In the sixth round of Serie A 2020/21, Milan, leaders of the league table managed to reach the three points with a very precious victory against a tough host, Udinese.

Udinese entered the match with only three points, which they achieved from a single victory over Parma in the fourth round, while Milan entered the match with 13 points from four wins and one draw in the last round against Roma.

In the end, Milan managed to get their fifth victory, bringing their score to 16 points in their exciting start to the season, while Udinese remained in the 18th place, to increase their suffering with this disappointing start.

This tactical analysis breaks down the tactics of the match. With the use of match footage and data, this analysis unpacks what happened in Milan’s 2-1 win over Udinese.

Line-ups

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Udinese started the match in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Juan Agustín Musso was the goalkeeper; the four-defenders were Jens Larsen, Sebastian De Maio, Rodrigo Becão, and the 25-year-old Brazilian Samir. The midfield trio were Rodrigo De Paul, Tolgay Arslan and Roberto Pereyra. Ignacio Pussetto and Gerard Deulofeu covered the wings while Stefano Okaka was the striker.

On the other hand, Milan started the match in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with starting XI: Gianluigi Donnarumma; Davide Calabria; Simon Kjær; Alessio Romagnoli; Theo Hernández; Ismaël Bennacer; Franck Kessié; Hakan Çalhanoğlu (formerly of the Bundesliga side Bayern Leverkusen); Alexis Saelemaekers; Rafael Leão and Zlatan Ibrahimović.

David Calabria as a right-back, Simon Kjær and Alessio Romagnoli is the centre backs, the brilliant Frenchman Theo Hernandez as left-back, with Franck Kessié and Ismaël Bennacer recently impressing and playing well alongside each other, the offensive trio were Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Alexis Saelemaekers and Rafael Leão and the attack was led by Swedish superstar Ibrahimović.

Milan’s pressing and their defensive style

Milan’s players started the match pressing in all areas of the field; they did not leave the ball to the Udinese players often, but rather quickly got it back in the attacking areas. They enjoyed a great PPDA throughout the match as we can see below in the PPDA match report.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

The pressure of Milan’s players was not only limited to recovering the ball in their own half, but also they were able to apply high pressing on Udinese players in their areas to force them to kick the ball out for a throw-in or force them to play the ball incorrectly to get Milan players into more dangerous areas.

Here we can see this very clearly, as the Milan players put an organised and complete pressure on the Udinese players in their half, forcing Becão to kick the ball far away. The Milan players were able to get it again.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

When Milan’s players were in a phase of defence, they applied the mid-block in the form of 4-3-2-1 formation, this is in order not to allow the opponent’s players to make many passes and try to recover the ball early before the ball reaches the dangerous areas.

As we mentioned, Milan’s players enjoyed a wonderful PPDA, so that they applied the mid-block well, which helped them put pressure and recover the ball faster.

Here, for example, Milan’s players leave their areas to apply the mid-block on Udinese players and not allow them to make passes in their areas, which prompted Pussetto to kick the ball forward. Milan players could get it easily.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

But the biggest issue for Milan’s defence was when the opponent’s players reached the final third, due to poor coverage of the right-back Calabria and his always entering the penalty area and leaving the next winger from his side without pressure.

Below we can see that well, as when the ball was with De Paul on the left, Deulofeu was moving solo freely to the right without pressure from Calabria, but fortunately for Milan, De Paul was unable to pass the ball well to the other side towards Deulofeu.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Milan’s build-up

As we also mentioned that Milan relied heavily on the mid-block. In the build-up, they relied on intense passes in midfield towards Çalhanoğlu or Leão, while Ibrahimovic goes down to the half-spaces to receive the balls away from the pressing structures.

Below is a map of the most important passing links and the bold lines mean more passes, we can see that Çalhanoğlu is the player with the most passes from all areas of the field.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

When Milan’s players are in the build-up phase, one of Bennacer and Kessié moves in the space behind the advanced full-back to receive the ball, while the other enters the centre of the field to lure the opponent’s players deep into the field with him away from the sides.

When one of them receives the ball, the player who assigned to press Çalhanoğlu leaves his place to press the player who has the ball, at this moment he passes directly to Çalhanoğlu, who has become pressure-free.

Here, Bennacer moves to the right side of the field while Kessié moves towards the centre of the field while Çalhanoğlu without pressure.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Udinese’s defensive style and transitions

In the defensive phase, Udinese’s players lined up in two ways, when the ball was far from their defensive third, they lined up in a 4-3-2-1 formation.

And when the ball was in their defensive areas, they lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation to increase numbers around the box and prevent Milan players from penetrating and reaching to dangerous areas of the field as shown below.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Udinese’s players relied on playing from the side during their build-up, where Arslan drops back to receive the ball or is a distinct choice for passing and to begin passing the ball on both sides of the field as soon as he receives the ball as shown below.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Here is another example of their build-up. The goalkeeper starts playing from the back by passing the ball directly towards the right side without passing it to Arslan, and this shows their strength in these areas.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Milan’s attacking phase

In offensive cases, the Milan players relied on the Swedish star Ibrahimović most of the time to play balls for him behind the defenders to receive the ball and shoot or wait until he receives a support from behind and pass the ball.

Here, for example, Çalhanoğlu passes towards Ibrahimović based on his good movement of space behind the defenders.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Milan’s first goal is considered a model for Milan players’ dependence on Ibrahimović, as the ball passed to him and he received it in a wonderful way inside the box and then waited until Kessié came and then passed the ball to him so that the last brilliantly scored a goal as shown below.

Serie A 2019/20: Udinese vs Milan – tactical analysis - tactics

Conclusion

The Milan – Udinese match was a continuation of Milan’s brilliant start in Serie A this season, where they achieved three points as expected and with remarkable brilliance for Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scoring the winning goal, and he also made the assist of the first goal.

On the other hand, this match was a deepening of the wounds of Udinese, as they suffered their fifth defeat from 6 matches, and if they continue like this, then we will definitely see them next season in Serie B.