Tomori offers an insight on ‘becoming a total defender’ and Milan’s targets

By Ben Dixon -

After his fellow Cobham graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek appeared on the first episode of MilanTV’s series ‘Gameplay’, Fikayo Tomori has now been welcomed onto the show to discuss his role as a defender and what it means to play for AC Milan. 

Since joining Milan, Tomori has gone from strength to strength at an incredible rate and has proved he can take the club forward with his good performances. With every passing season, the Englishman continues to prove why his former club made the mistake of parting with him.

However, for reasons out of the defender’s hands, this season, he has not been able to show his abilities to the best of his abilities due to him suffering a hamstring injury against Salernitana. Given the 26-year-old returned from the injury this week, it will be hoped that he can return to his best quickly as the Diavolo look to go deep into the Europa League.

Finally, with the European Championship in Germany this summer, he will aim to give Gareth Southgate a headache about his defensive selections in the months leading up to the tournament.

Tomori spoke to MilanTV about his role in the team and Milan’s targets for the future – his words have been relayed by PianetaMilan.

Do your feel like a modern defender?

“Yes, I would say yes. I try to adapt my game based on the opponents I face, opponents who have different strengths and characteristics from mine. I do my best to always add something to my game, I try to improve as much as possible.

“I try to become a complete defender. In today’s football it is very difficult because there are so many elements that can change in a second during the match. I try to improve as much as possible in each match to be the best version of myself.”

What position did you play as a child?

“At the beginning everyone wants to play in attack to score goals. I started there too, then at 13-14 years old I also started playing as a central defender. Since 16-17 I’ve played only as a central defender and so I grew up in this role.

“I’ve always been quick to catch up to my opponents. Even as a child I had the mentality of being the one who saved the situation. As a defender I have a lot more chances to do so.”

What improvements have you made since moving to Italy?

“Coming to play in Italy I realised the attention given to detail in defending and how important it is not to defend alone, but to do it with your team-mates.

“In England I used instinct more than now where I have to think more where I am in relation to the team, the ball, where we are on the pitch and where the opponents are.

“Coming to Italy allowed me to grow from this point of view and helped me not to rely only on instinct. Then there are moments of the match where you have to play instinctively.

“In Italy I improved the way I read the match and I tried to learn as much as possible from different defenders, the coach and the other coaches.”

And in the build-up phase?

“We build a lot from the back, we try to play the ball from the defence. The aim is to give the ball to those with more technique like Reijnders, Bennacer, Adli, Leao and Pulisic.

“This is something we all try to do. So we can control the game more. The idea is to give the team a solid base from which to build and be reliable with the ball.”

What are your responsibilities?

“I get on the ball a lot, so I have to be reliable for the team. I have to help them build out and go forwrd. It’s about being reliable with the ball and making the right choices. What type of passes do I prefer? Depends on the matches, the opponents and/or on how we want to build.

“There are many different games and different opponents, we are faced with different situations. You have to be ready for different scenarios, we have to be prepared to best face each situation. I want to improve in the riskiest passes, that’s something I am working on.”

What was the Scudetto season like?

“That year we were really strong. For a team like ours, having conceded less than one goal every 90 minutes was fundamental. We had many attacking players. This defensive solidity gave us great confidence, we were difficult to beat.”

Milan seem to get more clean sheets with you on the pitch…

“I didn’t know. It’s a good fact. But then I think about when we conceded stupid goals or when we were turned off for a second. When I think about the fact that when I’m on the pitch, there are more clean sheets, it’s nice, it’s what I want.

“Even the data on ‘blocked shots’ makes me happy. There’s always room for improvement, but I’m happy with these numbers.”

The team play the ball out from the back a lot…

“Yes, I think it is linked to being the basis of the team’s play, being in the centre where the ball often passes, being reliable with the ball and helping the team push forward. Helping the team in building and advancing.

“Yes It’s about being reliable in possession, using the ball well, making the right decisions. I think this helps us move the ball forward and put the most decisive players in attack in a position to make the difference.”

You are a very aggressive defender…

“I think I’ve improved a lot since I’ve been here. I’ve always been able to stay on top of the man, regardless of size. I remember Fiorentina-Milan a lot from my first year, it was a great match.

“I really like the one-on-one duels with the attacker because it’s a question of concentration and showing what you can do. It’s a mental battle, there are different scenarios and you have to try to win many battles.

“If you can play a match on the pitch in which you show your best qualities, this makes you look very good and makes you feel good. In this type of match, where I have to be aggressive and engage in battles at speed, I can demonstrate my level.”

And, every now and then, you also score a few goals…

“I worked to be more incisive inside the playing area when we attack, but also more active when we defend and try to limit the opponents. Every time you score, you feel a fantastic feeling. I scored three goals this season and I’m in love with these goals because I’m an attacker, with the ball looking for you because you’re in the right place.

“I’m also happy because as a team we wanted to score more from set pieces and the three I scored were [from set pieces]. I want to score as many goals as possible, but my first task is defending the goal. Obviously scoring is not my primary job.

“My primary job is to defend the goal, but when you see the space available you have to exploit it. This season I’ve already scored three goals and I think it’s the best performance in my career.

“It’s something I have to work on, being dangerous even in the opponent’s area. Having the opportunity to score goals is definitely a good feeling.”

Do you like sliding challenges?

“It’s a question of experience and recovery. It’s always been a quality of mine to recover very quickly. It’s a question of timing, looking only at the ball and not at the man, being careful to have the right angle for the slide. This is something that I’ve always done it.”

How do you get on with your team-mates?

“It’s something we work on in training, especially on the left wing with Theo and Leao. I have to have the ability to understand when they start or when Theo moves to the centre and I have space.

“We work on understanding the spaces, it also depends on the opponents. How against Torino who work one-on-one across the pitch, Theo moves centrally and I had the chance to open up on the left and escape the attacker’s marking.”

You’ve made some great blocks in front of goal…

“You just have to defend the goal and clear the ball as soon as possible, it’s also a question of instinct. Being a defender involves sensing the sense of danger and where the ball can go. In these situations I try to predict where the ball will go, this is the job I do.

“The one against Newcastle I think is my best block of my career. At that moment I had seen the development and I had seen Almiron in front of me: I couldn’t get around him, so when I saw Joelinton shoot, it was just a matter of predicting where the ball would go.

“I tried to put my foot down to catch the ball first, in the end I hit it at the moment Almiron hit it too. I was just trying to put a part of the body to save the situation. Then we managed to win the match and that’s the most important thing.”

Your first goal in Serie A caused some comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo…

“Against Juventus I scored my first goal for Milan and it was a moment full of pride. After a few days I saw that everyone was talking about how I had jumped higher than Cristiano Ronaldo [his header against Sampdoria].

“Do I feel more superhuman than him? Cristiano has many records and I will never count the number of goals he scored, in this aspect he is certainly more superhuman than me.

“But in this leap I managed to do better than him. Maybe one day I will be able to do better, it’s a goal of mine… But for now I’m keeping this record.”

Do you ever take free-kicks?

“The one I took against PSG was going in, but the defender intervened with his head. In training we take free kicks and I surprised my team-mates. They didn’t think I knew how to take free kicks. Theo Hernandez, Giroud, Adli, Bennacer and Florenzi are specialists.

“This season we haven’t scored from a free-kick, maybe only once or maximum twice since I wore the Rossoneri colours. I’m working on it and I want to get involved, so it will be another string to add to my bow.”

Was your best match in London against Tottenham?

“I think it was my best performance. I was back in London and my relatives were there, as well as being the second leg of the Champions League after the first leg was won by a goal to nil.

“That match was very important, the whole team defended the lead from the first leg and produced a clean sheet, demonstrating solidity. We didn’t manage to score, but we didn’t concede any goals.

“I was disappointed because I hadn’t played the first leg due to injury, but in the second leg I was determined not to waste what we had achieved from my team-mates. I was very happy because we managed to get through, especially against a player like Kane.”

What are your future goals?

“I want to win trophies playing for Milan. We know the history of the club and we wrote a first page with the Scudetto and now we have a team capable of winning again. I have to improve, not only for myself but also for the team.”

The full interview can be found below.

Tags AC Milan Fikayo Tomori
Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.