The squad celebrates after scoring during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)The squad celebrates after scoring during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

After winning against Sampdoria on Friday, Milan face Lazio at 20:45 CET tonight and there are some things that need to be fixed. Article by Okey Ihenacho.

Milan returned once again to winning ways after a hard fought match against Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris which saw the away team eke out a 1-0 victory late in the contest.

It was a decent overall performance and a deserved result from the Rossoneri who were in desperate need of some positive news after the heartbreaking last minute loss to Udinese. We will look at how Milan matched up with Sampdoria and the things they must fix to avoid a loss against Lazio.

Coach Montella employed the team in the familiar 4-3-3, which has been Milan’s go-to formation thus far this season. On the opposite side, Coach Marco Giampaolo – who was close to joining Milan before Vincenzo – employed his boys in the 4-3-1-2. These two line-ups will dictate that the game will be fought and won by the ability of either midfield to control and dominate the game.

Figure (1) below is the heat map showing the zones on the field with the most activity.

Figure 1: Heat Activity - Left figure (A): combined activity; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria's activity; Right figure (C): Milan's activityFigure 1: Heat Activity – Left figure (A): combined activity; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria’s activity; Right figure (C): Milan’s activity

For each picture, the top part of the field represents Sampdoria’s half while the bottom part is Milan’s. Figure 1 (A) is the combined activity of both teams for the duration of the game. As shown, it is evident the preponderance on play is in Milan’s half of the field.

Figure 1 (B) isolates Samp’s activity which shows their desire to attack the middle of Milan’s formation and also from their left flank (that is preferring to press their attack in Abate’s area of responsibility). Figure 1 (C) depicts Milan’s activity which shows a preference to attack from the left flank. This means Milan is more comfortable with Niang and Bonaventura being the catalysts for their attack.

Figure 2 below shows the average positioning of each team for the duration of the game and how the teams matched up. The icons in light blue represent Milan while those in gray represent Sampdoria.

Figure 1: Average Positioning - Left figure (A): combined positioning; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria's positioning; Right figure (C): Milan's positioningFigure 2: Average Positioning – Left figure (A): combined positioning; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria’s positioning; Right figure (C): Milan’s positioning

Looking at Figure 2 (B), the average positioning of Sampdoria explains why their quality of play seemed better than Milan’s for the duration of the game. The defense not only played with a high-line but maintained adequate dispersion along the back line ensuring mutual support among the defenders. Moreover, a key thing to notice is how the backline was integrated with the midfield players. This gave very little spacing for opposing players to exploit, as can be seen in Figure 2 (A) (Gianluca Lapadula – #9 – is surrounded by 3 players of Sampdoria #29, #37, #34).

In contrast, looking at Figure 2 (C), the average positioning and dispersion of Milan shows why they are not only dominated during for stretches of gameplay but also why a majority of the game is played in Milan’s half. The positioning of the backline and the lack of adjustment during the game is something that needs to be remedied. It shows a couple of things: that leadership is lacking out there on the field and also that there is a lack of self-confidence with the individual players.

Gianluca Lapadula and Milan Škriniar during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (@acmilan.com)Gianluca Lapadula and Milan Škriniar during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (@acmilan.com)

Look at Paletta (#29 of Milan) for example, he is the deepest defender in the backline. This is because his weakness is his lack of pace, but another concerning thing is the dispersion between him and Alessio Romagnoli (#13 of Milan). Looking at the graphic, it shows a defensive unit that is disjointed and not playing well together. However, there were moments of individual brilliance from the players.

Milan’s midfield, in my opinion, was the best unit for the team during this game in term of maintaining formation. The ball skills of Sosa and Jack allowed Montolivo to do what he does best which is cut off passing lanes (which he is very effective at doing). They maintained their dispersion and were mutually supporting; the only downside was their lack of support to the defense.

Looking at the Figure 2 (A), you can see the dispersion between the Milan midfield unit and its defense. Contrary to Sampdoria, this lack of integration and mutual supportability by both Milan units (defense and midfield) explains why the Milan team seemed under siege for most of the match. You can see the big lanes created by these gaps, allowing Sampdoria to load players in those spaces and apply the pressure on Milan (average positioning of #9 and #27 of Sampdoria).

Montella during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (@acmilan.com)Montella during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (@acmilan.com)

Milan can fix this in two ways: move the backline up another five meters to close the spaces down or move the midfield back the same distance. The former would be ideal but the risk is Milan’s CB’s getting beat on pace and the latter is less ideal because it invites more pressure in the Milan half. Although Paletta has played very well this season, he lacks the pace to cover for Romagnoli when the latter pushes up field.

The positive thing is that the team is improving from game to game, though the results have not always been in their favor. I am sure Coach Montella has seen some of these weaknesses identified here during tape study but he must have this team prepared to remedy them.

Milan came into the Sampdoria game with the right attitude, a must win mentality, and obtained the necessary three points. This should serve as a solid foundation to build from as the face Lazio tomorrow in a crucial clash.

This is Okey and as always, Forza Milan!

LEAVE A REPLY