According to Stefano Pioli, who seemed visibly upset with the result at the end of the match, the reason for Milan’s defeat was the inadequacy of determination and the quality of his team inside the penalty areas. In fact, Milan hit 22 goals towards Meret’s goal, three from inside the small area and 14 from the rest of the penalty area, and hit the crossbar twice. On the other hand, Napoli managed to score two goals from only 9 shots, including a penalty kick from Politano. The lack of coolness in front of the target becomes more apparent if we analyze more complex statistics. Milan’s 22 shots, in fact, produced an expected 2.4, while, if the penalty kick was ruled out, Spalletti’s team produced 0.9 xG. These data, in short, seem to give credit to the opinion of the Rossoneri coach, who saw his men lose a match in which they created many chances, of excellent quality, and at once relatively little against an excellent team like Napoli. season.
The Milan-Napoli match was the match between the two best teams in Serie A and the main candidates to win the tournament. The slow start of Inter, Juventus and Roma, confirmed by successive defeats against Udinese, Monza and Atalanta, made the feeling of the presence of the two strongest Italian teams at the moment even more evident. In addition to the final result and the fact that the Rossoneri, as Pioli pointed out, could have achieved a result with a little better clarity, the 90 minutes in fact confirmed that Milan and Napoli today represent the best that the league has to offer.
Excellent performance of the Rossoneri
Milan immediately showed all the qualities that made them their fortune for more than a season, from vertical tension, intensity, aggressive pressing and versatility in the offensive phase. Against Spalletti’s pressure – which in my view started 4-3-3 continually putting Zielinski’s pressure on Kjaer and followed closely with Anguissa or Lobotka moves towards the Bennacer ball – Milan had no qualms throwing the ball long distances towards Giroud or into Mario Rui’s area. (identified as the opponent’s weak link in the air match) to take the field.
On the other hand, the French striker is adept at cleaning balls and Milan very skilled at winning second balls, with de Kitleuri in particular always finding the right position to secure their team’s possession. Then when he found himself at a disadvantage, in front of Napoli less aggressive and more attentive to control the spaces, Milan, with the same effectiveness with which they had played for so long, began to play the ball on the ground in search of players. in spaces. In short, the performance against Napoli once again confirmed the diversity and tactical maturity that Milan achieved through the work of Stefano Pioli.
Zielinski gets up on Kjaer, Anguissa on Bennacer, and Raspadori covers the pass towards Tomori, Kvaratshelia which is towards Calabria. Then Kjaer counts on Maignan who will set off towards Giroud. The French striker controls the ball from the box and allows Milan to advance 60 metres. Of Maignan’s 19 long balls, 12 reach a teammate.
In the stages of consolidated possession, Milan occupied the areas behind rival midfielders Anguisa and Zielinski, stressed the position of Krunic and Sailemakers, simultaneously occupying the supply with two full-backs. The constant movement of the players and the speed of the exchanges directed towards the vertical provided the unpredictability needed to put the Napoli defense in difficulty. Particularly interesting were Tonali’s now usual movements towards the left side of the field, which are intended to create areas of numerical superiority. An interesting example is the action in the 12th minute which resulted in a dangerous header from Giro. On cutting Theo Hernandez from the inside, Tonali opens on the left and, after receiving a pass from de Kettleri, is free enough to pull in a superb cross pass for Giroud’s head.
Also thanks to Tonali’s movements, as well as the usual huge presence of Theo Hernandez, it was the left wing in which Milan created the conditions for the finish. Another example is the occasion in the 25th minute, when a spoonful of Krunic, author of a very clean and tactically accurate game, closed a triangle with De Ketelaere collected a cross on the fly from inside the area with a powerful blow from the fly. Heel from Jerrod. Unfortunately for Milan, the French striker’s attempt eliminated a comfortable goal in Calabria, but the ease with which Pioli’s side ran into the penalty area seemed to bode well.
It is interesting to note in the map of the Milan corridor the internal position of Kronik in comparison with that, shifted to the left, of Tonali.
The quality of the pressure, always very strong and intense, had a huge impact on Milan’s performance. The Rossoneri closely followed the three Napoli midfielders with De Kitleli on Lobotka and Tonali in Anguissa and Benaser in Zielinski.
Milan succeeded in recovering 28 balls in the opposite half of the field, and the high recovery of the ball led to dangerous offensive transformations, as happened on the occasion of the crossbar that Giroud hit with a shot that hit Mert Premier in the 13th minute of her birth. Big advance of Calabria on Kvaratskhelia.
With a goal kick in Naples, Hernandez takes a lead on Di Lorenzo, Tomori comes out high and opens up on Politano, while Kiar aggressively follows Rasbadori. Perhaps the situation in which Milan’s pressure has become more extreme.
In the intervening period, Pioli replaced Kjaer and Calabria, both booked due to errors on Kvaratskhelia, with Kalulu and Dest. At the end of the match, the Rossoneri coach anxiously motivated Kjaer’s replacement for his yellow card and explained that Calabria remained in the locker room due to a muscle injury: a few minutes later, however, a silly foul by Dest on. Kvarratsekhelia’s dribbling cost Milan the penalty, which gave Politano Napoli the lead.
Despite the flaws, Pioli’s team continued to find spaces in the defensive block of Napoli, lowering Bennacer under construction on the Kalulo and Tomori line, occupying half of the spaces with wingers and supplying with full backs. Milan’s positional attack became more effective when Diaz and Messias joined Krunic and the Selmakers. The two baits provided the quality in receptions behind and on either side of the Napoli midfielders making Milan even more dangerous.
A clear example of this ability to create hazards using the inside play of attacking midfielders and displaying complete defenses is the work of the Giro Equalizer. Milan lined up with Benacer in the midfield, and Diaz and Messias along with Di Kitilari behind the opponent’s midfield. Tomori plays on the field for Diaz alongside Anguisa. With high quality, the midfielder serves the Spanish attacking de Kitleri, whose movement forces Rahmani to break the goal line and Di Lorenzo to tighten his position. Milan’s indoor game opens up spaces on the outside for Theo Hernandez, who collects a de Kitleri pass and serves Giroud inside the area for the equaliser.
Unfortunately for Milan, this was the only opportunity that was fully exploited, among many that could have turned into a goal. In addition to the coolness in front of the goal, the fact that Pioli indicated the quality of the match in the penalty areas may also have been a reference to the second goal conceded by the net, which made the score 2-1. In that case, the excessive aggressiveness of Kalolo, who followed Simeone out of the area despite the midfielders being covered, left Milan’s penalty area unguarded, and forced the Rossoneri’s defense to defend with an excellent cross pass from Mario Rui.
Simeone receives the ball inside Milan’s penalty area, which Kaloulo closely watches. The Argentine leaves the area followed by Kalulu, who doesn’t give up his opponent to re-form the streak even as Benacer and Tonali Simeone are stuck in the middle. The Argentine striker opens his doors to Mario Rui and attacks the area where Napoli outnumbers, with Kalulu out.
However, the shortcomings of Pioli’s team should not make us lose sight of the quality of Napoli. At the start of the match, Spalletti decided to replace Osimene, who was injured by Rabadori. Perhaps the Tuscan coach wanted a higher quality between the lines to turn the natural aggressiveness of the Milan midfielders in his favour, opening up spaces behind them with a Raspadori peg. But Spalletti’s plan did not come to fruition, on the one hand, because Raspadori was well controlled by the opponent’s players, on the other hand because the pressure on Milan prevented Napoli from reaching the opponent’s half in a clean way.
The Azzurri, even in the face of the opponent’s pressure and difficulties in developing maneuvering with the usual fluidity, have never overcome obstacles and always tried to dribble using the technique and positional fluidity of their midfielders. In this we must give credit to Spalletti, who probably wanted to manage the pace of the match and control Milan’s aggression with his own weapons.
Of course, given the opportunities presented by Milan, it cannot be said that Napoli have fully achieved their goal. Milan had many chances and even in the last minutes they came very close to scoring with an attacking transition, led and finished off the crossbar even by Kalulu. But defensive difficulties did not change the way Napoli play. Returning to the field from the dressing room, for example, before Dest’s penalty kick, Napoli managed to control the ball, lowering Milan and managing the timing of the match. The blue midfield never sunk, and Lobotka, who struggled initially in the setup phase for De Ketelaere’s tight control, flew out from the distance, finding more and more spaces to receive and push the maneuver. The Slovak player played a great match, as he played a phase of lack of possession characterized by a sense of position and timing of intervention.
Likewise, Kvaratskhelia played a match made up of flames, which severely affected the balance of the match despite not scoring. The Georgian winger, with his dribbles, issued several yellow cards in the management of the opponent’s defense and within the penalty kick that gave his team the advantage. Kim Warhamani was faced with difficulty by Giroud – particularly skilled in the middle of the field to manage his teammates’ long throws, and inside the area in duels with midfielders – but they stopped protecting the goal as in on the occasion of the interception of the flight by Kim Diaz heading without fail in the last minute of the recovery .
In short, all the players seemed effective in the match against Spalletti, who should be proud of Napoli’s confidence in proposing his play. To get to the Scudetto, which inevitably began to be talked about after this match, this confidence can be decisive. But after the final result, the match confirmed that Milan and Napoli are the two best teams in the league and most credited to winning the tournament. Thanks to the players on the field – especially between Nasser, Tonali and Teo Hernandez on the one hand, and Meret, Lobotka and Kvaratskhelia on the other – but also thanks to the playing principles of their coaches.
Clear tactical ideas implemented without hesitation, the strength of the match, the belief in the quality of one’s work and the continuous improvement of individuality, put Napoli and Milan one step away from their rivals in the Scudetto match. We are still in the beginning, and in the championship anything can happen, but the other teams have to start accelerating if they are to catch up with the Pioli and Spalletti men.