Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

AC Milan tries to take advantage of Inter's aggressiveness with verticality

May 11, 2023 — Inter had both the qualitative and numerical superiority over AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League bout, but direct vertical passes to bypass Inter’s initial press created chances.

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of Inter's out-of-possession shape against AC Milan.

Inter’s compactness, paired with the way they hounded the ball carrier with two to three men, made it difficult for creators like Brahim Diaz and Sandro Tonali to get a good foothold on the game.

They were without their difference-maker, Rafael Leo, who was injured. He can break lines on his own and glide past several challenges. If he’s in the lineup, Inter’s game plan would be different. They’d gravitate towards him, opening space for others.

Figure 2.1 - Mike Maignan kicks the ball vertically upfield to the forwards.
Figure 2.2 - Inter win the aerial duel, and Nicolo Barella plays Federico Dimarco down the line.

The only way to get past Inter’s compact midfield and forward 3-2 sub-structure and open spaces between the backline and second line is for AC Milan to play direct vertically.

The problem with playing direct is that if you lose the ball in the middle third, you’ll likely pay.

In Figure 1.2, they attempted to play direct, lost the aerial duel, and due to Davide Calabria jumping from right-back, AC Milan paid.

Federico Dimarco was played in down the left-wing, crossed to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Inter went 2-0 up.

Figure 3.1 - AC Milan play out of the compact 5v4 on the left-wing vertically.
Figure 3.2 - AC Milan are caught off guard and are too aggressive, leaving space open for the ball to be played behind them.

Figure 3.1 and Figure 3.2 are examples of direct play paying off.

The ball is played vertically out of a 5v4 in the corner and catches Inter off guard. Inter were aggressive, and all three defenders jumped, leaving space behind.

The moment the ball is played long past Inter’s initial press, they become stretched, overaggressive, and then you pounce on the space.

Figure 4.1 - Ball is played direct to Divock Origi. Matteo Darmian at right center-back jumps allowing space behind for Brahim Diaz.

Again, in Figure 4.1, the ball is played more directly and quickly out wide. Matteo Darmian jumps, leaving space behind to attack.

If AC Milan can build up deeper, lure Inter in, play vertically, win the aerial duels, and then attack the spaces behind Inter’s defense, they should be able to create chances in the second leg.

They didn’t create many chances in the first leg, but there’s some hope.

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