Outstanding – Analysing how AC Milan sent Juventus one step closer to Europa League

AC Milan beat Juventus 3-0. (imago Images)
AC Milan beat Juventus 3-0. (imago Images)

The outcome – a resounding AC Milan win

AC Milan and Juventus went head to head against each other on Sunday in an encounter of epic proportions in Serie A. The two Italian sides with decades of history and overflowing trophy cabinets faced each other in a game that would have big consequences on the top 4 standings at the end of this season.

The result was an astonishing 3-0 win by Milan away at Turin. This was Il Rossoneri‘s biggest win against the Old Lady in close to 11 years. The outcome of this match means Juventus are now 5th in the table and out of the four qualification spots for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

The side that had dominated the Serie A with 9 consecutive title wins is now on the verge of playing in UEFA’s second-tier European club competition.

But how did this happen? Was it the fault in team selection, blind luck, tactics, or just a mixture of all of it? Let’s find out.

The approach to the game

Both teams set out in formations which they have deployed regularly this season. Andrea Pirlo’s side lined up in a 4-4-2 while Stefano Pioli set out with a 4-2-3-1 formation. But that was on paper. The average player positions of the two starting XIs in the match in Image A shows how the two teams approached the game as a whole.

Image A. (WhoScored)

Milan’s players are visibly more central and their centre-backs are playing deeper than their Juventus counterparts. The width in Juventus’ case is a lot more and their full-backs (16 and 12) are way more advanced than Milan’s (19 and 2), showing how Pioli wanted his team to sit back against Juve’s attack.

Weston McKennie (14) started as a right-midfielder for Juventus but was often playing as a central midfielder in a midfield three with Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot, making the formation something like a 4-3-3. This is visible in Image B (yellow circle).

Image B.

Concession of fouls – careless defending

Juventus have themselves to blame here, and fingers can be pointed at a lot of players. Firstly, the team conceded a bucket-load of cheap fouls that proved costly – or could have proven costly.

The first goal by Brahim Diaz came from a needless foul near the touchline by Federico Chiesa. The ball was floated in, the defence failed to deal with it, and Brahim Diaz struck a brilliant curler beyond Wojciech Szczesny’s reach just seconds before half-time.

Later on, the ever reliant Giorgio Chiellini forgot the basics of blocking a shot and went at it with his right arm extended. The shot struck the arm, as seen in Image C, and a penalty was given. Luckily for Juve, Szczesny saved the spot-kick and the score remained 1-0 around the hour mark.

Image C.

Last season’s champions returned to committing silly fouls in the last 10 minutes of the game when Weston McKennie brought down a Milan player some 35 yards from the goal. Fikayo Tomori rose highest to nod in a third and Juve conceded again from a set-piece.

Szczesny’s positioning

Coming back to Milan’s first goal, Szczesny got his fist to the cross but failed to punch it away emphatically. Diaz latched on to the ball and Juve were now on the backfoot suddenly because their polish goalkeeper did not get back into position despite having a lot of time to do so. Just see Image D and notice how awfully placed the goalkeeper (yellow circle) really is.

Image D.

The shot from the youngster Diaz (black circle) was high but a bit central, and it could have been saved had the keeper returned to his line.

The second goal was a bit tougher to save, but the reason Szczesny stood motionless while Ante Rebic’s shot fizzed past him was because he was, for some reason, drifting towards one post instead of staying central. This becomes visible in Image E.

AC Milan Juventus.
Image E.

The shot was hit hard and into the postage stamp, but goalkeepers have saved those in the past. Szczesny leaving one side of his goal gaping like that probably urged the Croatian to shoot in the first place. The Polish goalkeeper did make a big save from Kessie’s penalty, and the blame for the second goal isn’t entirely on him.

Image F shows how Juve’s defenders have lost Rebic (yellow circle), who came on to replace striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Rebic dropped a little deeper to receive the ball and while a centre-back didn’t follow him, no Juventus midfielder covered him as well. Talk about an inspired substitution from Pioli!

Image F.

Watefulness

Juve were awful in front of goal. That’s the least that can be said about it. A look at Image G is enough to show their wastefulness in front of goal as compared to Milan.

Image G. LEFT- Juventus, RIGHT- AC Milan. (SofaScore)

Milan had 5 of their 10 shots on target, which means an accuracy of 50% which is pretty good. But as for Juventus, that figure goes down to 6.25%. They also had 9 shots in the box, only one of which found the target. Juve might have kept more possession and passed more with better accuracy, but Milan made their possession count and took their chances.

Some words have to be said here about Milan’s defending as well. They blocked an astounding 7 shots, which explains why Juve did not make so many of their chances count. Milan also took a no-nonsense approach to their defending, making almost as many as thrice the clearances (23) than Juventus did (7). (h/t SofaScore)

One standout performer was Chelsea loanee, Fikayo Tomori. The defender boasted of some ridiculously good defensive stats while also bagging a brilliant goal at the other end. It looks like one deal that Milan should make permanent in the summer transfer window.

Another massive aspect of winning the game was keeping Ronaldo quiet. The Portuguese sensation had no shots on target and only 2 shots attempted. He made just one key pass, no crosses, and lost the ball 17 times, completing just 25% of his attempted dribbles.

Verdict

Milan clearly deserved these three points and were by far the better side on the day. Unlike Pirlo’s Juve, Milan took their chances and made good use of their possession. They were back defending as well and did a stunning job, as reflected in their defensive stats as shown in Image H, while Image I shows despite having a similar xG (expected goals), Milan scored three more than their counterparts.

AC MIlan.
Image H. LEFT- Juventus, RIGHT- AC Milan. (SofaScore)
Image I. (Understat.com)

Milan are now 3rd in the table after the completion of gameweek 5, trailing 2nd-plaed Atalanta on goal difference. Juventus, meanwhile, trail Milan by 3 points and are in 5th place with just 3 league games to go. And going by Sunday’s performance, no one can say that Milan don’t deserve to be in the UCL at the expense of Juve.

Written by Aniket Rai

An ordinary football fan, doing what he loves.

Jon Jones posted this phot on his Twitter account. (Image Credits: @jonnybones on Twitter)

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