Analyzing the match against Samp and what Milan must fix to beat Lazio

The squad celebrates after scoring during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
The squad celebrates after scoring during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

After winning against Sampdoria on Friday, Milan face Lazio at 20:45 CET tonight and there are some things that need to be fixed. Article by Okey Ihenacho.

Milan returned once again to winning ways after a hard fought match against Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris which saw the away team eke out a 1-0 victory late in the contest.

It was a decent overall performance and a deserved result from the Rossoneri who were in desperate need of some positive news after the heartbreaking last minute loss to Udinese. We will look at how Milan matched up with Sampdoria and the things they must fix to avoid a loss against Lazio.

Coach Montella employed the team in the familiar 4-3-3, which has been Milan’s go-to formation thus far this season. On the opposite side, Coach Marco Giampaolo – who was close to joining Milan before Vincenzo – employed his boys in the 4-3-1-2. These two line-ups will dictate that the game will be fought and won by the ability of either midfield to control and dominate the game.

Figure (1) below is the heat map showing the zones on the field with the most activity.

Figure 1: Heat Activity - Left figure (A): combined activity; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria's activity; Right figure (C): Milan's activity
Figure 1: Heat Activity – Left figure (A): combined activity; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria’s activity; Right figure (C): Milan’s activity

For each picture, the top part of the field represents Sampdoria’s half while the bottom part is Milan’s. Figure 1 (A) is the combined activity of both teams for the duration of the game. As shown, it is evident the preponderance on play is in Milan’s half of the field.

Figure 1 (B) isolates Samp’s activity which shows their desire to attack the middle of Milan’s formation and also from their left flank (that is preferring to press their attack in Abate’s area of responsibility). Figure 1 (C) depicts Milan’s activity which shows a preference to attack from the left flank. This means Milan is more comfortable with Niang and Bonaventura being the catalysts for their attack.

Figure 2 below shows the average positioning of each team for the duration of the game and how the teams matched up. The icons in light blue represent Milan while those in gray represent Sampdoria.

Figure 1: Average Positioning - Left figure (A): combined positioning; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria's positioning; Right figure (C): Milan's positioning
Figure 2: Average Positioning – Left figure (A): combined positioning; Middle figure (B): Sampdoria’s positioning; Right figure (C): Milan’s positioning

Looking at Figure 2 (B), the average positioning of Sampdoria explains why their quality of play seemed better than Milan’s for the duration of the game. The defense not only played with a high-line but maintained adequate dispersion along the back line ensuring mutual support among the defenders. Moreover, a key thing to notice is how the backline was integrated with the midfield players. This gave very little spacing for opposing players to exploit, as can be seen in Figure 2 (A) (Gianluca Lapadula – #9 – is surrounded by 3 players of Sampdoria #29, #37, #34).

In contrast, looking at Figure 2 (C), the average positioning and dispersion of Milan shows why they are not only dominated during for stretches of gameplay but also why a majority of the game is played in Milan’s half. The positioning of the backline and the lack of adjustment during the game is something that needs to be remedied. It shows a couple of things: that leadership is lacking out there on the field and also that there is a lack of self-confidence with the individual players.

Gianluca Lapadula and Milan Škriniar during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (
Gianluca Lapadula and Milan Škriniar during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (

Look at Paletta (#29 of Milan) for example, he is the deepest defender in the backline. This is because his weakness is his lack of pace, but another concerning thing is the dispersion between him and Alessio Romagnoli (#13 of Milan). Looking at the graphic, it shows a defensive unit that is disjointed and not playing well together. However, there were moments of individual brilliance from the players.

Milan’s midfield, in my opinion, was the best unit for the team during this game in term of maintaining formation. The ball skills of Sosa and Jack allowed Montolivo to do what he does best which is cut off passing lanes (which he is very effective at doing). They maintained their dispersion and were mutually supporting; the only downside was their lack of support to the defense.

Looking at the Figure 2 (A), you can see the dispersion between the Milan midfield unit and its defense. Contrary to Sampdoria, this lack of integration and mutual supportability by both Milan units (defense and midfield) explains why the Milan team seemed under siege for most of the match. You can see the big lanes created by these gaps, allowing Sampdoria to load players in those spaces and apply the pressure on Milan (average positioning of #9 and #27 of Sampdoria).

Montella during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (
Montella during the match against Sampdoria on the 16th of September 2016 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris (

Milan can fix this in two ways: move the backline up another five meters to close the spaces down or move the midfield back the same distance. The former would be ideal but the risk is Milan’s CB’s getting beat on pace and the latter is less ideal because it invites more pressure in the Milan half. Although Paletta has played very well this season, he lacks the pace to cover for Romagnoli when the latter pushes up field.

The positive thing is that the team is improving from game to game, though the results have not always been in their favor. I am sure Coach Montella has seen some of these weaknesses identified here during tape study but he must have this team prepared to remedy them.

Milan came into the Sampdoria game with the right attitude, a must win mentality, and obtained the necessary three points. This should serve as a solid foundation to build from as the face Lazio tomorrow in a crucial clash.

This is Okey and as always, Forza Milan!

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Great article!


Indept analysis.Looking forward to a Milan win.

shams arafat

there is a reason why montolivo is picked every match. he’s the best positioned player in our team. neither bonaventura nor sosa are central midfielders. milan are basically playing with one true midfielder. if you notice, when locatelli was introduced last match, the performance of montolivo significantly went up. ofcourse fans can’t see that, as it is highly technical. the no 1 ball interception and retriever in the whole league is montolivo. its doesn’t happen by chance

play montolivo right or left midfielder, like the old days, i can guarantee, he will outperform any player in our midfield.


That’s last season stats bro. Jack has recovered more balls than any player this season. Monto is barely doing sh*t these days.

shams arafat

this season has barely started. not sure which stats are you watching? pls provide link if possible. according to whoscored montolivo is way ahead of bonaventura in clearance and tackles and blocks, which is this season’s stat. btw i repeat again, last season montolivo become no 1 in the whole league and not just milan. bonaventura has been quite poor this season, definitely worse than montolivo.

Mathijs Savicevic

You have a point and it is something I Always wondered. Last seasons, it was very clear when monty did not play, Milan lost or drew a lot of matches.
I Always gave him a lot of credit and the ball interceptions speak for themselve. But he is not a leader. I think it is a mistake to let De Jong go, he was more of a leader. Monty lacks that in personality. But lacks no football talent.

shams arafat

thanks for the comment. to be clear, i’m not the biggest monto fan either. i’m writing that on a purely objective perspective. both desiglio and montolivo has superb technical qualities and positional sense but the problem is they are not leader. hence when they play for national team, they always play superbly, because they are surrounded by world class player and leaders. specially desiglio. if milan get badeji, or even mati fernandez play somewhat decent, you will see montolivo performing better. because they are midfielders by trade.


You are 100 % right, the fact is, that up until the away game against Napoli last season (1-1) Montolivo was in the top five when it came to most balls intercepted in the top five leagues across europe. Maybe he even topped it, I remember that he was ahead of Kanté and Drinkwater, and that says a lot, especially Kanté. Bertolacci was also very high up on that list. I also noticed that once Loca came on, Monto improved even more, I thought he had a good game against Samp. The thing the last couple of seasons is that… Read more »


This is a great article, it shows us that our players (bar Sosa) should not be played either out of position or out of their best suited role. Monto gets a lot of hate here, I always think the fans demand to much from him, which is in part understandable as he’s the captain, but if he sits slightly deeper, just in front of the defence, breaking up play/passes/recovering balls, it takes the pressure off him to perform attacking/regista roles and mitigates Paletta’s lack of pace. Also, just to note, Paletta has been outstanding, especially against Samp. We could then… Read more »


I don’t think asking a captain to lead and perform better is asking too much. The guy is over 30yo and continues to be one of our major weakness. Asking 17yo Donnarumma and 18yo like Locatelli and Calabria to lead the team is asking too much. And we don’t have a bad team as result suggest. Fiorentina, Sassuolo, Udinese, or Bologna don’t have a better rooster than Milan, They have better leaders that’s the difference.

Dwayne Kanas

We need to win this one at all costs, we have tricky matches up ahead…it’s time to show those faithful Milan fans who occupy the once filled San Siro what you’re made of!


It was a tactical choice by Montella to play with a deep defense line against Samp. He said it after the match. Milan can also play with a high defensive line like they did with Udinese. Every match is different and Milan is not Barcelona, they can’t play the same way against every team out there.


A win is all that matters now. Play beautiful or play ugly – just bring home the bacon – 3 points! We’ve agreed that some of these players don’t deserve to wear the Milan jersey and with the incoming loot, better calibre players are expected, hopefully from January. So all I’m concerned about is the 3 points from these bunch. Now, go ahead and make me proud! Forza Milan!


Hmm… Which match should i watch tonight Sweden vs our rivals Finland in World cup of hockey or Milan vs Lazio cant decide


I think you should watch Milan Lazio in the 1st half, and if Milan play so badly… you can switch to other 😀


You are a wise man my friend haha… Maybe can work something out so i can watch both but there will be alot of shouting 🙂

Ola Milan

I can’t believe a Milan fan will ask such question? Well, I guess it because of the team’s performance. Don’t worry things is about to change.

A great win tonight.

Forza Milan


Nice article. I HATE statistics. You can’t not watch a match and just look at the statistics to see how the match went and how the team played. The only time when statistics are relevant are when they are significant. An example would be: 10-12 shots on target or 80% possession.

My point is that I appreciate the heat maps and average positioning as they tell wayyyyy more than silly stats.

Mr mark

Plus eniway to watch on line?


Nice article, cant believe we are playing on Tuesday night once again….. Ahhhh…. the Champions League – sweet memories.


let the players do their jobs, we just need to always support them …

Forza Milan