but we still need a better CF option. Old man Oli can’t run from his age forever.

  4. Giroud has hit the proverbial brick wall. Let’s see how Okafor shakes out, but he does not seem to be an out and out striker. I think we’ll get by the season between the two of them (and Colombo) given the firepower we’ve added behind them, but summer of 2024 will be have to the summer of the bigtime striker (and CB if we don’t sign another this summer), since we seem to be sorted everywhere else at this point. In 2024, the entire transfer kitty should be focused on the best striker we can get. Once this is done the squad ought to be fairly settled and we can focus on bleeding in top talent from the primavera for a couple of seasons.

    1. excellent post. I agree 100%. I’m very worried that Pioli will keep starting Giroud and I’m not sure Okafor can score double digits. Colombo apparently has been asking to be loaned out. If we lose him, we’re in trouble unless we sign a quality striker before the window closes.

  5. These have been ongoing concerns to some. Needing a #9 the longest. Pioli will inevitably go back 4231 if the 433 doesn’t click.

    I’m no fan of Pulisic but hes fine as a backup/ in rotation in 4231 or 433
    As #10 he will struggle at the highest levels

    Reijnders and RLC have been good, yes. They definitely have some limitations in protecting the defense.

    Most importantly
    Pioli’s comments about the midfield being complete def hint that hes going to continue to use a hybrid of two formations for now. Neither of which we are really built for at this point.

    #9 enough said

  6. Pretty sure Giroud might be injured. We all saw his cooling of the left ankle after he was subbed off
    That would explain his poor movement etc etc

  7. I can’t bash giroud because when he’s needed most he shows up. But that’s not to say he really annoys me lol… One thing about his game is that he always does a one touch pass,never holding up the ball. He’s slow but physically strong so I feel like he can hold the ball up a lot more and wait for his teammates to get involved, rather than being fancy and even psyching out our own players.

    Reijnders so far looks like he can be the surprise of the serie a season. The way he carries the ball and opens up space is something to admire. Loftus cheek if he can stay healthy can finally show what all the fuss was about him.

    Pulisic it’s clear the right wing not be his best position but he’ll come good there.. I know we’re aiming to play a 4 3 3 but I’d definitely like to see the 4 2 3 1 before the season starts with RLC and reijnders as the two with leao pulisic chukwueze as the trident. We’re one good defensive mid away from being complete I think.

  8. RLC has impressed me so far and Reijnders is definitely the kind of player we needed in midfield for more style and substance.

  9. Agree with most of what you write, Isak. Contrary to what both the GdS, Milannews, and the one who put grades on the players for this match on sempremilan.com, thought about Pulisic’s performance, I thought it was really poor – the goal can’t hide the fact that he lost the ball all the time, made wrong decisions, and was easy to anticipate when never going outside the fullback. He is DEFINITELY not a right winger. And as Pioli said, the only other option is as ACM, but both in that position and as AML he will not be a starter unless Leao or RLC gets injured. What also worries me, is his non-existent defensive contribution. On this last aspect at least, Saelemaekers and Messias is better.

    Conclusion: Pulisic is a waste of money.

  10. Reijnders on the other hand, looks like a diamond. The first touch, the passing and the workrate was first class. He lacks duelling power, an some tactical awareness, but in everything else he really excelled. A great buy!

    1. Word. The tactical awareness will improve in this tactical league, the dueling power is another matter, but that’s why we need a CM that can be the muscle. Lets see if Musah turns into this.

  11. We can manage with what we have for now, by December we are getting Veliz. Interestingly if I was the coach, sometimes I will try laeo as CF, Pulisic on the left and Sammy on the right, it could work.

  12. The entire game was run through puilisic. He did much better on the right wing than anyone. I am not sure what game people watched but for the first time in milan with leao I sam majority of the play involve pulisc not leao

  13. pioli sollte 4-2-3-1 spielen. mit pulisic als AM. giroud spielt in der cl, okafor in der coppa italia und in der liga wechseln sie sich ab

  14. I think this 4-3-3 is bad idea. Giroud always get too isolated, cannot link passes like usual (when we have an AMC). And wingers find it harder to find spaces.
    We only enjoy the ball at mid, not at final third. That’s bad for attacking team like AMC.

    I think that’s right : Pulisic go AMC. He might help link Giroud up with build up play again, and Pulisic has the quality for it (He is an AMC at USA National Team).

    We need back to 4-2-3-1.
    DF : Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori, Theo (Kalulu, Kjaer, Simic, Florenzi)
    Pivots : Loftus-Cheeks / Musah (Segundo Volante), Reijnders / Bennacer (Regista)
    RW : Chukwueze / Luka Romero (Inverted Winger)
    AMC : Pulisic / CDK
    LW : Leao / Okafor (Inside Forward)
    STC : Giroud / Colombo / Lazetic

    We still have it, only need a little adjustments from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1.

  15. “However, besides that one sequence, he struggled to beat his man on the right flank and wasn’t really that impactful.”

    Hmm… Did we watch the same match because I saw several good crosses coming from Pulisic from the right side? Struggled to beat? Lost the ball maybe twice. Oh well…

  16. Pulisic will come good on the right. He alternated between sides at Chelsea, though mainly on the left in the last two years, and he generally played on the right for Dortmund.

    Left is his preferred side, but he can play any attacking position (except CF). Give him a minute to adapt to the Italian style of play.

  17. Chuku will play right. If Pulisic goes AMF, what happens with DMF in this formation? I’d be happy to try out Pulisic as a false nine, to see if that is a workable option to persevering with Giroud, who will continue to struggle to score more than 12-15.. we still have a couple of friendlies..

  18. We will move back to a 4-2-3-1 to be able to use Pulisic (ACM) – otherwise he is just and expensive back up (4M) RW to Chukwueze. Means we are overloaded in mid unless RLC and Pulisc rotate at ACM. DM Pivots – Reindjers/Benny/Pobega and Musah/RLC/Krunic – 6 players for 2 spots? Lots of $$ just for mid. We will sell Benny in Janaury to SA I bet. Still no STRIKER?? Not good

  19. In four matches, Milan has 5 goals and Pulisic has contributed to 3 of them. I guarantee you his is one of the first names on sheet when Pioli fills out his starting XI. If he stays healthy, he will start on the right wing, as the AM or on the left wing in 80% of the games this year.

  20. I see them as playing a 4 2 3 1 this pre-season. Pivots: Krunic defensive, reijnders progressive, RLC as a 10…

    I think whatever you call it, its more about what the players roles are. And its going to take some time for them to figure out the defense as the last game RLC and Krunic were way too distant vertically giving up a ton of space. The press should be compact.

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