Why De Ketelaere and Adli have fallen out of favour under Pioli

By SempreMilan -

One of the issues that has been discussed most regarding the AC Milan squad has been how Charles De Ketelaere and Yacine Adli have seemingly fallen out of favour under Stefano Pioli.

Adli was left on loan at Bordeaux last season to help his development and then impressed in preseason yet he has only made one start in the league so far in the 2022-23 campaign, and was left out of the Champions League squad list altogether.

De Ketelaere meanwhile was Milan’s big coup in the summer transfer window after the Scudetto win and while the initial signs were bright and he seemed to have a starting spot, he has now been relegated behind Brahim Diaz and even Ismael Bennacer in the pecking order.

So just how have two creative playmakers who seemed nailed on to compete for the No.10 role ended up being the bottom two in the hierarchies? ScoutCalcio has analysed their season so far…

Pioli’s system

Arguably the most important thing to consider is that Pioli wants a heavy-man oriented press (at least until our energy levels have dropped within games or there is little time between fixtures). Below is a clip of what each player has to do as part of those instructions.

For De Ketelaere – who has always been at his best in a ‘false nine’ type role – his job as the attacking midfielder (the same goes for Adli and Brahim Diaz) off the ball is to pick up a player (Pioli tells them who) and to mark him tightly.

The following clip shows the game against Inter where his job was to mark Brozovic, and he failed.

Then there is the game against Napoli. The Partenopei’s three-man midfield started a heavy rotation passing sequence and all of Milan’s three men stick to each of their markers. Since it is a man-oriented system, just one player failing can and will cost the team heavily, like that Brozovic goal.

Importance of pressing

Jurgen Klopp once said that ‘no playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing’. Adli’s off the ball work was never outstanding. So while on the ball he is creative, the clip below shows that Pioli doesn’t depend on creativity in midfield and moreso on winning the ball back through the press.

The future

Will Adli and De Ketealere make it in this team? When both signed it became obvious that the best way to accentuate their skills is to switch to a more possession-oriented style.

Without doing that, it seemed unlikely that the Frenchman would forge a starting role while the Belgian seemed more suited to a different role like right winger or centre-forward.

Perhaps they can do enough work behind the scenes to become fitter and do more of what Pioli requires of his attacking midfielder, but if it were as simple as fitness and work rate then RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg would not have to discard players who do not make the cut on a technical level.

Perhaps next season with more fresh players and the press becoming better again both can fit in, but at the moment they just don’t seem to be capable of doing what Pioli requests because it simply is not in their make-up after the way they have been previously coached and developed at their previous clubs.

Tags AC Milan Charles De Ketelaere Yacine Adli


  1. Pioli doesn’t play adli even in games against mid-low block teams where we are totally dominate with the lions’ share of the possession.

  2. If you analysis is spot on, then M/M has done a very bad scouting job.

    In my opinion we have to be able to master both high counter-pressing, but also good mid-to-low pressing, and this is where CdK and Adli might be just as good as anyone else.

    1. A couple of points:

      1. Massara is wanted by Juventus, so he’s not bad at his job.

      2. The best coaches figure out how to use the players they have to the best of their ability. The don’t try to put square pegs in round holes. Ironically, Pioli in Italian is “pegs” in English.

      3. Pioli’s tactics. The goal allowed to Brozovic was no CDK’s fault. No way an AMC should be following a midfielder all the way to their own box. The one and only reason this goal was allowed was Kalulu and Tomori running around like chickens with their heads cut off out of position TRIPLE-TEAMING Chalhanoglu with Bennacer and failing. In the video you see Tomori returning from god knows where up the pitch and instead of running past Kalulu, who is engaging Calhanoglu, back into position BEHIND him to plug the hole Kalulu left he chooses to join in. And this is with Bennacer right next to him also going to triple-team Calhanoglu. Hakan played the ropa-a-dope to a tee there. Not CDK’s fault. Sorry.

      1. @Anaximander, sorry my post was partially in reply to you (Point 1) and became a partially general comment on the article. I don’t mean to imply you have any particular position on Pioli’s tactics or man-management.

      2. On the other hand juve is like a chicken without a head since they lost Marotta . they probably have a dozen guys on their want list

      3. Agree with you. There are several ways to oppose a filter to Brozo forward running but CdK running at his side is the worst one

  3. Why CDK and Adli have fallen out of favour ??? Adli hasn’t had a chance……ever !
    What he’s had is actually his momentum from preseason being snatchers from him.

  4. CDK at right wing. Please Pioli. Just try it. Leao and CDK on opposite flanks against a team that will sit in. CDK will never fit as an attacking mid with the current system. He can work if he’s played out wide and can regain some confidence.

    1. Good article, btw. Pioli’s system does not play with a real number 10. The attacking mid is just the first line of midfield pressing.

    1. He was not that good on the flanks at bruges
      He went most of the time to the flanks because thats were the space was butt he played in the center and Mats Rits and Hans Vanaken were in the center . And Hans Vanaken was the playmaker. Mats rits always infiltrated with long runs from the number 6 position. Cdk is a fals 9 he schould stay in the center. Bruges played a lot with a 3man defence too with wingbacks . He just need time

      1. Yes but this sounds completely different to how we line up. We can’t play a False 9 AND a target man, or whatever Giroud is supposed to be. So unless we’re going to bench Giroud and essentially let CDK be the forward, which is not going to happen, CDK doesn’t fit.

        1. I know , i’m just saying how they played at bruges. They played 3-5-2 completely different than milan. They played with 2 false 9 up front in bruges. Most of the time Cdk and Lang. Lang would be perfect for the number 10 role at milan and Vanaken too . They are 2 opposites. Vanaken is underrated . He is so intelligent. Lang would be perfect against low blok teams. He can get through with 1 touch of genius+ he can play up front and on the flanks. For 35mil they could’ve bought Vanaken and Lang. They would fit perfectly in the milan squad.

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