Written by Michele Tossani.
Milan have made a lot of moves on the market so far, so it’s time to think about how they’re going to play next season.
New sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli and new CEO Marco Fassone have hit the ground securing ten signings with the latest addition being former Juventus player Leonardo Bonucci, who is arguably Milan’s top recruit.
Bonucci is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, and Fassone and Mirabelli took advantage of the player’s broken relationship with Allegri, to bring him on.
So, after Bonucci signed a five-year deal with the Milanese club and with the others recruits aboard, the question is: how will Montella line Milan on the pitch? Montella favored a 4-3-3 formation last campaign with Suso and the now departed Gerard Deulofeu on the flanks.
Sticking with this old formation is probably the obvious option. But Milan’s boss flirted with 3-5-2, the formation he ran during his time at Fiorentina and the line-up with which the team performed well at Atalanta in the game that helped Milan get the point that brought them back in Europe.
So, Milan’s footballers aren’t unfamiliar with this playing formation and they have now enough central defenders to play with a 3-men line. Then, in Bonucci they bought a player that fits perfectly in a 3-men line. Although Paletta (and perhaps also Zapata) is set to leave, Montella still has the young Romagnoli and the newly acquired Musacchio knowing well how to play alongside a sweeper.
On the flanks, Ricardo Rodriguez and Andrea Conti fit perfectly in a 5-men midfield being both able to provide width and the needed number of crosses. And with Argentine Lucas Biglia also signing, Milan get a player replacing Riccardo Montolivo. Montella wanted a playmaker to stepping in the place of the team’s captain and mentor Manuel Locatelli, and he gets his man in the former Biancoceleste regista. Biglia will bring on his high passing skills operating at the base of midfield.
The big question mark remaining is about the other central midfielders.
Franck Kessié should be used as right-sided box-to-box central midfielder, a spot from where he will provide his classic runs. The left-sided central midfielder spot, however, remains to be assigned. With Hakan Çalhanoğlu signing, the former Bayer Leverkusen player could be lined up at the left-sided position in midfield providing creativity and passing. But even Bonaventura (notably the best team’s player last season) could play there so he could share playing time with the Turkish international.
But with Montella favoring talented guys and with his attacking philosophy he could still line up both Çalhanoğlu and Bonaventura. It could happen by switching the 3-5-2 into a kind of 3-5-1-1 with Jack as left-sided midfielder and with Çalhanoğlu as attacking midfielder behind a lone forward.
Another scenario could lead Montella lining up a more creative and offensive 3-4-2-1 system. It would be an interesting choice with both Bonaventura and Çalhanoğlu as No. 10’s, in an attempt to mirror last season Paulo Sousa’s Fiorentina. Both Bonaventura and Çalhanoğlu could fill this spot well with each one occupying their respective half-spaces.
Although it could represent an intriguing idea, Biglia and Kessié might become not really useful in a 3-4-2-1 due to their limited ability to work as central midfielders in a 2-men midfield. Lucas isn’t accustomed to play as mezzala while Franck could be forced to limit his powerful central attacks.
In the end, Montella will have some work to do but he has many options should he mold his new roster into a three-man defense side.