15 September 2023


From tactics to mentality: discover what could decide the first derby of the season

Once the international break is over and after the positive start to the league campaign, it will be the first Milano derby of the season to welcome Pioli's Rossoneri back to Serie A. It is, as always, one of the most highly anticipated matches amongst fans and neutrals alike, but also one of the most delicate and full of tension. The two teams know each other well despite the many changes on the bench, but not in the dugout, over the summer, and both will want to continue their winning streak from the start of the campaign. The game has many mysteries, let's try to pick out the three main keys to the match with an in-depth analysis.

Inter and AC Milan both set up with central defenders, relying on their wingers to push forward on the pitch and exploit the gaps created in the opposition's line. Attacking the passing line between the defence and midfield, with impeccable coordination between the areas and applying pressure on the backline, could prove to be an important factor in catching the opposition off guard and launching a counterattack, a football fundamental that the Rossoneri and Nerazzurri excel at. The Rossoneri 4-3-3, new this year, is characterised by the presence of two dynamic and physical midfielders. It's exactly in this area that AC Milan will seek out the right countermeasures to take against Inter, who made use of their extra numbers in midfield in the previous derbies to make runs forward and pick up the ball. Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek certainly don't lack the ability to help out in offensive play, as well as providing support, as demonstrated in the first outings. Pioli has tasked the two with making themselves dangerous in attack and providing prompt coverage, alongside the indispensable support of Rade Krunić.

For AC Milan, finding the back of the net at any moment in the match would mean breaking a 4-derby-long dry spell. This data is all that's needed to explain just how important for the Rossoneri attack, and their mentality more than anything, to rediscover the feeling of scoring. Don't let the numbers fool you, however, Pioli's squad has always created chances but hasn't managed to follow through in key moments.  In the first few weeks of the season, the two sides have already shown that they don't start games with nerves and are capable of consistently scoring in the openings. The Rossoneri have already scored 2 goals in the first 15 minutes of different games, and in total 6 of their 8 goals have come in the first half, whilst the Nerazzurri have scored once in the first 15 minutes and 4 times in the first half. It's a different story for goals conceded in the first half: 1 by AC Milan and 0 by Inter. Moreover, it is important to note that this year both teams have many resources available to them to turn the match around, something that the Rossoneri didn't manage last season. Getting a goal on the board, however, remains key.

The absence of Tomori, due to disqualification, and the recent injury of Kalulu, inevitably limit the line-up choices for Pioli. It could be Simon Kjær alongside Malick Thiaw in the middle of a four-man line in front of Mike Maignan. The players' characteristics differ quite a bit: leadership and ability in the air stand out about the Danish central defender, whereas aggression and dynamism are those of the Englishman and Frenchman. Unlike Kjær, who is more solid in marking and one-on-one, Tomori guarantees quick recoveries and allows a high attack against the opposition forwards. AC Milan will therefore have to choose which attitude they need to face the Nerazzurri: with Simon on the pitch, play tends to sit deeper to avoid leaving too much of the field open behind them. Inter are skilled at exploiting the spaces left in transitions, and this is why not exposing themselves could prove to be the best solution. With this tactical set-up, it will be crucial to be ferocious after regaining possession, and AC Milan has the right weapons to do so, as seen in many important matches last season.

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