Sampdoria hosted AC Milan in Serie A as they looked to obtain a qualifying place for Europe. AC Milan arrived in Genoa with many questions to answer themselves as they pursue a place in next season’s Champions League, after their defeat against Inter Milan in the derby Madonnina.
AC Milan arrived at Luigi Ferrari stadium with Genaro Gattuso also under heavy scrutiny. A good result was required against Sampdoria to relieve some of the pressure on the Italian coach.
As expected, both sides lined up as expected. Marco Giampaolo set his Sampdoria up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with the busy Vieira as holding midfielder. Up front, the capocannoniere leader Fabio Quagriella was supported by Gregoire Defrel.
Gattuso set his AC Milan team up in a 4-3-3 formation with Tiémoué Babayoko selected ahead of Franck Kessié who was in Africa with the Ivory Coast national team, Lucas Biglia and Çalhanoğlu completed the midfield. Krzysztof Piątek operated as the central striker, with Samu Castillejo and Suso supporting from wide. Lucas Paquetá was restored to the bench after his participation in the international break with the Brazilian national team.
Sampdoria set up with a high defensive line, and their pressing was man-orientated. Gastón Ramírez operated in close proximity to Lucas Biglia who is not a famous technical player, Defrel and Quagriallera moved as intermittent wipers in front of the AC Milan back four. They pressed the back passes to the goalkeeper and their goal came from a huge error from the young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The main objective for Sampdoria was to prevent wide progression through Suso. As a result, the nearest midfielder, and the left-back were tasked with shadowing the Spaniard winger all game till he was subbed off in the 70th minute. This excellent work meant AC Milan were forced to build down the other flank with Samu Castillejo who this time, was stuck on the left-side contrarily to the game vs Chievo (1-2 win). The last AC Milan strategy was the direct ball to Piątek but the Polish forward was facing an organised defence, Andersen (four clearances) and Omar Colley (100% duels won)
The Sampdoria midfield performed well with quick combinations, they were really good in transition during the first half (87% success). Their main pattern was to build-up from the centre-backs, play wide to shift the AC Milan shape and then find one of the midfielders to play directly to the forwards runs. Ronaldo Vieira was the star in this midfield, with 81% pass completion, six duels won on nine disputed.
When AC Milan cover the central regions well, they often used long balls towards up to the Rossoneri back line, with Quagriallera and Gaston Ramirez as target men.
AC Milan analysis
When a striker misses a chance at goal it tends not to have such a direct effect on the scoreline as when a goalkeeper makes a mistake. The match had just started when Donnarumma did this to his team. It was just 33 seconds. Was it a lack of concentration? Or his deficiency to play with his feet that emerge once again because it was not the first time that the young Italian keeper has made a mistake which led to a goal. He committed one versus Inter Milan (0-1) in the first part of the season. However, after committing this, he registered two other wrong passes that could lead to further goals but his defence resolved the problem those times.
AC Milan not quick enough
AC Milan was not really quick enough in playing out from the back, Lucas Biglia and Bakayoko were not quick in transitions, while Sampdoria were playing a “one touch & pass” game.
Suso struggled to get the ball in good positions as he usually does, when his teammates found him with a space to exploit, he crossed to the box but the defence was tight on Piątek who had only two chances to score. In the first period after controlling the ball with his right hand, and in the second half with a header which was too weak to trouble the keeper who had a quiet 80 minutes.
Suso only managed one shot on target in the 24th minute and accumulated five crosses which didn’t find any of his teammates inside the box. Unfortunately for him, Davide Calabria never overlapped, it seemed clear that Gattuso didn’t want a situation of 2v2 when Sampdoria would regain the ball, Calabria was more present in the back beside Mussachio both surveying the dangerous Fabio Quagriallera who received a standing ovation from all the stadium at his substitution in the final third of the game.
It was too late…
When Lucas Paquetá and Patrick Cutrone were subbed ion, AC Milan shifted to a 3-5-2, with Castillejo on the left-side, Paquetá behind Piątek and Cutrone up front, this shape allowed AC Milan to play wide and flood the box with crosses.
This strategy worked but not efficiently as Sampdoria moved to a 5-3-2 in the last ten minutes. Andersen and the robust Omar Colley were particularly efficient in cutting the pass lanes.
In truth, AC Milan offered us a poor quality game with many mistakes in their build-up, it was not relative to the international break as only Romagnoli and Donnarumma were concerned by the FIFA journeys. Whilst Sampdoria ran out winners on the day, they were really impressive in combining from central regions to wide and remain very much in the running for the Europa League behind Lazio (sixth).