Milan hosted Hellas Verona in the seventh round of Serie A, Milan entered the match to continue its domination of the league. At the same time, Hellas Verona tried to reach the number five games without defeat.
The match ended in a 2-2 draw, Hellas Verona scored twice at the start of the match, after which Milan came back in the final minutes. Frankly, AC Milan deserves it; they played a great game.
In this tactical analysis, we will analysis the defensive tactics of Hellas Verona, what Milan did to break the defensive structure of their opponent and how they got a high XG score.
Coach Ivan Juric played with his favourite formation 3-4-2-1 that he used in 67% of his matches. Marco Silvestri was in goalkeeping, Federico Ceccherini, Giangiacomo Magnani, and Matteo Lovato played in the backline. At the same time, Mattia Zaccagni and Antonín Barák played behind striker Nikola Kalinić.
On the other hand, Stefano Pioli entered the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation that he uses in most matches. All AC Milan stars were present, except for Tonale and captain Alessio Romagnoli.
As it is known, Hellas Verona defends with man-marking and is one of the few teams that use this defensive system. Usually, coaches who implement this system do not set up pressure traps because the structure is clear. Each player on your team observes one of the opponents.
After the full-back has received the ball, the wing-back of Hellas Verona will quickly advance to pressure him, and at the same time all passing channels close to him will be closed, and this is easy for Hellas Verona because the man-marking system makes the team players nearby to the opponent’s players.
This will force Hakan Çalhanoğlu or one of the attackers to step back to receive the ball, but the player assigned to mark him will follow him, and the same when receiving the ball will find that there is a player pressing on him from the back and all the nearby passing channels are closed.
In this picture, Federico Dimarco advance to pressure Calabria, while at the same time his team-mates blocked all passing channels near the ball carrier. This is the same as what happened with Alexis Saelemaekers when he fell back to receive the ball.
Milan’s players suffered a lot at the start of the match and fell into the trap of Hellas Verona many times. As you can see in this picture, Milan lost many balls in their half.
Take control of long balls
Well, Milan has Ibrahimovic is a supernatural player in long balls, Liao is a speedy player, in addition to Hakan and Saelemaekers, it was clear that Milan would rely on long balls to face the problems created by the pressure trap put by Hellas Verona.
Milan plays 43.15 long balls per match, but in this match, they played 66 passes, they used long balls to bypass the Hellas Verona trap.
Hellas Verona coach Juric had an idea to dominate the long balls. Frankly, it is not a new idea; it is a pressure trap idea.
As I said earlier, the wing-backs of Hellas Verona remain at the back, while Milan puts his full-backs close to the centre-backs. This makes Hellas Verona create an 8v5 numerical advantage in the ball drop zone, and in this way, he will have the advantage of winning the second ball.
For example, in this picture, thanks to the wing-backs, Hellas Verona was able to create numerical superiority in the area where the ball fell.
On paper, it was a great idea, but it didn’t achieve good results due to Ibrahimovic’s presence, we’ll explain that later.
Milan against the pressure trap
Pioli did not watch his team fall into the trap of Hellas Verona; he intervened quickly to save his team and tried to adjust the score.
Pioli’s idea was to take advantage of the Hellas Verona trap, as I previously explained the wing-backs of Hellas Verona only advance when Milan full-backs receive the ball.
This means that Milan has two free players, the right full-back and the left full-back. Coach Pioli took advantage of this, he asked Hernandez to go deep to create a numerical advantage over the opponent’s first pressure line, and at the same time, Calabria was taking steps forward. In this way, Milan can move the ball towards Calabria because he created numerical superiority over Hellas Verona’s first pressure line.
When the ball reaches Calabria, he will be free for a few seconds before the back wing reaches him, during these seconds he will be able to play a pass behind the opponent’s backline, or play a regular pass and put Saelemaekers in a 1V1 situation.
For example, in this picture, Hernandez goes deep and creates numerical superiority, in this way Milan can deliver the ball to Calabria, then Calabria can use the seconds he is free and play a pass behind the opponent’s backline.
Using the one-two method in this tactic is also good, for example in this picture, Hakan pulled back and pulled the opponent’s centre-back, and Calabria relied on his teammate Hakan to bypass the wing-back and penetrate the empty space.
If we compare the heat map of the Milan players for this match with the matches that Milan have previously played, we will find a big difference, this is normal because when you are facing a defending team with man-marking, you will need your players to move quickly and change positions frequently, in addition to organized chaos. This is very important to confuse the opponent’s players’ focus and create spaces.