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Inter Milan Tactical Analysis vs AC Milan - Sept 21, 2019

The first derby della madonnia (Italian phrase for describing the Milan Derby) of this season was a tight battle between two very strong coaches (Conte for Inter and Giampaolo for AC Milan) who both deployed effective strategies that maximized their squads strengths and exploited the weaknesses of their direct opponent. In the end, Inter Milan were the most consistent performers and took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them and deserved the three points with a 2-0 victory over there inner city rivals.

Tactical Match Up:

Antonio Conte stuck with his favoured 1-3-5-2 Formation and started with Lukaku and Martinez as the Two Centre Forwards. The Back 3 consisted of Godin, De Vrij and Skirniar who bring aerial presence and composure during the building up phase. The shape in Midfield was a Triangle with a Single Pivote (Brozovic) and Two Attacking Midfielders (Barella and Sensi). Out wide, Asamoah was the Left Sided Wing Back and D'Ambrosio played as the Right Wing Back.

With the Single Pivote and Back 3 set up, Inter achieved numerical superiority during the build up vs AC Milan's Flat Front 3 (Suso would join the Milan Front 2 during the defensive phase to press with 3 players - See Image Below). Depending on the positional height of the Wing Backs, Inter could achieve 4v4 on AC Milan's Back Line and penetrate the spaces between the lines or in behind the AC Milan's Back 4.

Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez operated as the Front 2 and offer a Direct Target in Lukaku and a more mobile option for Depth Movements in Martinez. There was some great phases of play where the pair of forwards combined and penetrated effectively through the AC Milan defensive organization.

Starting Formations - Inter Milan in 1-3-5-2 Shape - AC Milan in 1-4-3-1-2 (Diamond) Formation

Inter Milan 1-3-5-2 Shape during their Offensive Organization - Build Up Phase:

AC Milan started the Match in a 1-4-3-1-2 Formation with the strategic aim to outnumber Inter Milan in the Central Channel. This strategy was in-effective against the high pressing of Inter's 1-3-5-2 and AC Milan struggled to build their attacks with control and it felt risky every time Donnarumma played short out from the back. During the Milan Defensive phase, Suso would join the forwards and create a Flat Front 3, which changed the shape to 1-4-3-3 (Image Below). The role of the Front 3 was to defend zonally and step/press their direct opponent in Inter's Back 3 (Also, the Milan Centre Forward would be responsible for screening the passing lane into the Inter Milan Pivote).

AC Milan 4-3-3 Defensive Structure with Flat Front 3

Video example below of AC Milan's 1-4-3-3 Formation during the Defensive Phase - This gives an indicator for when you read later on in this report regarding the tactical solutions that Conte used against Milan's defensive system:

  • AC Milan set up with a Flat Front 3 to step/press Inter's Back 3

  • AC Milan Centre Forward - Dual Role to Press the Central CB (De Vrij) and Screen any passes into the Pivote (Brozovic)

  • If the AC Milan Front 3 gets split, the AC Milan MFD would have to travel with the ball and press the receiving Inter player

  • The role to pressure the Inter Wing Backs was given to Rodriguez and Conti (Both AC Milan Full Backs). Challenge with this Defensive tactic is that the AC Milan Full Backs had a lot of distance to travel in order to close down the Inter Wing Backs.

Giampaolo made a system change for AC Milan around the 20th minute and shifted there Attacking Shape into a 1-4-3-3 Formation due to their struggles playing out against the Inter Milan 1-3-5-2 High Press. What changed was that Suso moved out to the Right Winger position, Piatek moved into the Centre Forward position and Leao took up the Left Winger Position (See Image Below).

Milan Adapted Shape into 1-4-3-3 in Attack based on lack of ability to build up against Inter's 1-3-5-2 Press

During the last 15 minutes, Inter Milan changed to a 1-5-4-1 formation which was to protect their goal advantage and close off the game. This change to 1-5-4-1 allowed Inter to maintain an ultra compact team and limit the attacking options/spaces for AC Milan to penetrate through, around or over.

Inter finished the game with a 1-5-4-1 Formation to maintain their 2 Goal Advantage

Inter Milan Build Up:

Inter Milan adapted their 1-3-5-2 structure during the building up phase to exploit the spaces that were available/free against AC Milan's 1-4-3-3 formation. The key spaces for Inter were the areas wide and beyond the Milan Flat Front 3. Often Godin and Skriniar would move wide and were ready to receive in this wide zone to break the 1st Line of Pressure. Once the 1st Line was broken, Lukaku and Martinez would consistently show towards the ball or go in run behind the Milan Back Line into depth. The Inter Wingbacks held the width and provided effective passing lines for Godin and Skiriniar to execute successful short passes down the wide channel.

If the Milan press was effective, De Vrij or Handanovic would support behind the ball zone and be available to switch the play onto the weak side. The support from De Vrij and Handanovic allowed Inter to be patient during the build up and reload possession when and where required.

Brozovic was key to unlocking the Milan 1-4-3-3 with his clever positioning in behind the Milan Flat Front 3. He would show in the spaces between the 1st & 2nd line and show in areas to receive split passes that broke the 1st Line or he would effect the Milan Centre Forward to open space for Barella or Sensi to show into for combinations play (Lay Offs, 3rd Player Combinations).

The partnership of Lukaku and Martinez offers a lot of adaptability for Inter Milan's possession phase as Lukaku can be used as a target for direct play (Flicks, Holding the ball up) and Martinez is dynamic and mobile to create space for teammates or work off the movements of Lukaku. From my analysis, both Inter forwards mixed their runs effectively and did so with good timing and into opposite spaces - as outlined below the Inter Front 2 either made one of the following runs:

1- Showed towards the ball

2- Penetrative Run into depth

I never felt AC Milan was in control of these movements and Inter were able to penetrate more successfully as the game progresses plus found key spaces to link with their front 2 who both have the capacity to create and score goals.

Inter Milan Diamond Build up vs AC Milan Flat Front 3

Video analysis of Inter Milan's Build up vs AC Milan's 1-4-3-3 Model:

  • Inter Centre Backs would get wide to support in the space outside of the AC Milan Flat Front 3

  • Brozovic movement behind the AC Milan Front 3 to effect the #9 and create space for himself or teammates to receive/combine

  • Inter did a good job breaking the Milan 1st & 2nd lines (Both lines were flat and susceptible to penetrative/split passes

  • Show & Go Partnership runs from Lukaku & Martinez

Inter Milan High Pressing:

The strategic aim from Antonio Conte regarding his defensive organization was to high press and destabilize the AC Milan short build up. Inter set a high line of engagement (Still within their 1-3-5-2 Formation) and that allowed the Inter Front 2 to close down the ball carrier immediately upon receiving. Martinez and Lukaku were the 1st line and would close down the AC Milan CB's immediately and aggressively which often forced the Milan CB's to make one of the following decisions:

  1. Pass wide into the Full Back, which suited Inter as their pressing traps were organized for the wide zones

  2. Force long passes with low quality based on the limited time/space for the CB's

  3. Attempt dribbling to escape the high pressing which was a risky option and caused them problems when attempting this decision

  4. Pass back to the goalkeeper who would be immediately pressed by the 2nd Inter Centre Forward and would have to no choice but to play direct

As a result of the high pressing tactic, this left a lot of space behind the Inter back 3 and the Inter last line had to be in sync regarding positional play, communication and shifting movements. To Inter's credit, the back 3 were strong in winning 1st and 2nd balls from Milan's direct play and it was never really an issue for them because Milan were forced to play direct and had limited time/space to execute high quality long passes into depth.

Inter Milan's starting shape when setting the high press in their 1-3-5-2 model

The Zone where Inter's High pressing was intensified and most successful were the wide zones as this specific zone (view image below) was set as a trap for Inter to disrupt Milan's build and deny them the opportunity for penetration/progression. In terms of tactics, 4 Inter players would consistently press in the wide zone and that would deny any short passes for Milan to escape the high pressing and that meant Milan would often hit long/hopeful direct passes that Inter's Back 3 and Midfield Units were able to read, regain and deny space.

4 Inter players would press aggressively in the wide zones high up the pitch to encourage AC Milan's back 4 to hurry their decision making & force passes

Video analysis of Inter Milan's High Pressing strategy vs AC Milan:

  • High Line of Engagement to start in a position where the 1st Line of pressure can arrive on the first touch of any Milan Back 4 player

  • Direct the Milan Build up into the wide zones (pressing traps)

  • 4 Inter players would consistently press in the wide zone to either regain, force an error or force a long/predictable pass

  • Inter back 3 reading the direct play and winning 1st/2nd balls

Inter Milan Goal Scoring Opportunities:

After reviewing the goal scoring opportunities that Inter Milan achieved in the match, their was some common themes:

  1. Quick movements/reaction to exploit space in Offensive Transition (Moments when the ball was regained)

  2. Overlapping runs from the wing backs to create 2v1's on the AC Milan Full Backs

  3. Early Crosses into the box - Specifically aimed for Lukaku based on his aerial threat

  4. Line breaking/Split Passes to break the flat lines of AC Milan Structure

  5. Players traveling from wide positions into central positions with or without the ball (Inverted Runs or Dribbles that drive inside to central areas)

The below video is a collection of the best opportunities that Inter achieved in the match (Non-Coach Painted):

Goal Review:

The first goal came at 49' from a Wide Free Kick that was played Short by Sensi to Brozovic who received at the top of the box and shot at goal. Fortunately for Inter, Brozovic shot is deflected into the bottom corner and provides them with the lead. Questionable defensive structure on the Free Kick from AC Milan as there was nobody close enough to pressure Brozovic who had a lot of time/space in a clear goal scoring position to receive and shoot on goal....

I was very impressed with the patience in the build up from Inter on their 2nd Goal at 78'. They were able to sustain possession and string a series of passes before Godin played a long diagonal pass into Barella on the weak side, Asamoah reads the cues on the diagonal switch and creates a 2v1 on the AC Milan Right Back. This 2v1 advantage for Inter keeps the pressure off Barella who has enough time/space to in-swing an excellent cross for Lukaku to head into the Top Far Corner of the goal.

The below video is the Inter Milan goals from the match (Non-Coach Painted):


This is a big win for Inter Milan and Coach Antonio Conte at an early stage in the season. Firstly, it is a signal of intent that they are going to push for the Serie A title this season and the 3 Points allowed Inter to leave this weekend as league leaders with a 2 point advantage over Serie A title holders Juventus. As he has proven in the past, Antonio Conte is an astute Tactician and he has already changed the look of Inter Milan in comparison to last season. It is great to see Serie A producing the kind of excitement that we experienced in the 90's and early 2000's.....Let's see if Inter Milan have the consistency, quality and team spirit to de-thrown Juventus!

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Thanks - Footy

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