The Derby Della Madonnina has been in a strange limbo over the past couple of seasons. Neither team has competed for anything worth of note, except a Champions League place in 2012/13 in Milan’s case, regardless of the calibre of players on the field, the derby is always great to watch.
Although, it makes for odd viewing. As Juraj Kucka battled in the midfield with Geoffrey Kondogbia, it leaves nostalgic Calcio fans dreaming of past derbies containing Paolo Maldini, Javier Zanetti and Marco Van Basten. Both sides have made some very questionable coaching hires in recent years, but this match appeared (in my opinion) to be the first time both sides had a respectable coach on the sideline since perhaps as far back as 2009. It made for a far more intriguing match than previous years.
Much of the same for Montella’s men considering the line-ups, the 4-3-3 they’ve stuck by all season. However Gustavo Gómez would come in for the injured Alessio Romagnoli. The Italian centreback has been crucial to Milan all season, not just as their best defender, but also how he contributes to their build-up play and ball retention (more on this later).
There’s more to talk about relative to the line-up here. Pioli opted for a 4-3-3, as de Boer did, but gave Joao Mario a more advanced role and it became a 2-4-3-1 in possession with the FBs pushing up. With Joao Mario advanced, it helped Inter’s ball progression into the final third, something they’ve struggled with all season. However, controversially (in my opinion), Ever Banega was dropped. Perhaps because he has a tendency to drop deep and collect the ball when he’s meant to be receiving in the #10 position.
Inter aim to unsettle a young Milan
These derbies can be intimidating, as Pioli will be aware with his experience in the Derby della Capitale. Inter’s gameplan in the opening half an hour was to rush out the gates and instantly apply pressure to a Milan team that takes it’s time to come into a game.
Inter aimed to unsettle Milan via a high press that disrupted their ball retention and build-up almost entirely. pic.twitter.com/MNxMy8TvDD
— Billy (@BilbertoSilva) November 21, 2016
The front three and midfield pushed up high and pressed once Donnarumma had released the ball to try and disrupt Milan from playing out the back. What this did was push Milan out of their comfort zone, an unappealing feeling for such a young side. Milan are used to playing pressure free and being allowed to play out the back and pick the passes they want until they reach the middle of the field.
However, with Inter occupying almost all passing lanes straight from kick-off, Donnarumma was either forced to go long, where Inter had a height advantage (except on the left flank), or play to one of his centre backs. However, without Romagnoli, Milan missed having a press resistant CB that could progress play. Paletta can play out from the back, but isn’t as press resistant and was forced into making some mistakes.
As you can see from the clips above, Donnarumma turned the ball over on around the 30~ yard mark and gave the ball straight back to Inter. This creates a constant pressure on Milan as they can’t break into Inter’s half and are constantly bombarded by Inter attacks.
Milan countered this using two methods that are effective against a high press: split CBs close to goall-ine and quick distribution from GK. pic.twitter.com/w4kzT8x3Xi
— Billy (@BilbertoSilva) November 21, 2016
Milan countered this with two methods that tend to be very effective against a high and intense press. Quick distribution from Donnarumma means Inter don’t have time to communicate and set-up their press as they would from a goal-kick. A quick roll-out from Donnarumma means Inter are caught out of their defensive shape but also no one has had the chance to cut off passing lanes.
In the second clip, Milan split their CBs on either side of the penalty area and are close to the goal-line when Donnarumma distributes the ball to them. This means the CBs have more time on the ball and can pick out a player in midfield via a long ball. Long balls are crucial for beating high press as they can’t be intercepted until the ball comes down (obviously).
It’s incredible and perhaps not even coincidental that Milan scored goals from both of these situations. It’s definitely a testament to how Montella recognises how the game is being played out and adapts accordingly.
Milan in the defensive phase
In the defensive phase, Milan opted for a layered 4-5-1 formation. It’s a flexibile formation that allows easily transitions into a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 which Milan did the offensive phase. However, Milan’s personnel for this formation was perhaps not correct for this match.
Inter’s left flank rule
Poor old Mattia de Sciglio. In the 4-5-1 which Milan shifted to when Inter were in possession, Niang shifted over to the left flank.
The idea of this would be that Niang could aid MdS defensively with the Candreva – D’Ambrosio combination as the fullback pushed up the field. However, Niang didn’t aid MdS nearly as much as he was supposed to. The issue is that Niang is a striker by trade and doesn’t have those winger instincts to help out his fullback.
This is the exception to the rule and happened on a number of occasions (23:33, 28:47, 30:07)
Candreva had 33 touches in the first half, compared to Perisic’s 22, which helps illustrate just how much Inter attacked MdS on the left flank. With the Italian fullback left to defend against two players, Inter created a number of 2 v 1 situations which left Candreva in dangerous positions. D’Ambrosio -> Candreva was the most common passing link during the game, in which D’Ambrosio passed to Candreva 15 times.
As a result of this, Candreva moved a little inside of the fullback and left D’Ambrosio to take on de Sciglio himself. This left Candreva in more of a free role as he shifted across the forward line as he knew he wasn’t giving up a numerical advantage on his flank. His role in this is evidence by Inter’s first goal in which he picks the ball up in a central area and fires away.
I enjoyed this game tactically a lot more than I have in previous years. Montella and Pioli (although he didn’t have much time to make an impact) are two tactically intriguing coaches who have a modern view of the game. Which is something you can’t say for post Rossoneri and Nerazzurri coaches.
I liked Inter’s gameplan for more than Milan’s. Personally, I think Milan are riding their luck a bit this season and reinforcements are definitely required in January. As for Inter, I am excited for the Pioli era (I was excited for the de Boer era, mind…). Pioli will build on one of Inter’s main strengths (a counterpressing game), like he did with Lazio.