Someone needed to switch on the lights for AC Milan. It was a very dark performance in Udine – one of the worst Rossoneri ever – but against Brescia, the light was switched on.
It wasn’t Andre Silva, who surprisingly started, it wasn’t Marco Giampaolo, who put his players in the right positions. It was Ismael Bennacer. The regista Milan have lacked for a long while.
The Rossoneri used their heads and produced a logical, pragmatic performance. They did what was needed. There is still a long way to go, but this is a starting point. The display was full of small things to build on – the Rossoneri were tailored to the opponent, with quality in possession, risking fairly little at the back.
There are still a few things that need sorting out, as for example the number of chances produced despite seeing much more of the ball compared to the opponents. The Rossoneri were superior to Brescia in every possible way (total shots 16-6, possession 63-37 percent, chances 14-3, and so on), but only ended up having there shots on target.
The first big surprise of the afternoon came in the press box, when it was announced that Krzysztof Piatek would be sat on the bench, with a rejuvenated Andre Silva leading the line. Whatever the outcome, there was a story here from the start. Would Marco Giampaolo turn out to be a genius or a mad man?
Andre Silva was last named in the starting XI for AC Milan against Benevento in April 2018 which the Rossoneri lost 1-0. With these premises, Giampaolo played with fire, and in fact decided it was best to quickly get rid of the potentially hazardous situation. On the hour mark Piatek replaced Andre Silva. It was fairly anticlimactic.
Mathematics or football?
Giampaolo warned before the game, saying that numbers would not matter on the pitch with regards to the system. It is football, not mathematics after all. And his side reflected his words. Milan were very fluid, ranging from a fairly traditional 4-4-2 to a flexible 4-3-2-1.
Suso and Calhanoglu were often on the wings and it worked. The Turkish midfielder met the Spaniard’s cross to put the Rossoneri in front.
Regista, at last
Finally, Milan used their heads. Call him what you will – regista or holding midfielder – but Ismael Bennacer encapsulated exactly what the Rossoneri needed. Ideas, and how to quickly implement them.
The build up play had quality all round, and the Algerian sped up the pace of Milan’s attack, thinking vertically in his passing, always looking to play the ball forward. With fantastic decision making and solid technique, Bennacer truly changed the face of Milan’s midfield.