After the losing the first game of the new season against Udinese, Marco Giampaolo’s Milan needed to recover and react at home, with the new manager wanting to earn his first Serie A win with Milan against the newly promoted team Brescia, who defeated Cagliari last weekend. Giampaolo had previously said that his 4-3-1-2 wsa not fitting perfectly with his players’ abilities, so he would modify something but maintain his strong principles at the base. Eugenio Corini had not got Mario Balotelli yet due to his four-match suspension, but he got back Ernesto Torregrossa from injury.
This tactical analysis will explain how Milan’s tactics overcame Brescia’s style of play, and how some of Giampaolo’s strong choices worked in this match.
Giampaolo changed his classic 4-3-1-2 to a 4-3-2-1, aimed at putting Suso in his preferred place: the wing. However, he made changes not only to his in-game tactics, but also to the personnel involved. He confirmed the back four in front of Gianluigi Donnarumma while giving a debut to the new signing Ismaël Bennacer, next to Franck Kessié in midfield; with Hakan Çalhanoğlu alongside them. In attack, alongside Samu Castillejo and Suso, he played Andrè Silva and not the Polish star Krzystof Piątek. We will do an analysis of his choices.
Corini confirmed his 4-3-1-2 with the youngster Sandro Tonali as a holding midfielder and the return of Daniele Dessena in midfield, with the two strikers who were fundamental for their promotion from Serie B, Alfredo Donnarumma and Ernesto Torregrossa, as the attackers.
Milan’s changes, and Suso’s influence on the game
Giampaolo has shown his detractors that he is a flexible and smart manager; he has always said that Suso is one of Milan‘s top players, and he must enable him to play at his best. To do this, after the failed attempts over the summer of making him a real “trequartista“, he decided to change his tactics, putting Suso on the right side again, rebuilding the right side chain with Davide Calabria and Kessiè.
On the right flank, he can receive the ball, protecting it with the body and can take the opponent left-back on in a 1v1 situation where he can shoot or cross with his deadly left foot, or he can turn on his right to put in a cross to the far post, where the other winger (Andrè Silva) or the left midfielder can shoot with a header, as Calhanoglu has done in the Milan’s goal.
Milan continued to have that style of play on the right, with Kessiè moving wider to free Suso from his marking, and Suso playing in the right half-space, aiming to receive and then open play on Brescia’s weak side. In order to do this, Milan’s build-up needed to be secure from the start, and Milan had a player whose strength lay in playing the ball under pressure; Ismaël Bennacer. Thanks to his skills and movement the ball could be played on the fullbacks without pressure.
Giampaolo has worked hard on his players, and even in August they are present in the opposition penalty area late in the game, but the main weakness is perversely the strength we have underlined before; Milan play down the right flank most of the time, and if opponents can understand how to stop Suso, they have a problem.
Brescia went to face Milan without fear
After a great season in Serie B, Eugenio Corini has overcome Cagliari with his tactics, and he went to San Siro without any fear, trusting his style of play even in the face of a tough opponent.
We can do an analysis of their tactics starting from the 4-3-1-2 formation, which was aimed to control the centre of the field to trigger the strikers’ combination and attack the opponent’s goal, maintaining compactness between the back four and the midfield thanks to Sandro Tonali’s defensive work. The youngster is one of the brightest stars of the Italy U-21 team, and he is a great holding midfielder with good skills in passing and blocking opponents, slipping behind the midfielders to cover their pressing and their movement, and helping the back four with their opponents.
Brescia attack with fast rotations between their offensive players like Spalek and the two strikers, Donnarumma and Torregrossa. Several times the strikers went wide to stretch the opponent’s defence, and to receive the ball without the strict man-marking that they would have encountered in the centre of the field. This movement opened up space to exploit for the other striker or the trequartista.
Brescia’s tactics were a good threat to Milan’s defence, but they lost some attacking power with Torregrossa’s injury, which deprived them of his tactical skills and his offensive set of movements in conjunction with Donnarumma. Due to this problem, after a first-half with good chances (especially for Sabelli and Bisoli), Brescia’s manager Corini lost something in his play.
Giampaolo showed his courage in making hard decisions; playing Çalhanoğlu and Andrè Silva instead of Paquetà and Piątek. Çalhanoğlu was the match-winner, and Andrè Silva played a good game, even if though it may have been his last in Serie A. Brescia again demonstrated their great skills and their good style of play guided by Sandro Tonali (write it down, you will remember him) that can be their pass to another season in Serie A; it will depend on the return of Torregrossa from his injuries, and on Balotelli, the real star in Brescia’s ranks.
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