Will Tottenham pass now?
AC Milan came into the first game against Tottenham in the worst form they’ve been in years. An uncomfortable pause and the emasculation of the leaders provoked a serious structural crisis. The champion won just 2 out of 9 matches in the new year.
On the eve of the first match, we described the problems . Poor form made it difficult for Giroud and Theo to maintain their usual volumes of movement without the ball and discredited the firm’s intense football, and the jambs of the substitute keeper brightly highlighted the difficulties. The decline showed a halt in development: Pioli used to give the game new dimensions by integrating newcomers, but this season he entered with the same ideas.
In the last month, Milan have been on the mend. The team scored 4 victories in a row and not offensively lost to the fast Fiorentina in one of the most exciting matches of the season.
Let’s see what has changed.
Pioli went from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-2-1. The new model covered the recession and concreted protection
Pioli came up with a solution in early February – he ran the scheme with three defenders in the Milan derby. It turned out bad. The cousins crushed his crew.
But the coach rested – and the new model worked.
Milan are now playing in a 3-4-2-1 with a narrow Leau position, two wides and a trio of athletic and fast centre-backs. The module masked the physical decline and gave stability in all phases. There were three key decisions:
1. Pioli temporarily abandoned a key element of his playing identity – aggressive pressing. The average PPDA (number of passes allowed to an opponent before the first defensive action) fell from 9.2 to 13.4 in the new scheme.
It worked. Previously, Milan controlled the space with constant pressure, but with the recession, Giroud was substituted more often – there was not enough movement in the first line (Leau traditionally rested without the ball). The refusal removed the dependence on high returns and saved the Frenchman the strength for profile work with his back to the goal. Instead of suffocating total pressure, the team closed in positional defense – simply, but reliably.
In recent matches, there has been a rollback to the usual activity. With Fiorentina, PPDA approached the usual level of 10.26. It seems that the team came out of the physical hole – and Pioli reacted.
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2. Switching to a three-back game made it easier for Theo Hernandez. Coexistence on the same wing with Leau made it difficult to play defense. In the stage without the ball, the Frenchman was responsible for the entire region. Usually he coped with this, but after the World Cup he got hooked and did not have time to return. Fast rivals tore apart the flank.
The third center back covered his back, and Leau’s narrow role created extra space. Hernandez often remains one on one with rivals on the edge or without guardianship on the half-flank.
The concentration on the attack and the amount of space even better revealed Theo’s penetrating athleticism and phenomenal speed. It was he who pushed Romero and made a goal for Tottenham. He also scored Atalanta (the goal was recorded on Musso) and Fiorentina, gave an assist from Torino and tortured Monza (participated in 10 of 14 team shots).
3. The transition to the three defenders has optimized the firm’s game in the last line. Pioli uses active defense with personal orientations. Centerbacks defend by moving forward and attacking the opponent as soon as he receives the ball in their zone. But Theo’s poor form and Meignan’s injury exposed the shortcomings of the doubles approach: too much space was out of control.
The meeting with Atalanta’s 20-year-old Heilund showed the benefits of the new scheme. His age just sounds harmless. The powerful Dane runs the 100-meter race in under 11 seconds and is already attacking space better than most forwards in the world. But the Milanese strangled him. Malik Tiav physically overpowered Rasmus in the center. He lost the ball faster than he turned around and moved to the left side in search of space.
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