Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Inter's spatial manipulation of AC Milan

September 18, 2023 — Inter masterfully exploited space by manipulating it, capitalizing on AC Milan’s disjointed man-marking.

Figure 1.1 - Marcus Thuram receives the ball, and Malick Thiaw challenges him 1v1, while three others mark Lautaro Martinez

There is one word to describe Marcus Thuram: “Tank.”

He collided with Malick Thiaw as if Thiaw owed him money. Thuram’s strength and speed made Thiaw’s 1v1 marking a costly mistake.

Figure 1.2 - Denzel Dumfries is left unmarked, while Marcus Thuram continues down the line

The overload created by AC Milan on the far side left a substantial gap for Denzel Dumfries to exploit. Thuram ignored Dumfries’ run, highlighting a potential vulnerability for future opponents.

Figure 1.3 - Marcus Thuram attempts a low cross, with Lautaro Martinez outnumbered 3v1
Figure 1.4 - AC Milan's players are caught ball-watching as Marcus Thuram attempts another cross, leaving four Inter players open at the top of the box. The ball is crossed to Federico Dimarco
Figure 1.5 - AC Milan once again leave two players unmarked, but Dimarco chooses to pass swiftly to Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Figure 1.6 - Henrikh Mkhitaryan redirects the ball into the goal

Crossing as close to the touch-line as you can is a solid strategy since AC Milan commits all their men to the penalty area regardless of how many men are free at the top of the box. All of them are ball watching, leaving space free at the top of the box.

Figure 2.1 - The ball is played over the top to Federico Dimarco, evading two Inter players who jumped for it

Two AC Milan players jumped, allowing Dimarco to receive the pass. However, notice the man-marking on the far side, leaving three players marked and one defender free at the end.

Figure 2.2 - The ball is crossed into the space behind AC Milan's back-line

When two players delay their runs, forcing their markers to stand still, they create space behind the back-line. The closest Inter forward then enters the box, pulling their marker with them and gaining free access to the space behind the back-line.

Figure 3.1 - The ball is turned over in AC Milan's half, and Lautaro Martinez plays Denzel Dumfries in
Figure 3.2 - Denzel Dumfries and Marcus Thuram break through, creating a 2v2 situation

AC Milan, trailing 1-0, began to push men forward, leaving only two in the rest defense. When the ball was turned over, it resulted in favorable 3v2 or 2v2 counter-attacking situations.

Figure 4.1 - Marko Arnautovic drives into the box, forcing Malick Thiaw to follow him, while Lautaro Martinez is marked 2v1
Figure 4.2 - Another dummy runner draws two AC Milan defenders into the box, creating space behind them

The two AC Milan forwards manipulated space effectively by making runs into the box, thus creating space behind them.

Figure 4.3 - The ball is played to Henrikh Mkhitaryan in space, and he exploits it for a shot that results in a goal

Inter had AC Milan chasing shadows. Delaying runs or attacking space to pull defenders is the key to unlocking AC Milan, as their defenders are focused on their assigned marks. If too many defenders commit to a single mark, opportunities arise on the far side.

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