TMW: The pivots, the variants and the star men – Milan resume with Pioli’s 4-2-3-1

By Oliver Fisher -

Despite the fact there are some question marks about AC Milan’s starting XI heading into the new season, it seems on certainty is the formation.

The Rossoneri played their best football in years after the resumption of Serie A, winning nine of their last 12 games and blowing away the likes of Roma, Lazio and Juventus in the process.

Such a big part of that was Stefano Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 system and how well it executed the style of play that the head coach wanted from his team. Here, TMW break it down bit by bit…

The pivots

The brilliant results obtained in the second part of last season leave little doubt about the formations that will be used by Stefano Pioli.

It will indeed be a 4-2-3-1 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the point of reference from an attacking point of view, but the midfield double pivot formed by Bennacer and Kessie (a department reinforced with the purchase of Sandro Tonali) and from the imagination of Hakan Calhanoglu creates a very strong spine.

The variants

The search for another midfielder of quality – like Tiemoue Bakayoko – could suggest a return to 4-3-3. It is difficult to imagine that happening however, even if it is something Pioli could have in his locker.

In a 4-3-3, it would be expected that either Tonali or Bennacer would sit in front of the defence, with the Ivorian and the Algerian/Italian as box-to-box midfielders. Hakan Calhanoglu would probably be wide on the left and Ante Rebic on the right.

Even the 4-3-1-2 is not excluded: in that case the Croatian would be up front with Ibrahimovic, and Hakan behind them. Also important is the presence of Brahim Diaz, a wild card able to cover all the positions in the offensive trident.

The star men

Milan flexed their muscles late last season thanks to Ibrahimovic, and the team will look to continue to build from the personality and charisma of the Swede and finally achieve a long-awaited top four finish.

The other phenomenon is between the posts in Gianluigi Donnarumma, as the 21-year-old seems to have matured and is a very important part of the club’s project.

Theo Hernandez was the revelation of last season; a devastating and often decisive full-back even in the build-up phase. Finally, Hakan Calhanoglu – who had often been criticised – showed his best form at Milan yet when playing as a No.10.

The role of Gigio

Donnarumma at 21 has already crossed the threshold of 200 appearances with Milan and is a regular in the national team. He has come a long way in the five years since his debut, improving every season.

Despite his height – which helps him above all to save penalties – he manages to be an incredible shot stopper thanks to his reactions and makes impossible interventions and clearances.

The predicted XI

(4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic.

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