Milan-Sassuolo: Know Your Enemy

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Fabio Borini and Matteo Politano during Sassuolo-Milan at at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on November 5, 2017. (@acmilan.com)
Fabio Borini and Matteo Politano during Sassuolo-Milan at at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on November 5, 2017. (@acmilan.com)

Milan face Sassuolo at Stadio San Siro on Sunday night (20:45 CET / Italy time kickoff), and Bartlett Tammaro’s scouting report will help you know what to expect from the opponents.

Sassuolo by the Numbers

– 10th in shots per game (13.0)
– 9th  in shots allowed per game (12.7)
– 6th in aerial wins per game (15.8)
– 17th in pass accuracy (76.1%)
– 20th in goals scored (20)

Formation: 5-3-2/3-5-2

Offense

Sassuolo’s offense is nothing special (they’re dead last in goals scored), their first look is almost always a long ball up to the forwards with the intent to work the ball out wide for a cross. They’re painfully direct. They have very little buildup through the midfield and look to whatever option gets them to their opponent’s box the fastest.

Sassuolo players celebrating during Sassuolo-Napoli at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on March 31, 2018. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Sassuolo players celebrating during Sassuolo-Napoli at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on March 31, 2018. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Offensive production aside, there are a couple ways in which Sassuolo can hurt their opponents. Their forwards Berardi and Politano will not hesitate to take their chances; they’re decent at creating chances on their own. Additionally, while Sassuolo does not attack with numbers often, they do attack with an astonishing intensity. Their forwards will make blazing runs at defensive lines which can be quite difficult for defenders to deal with when backtracking. Expect to see Berardi create a couple chances from running with pace through defenders.

This is the worst goal scoring team in Serie A. There’s a lot wrong with them offensively that can be exploited. Sassuolo have a poor tendency to melt under pressure in the midfield. They have one of the leagues poorest passing percentages and linking up short passes in the middle often looks like a chore for them. On top of this, they do a horrible job of keeping possession. If they have to make a back pass to their defense, the ball is likely about to be cleared away. They just don’t hold possession well. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, there is no cohesiveness in their attack. Many of their attacking opportunities are created by one or two players, not by their team. They don’t attack well as a unit and rely on individual runs to create half chances. Other opponents have proved time and time again they’re pretty easy to contain.

Domenico Berardi celebrating during Sassuolo-Torino at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on January 21, 2018. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
Domenico Berardi celebrating during Sassuolo-Torino at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on January 21, 2018. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Transition to Offense

Sassuolo transitions up the field in one of two ways. They either send a long ball from the back and try to take on a back four with one or two attackers; or they transition from a 5-3-2 to a 3-5-2 and move numbers forward.

When they are able to move numbers forward (which isn’t often), they look pretty good. Their most impressive attacking is when they’re wingbacks and midfield join the attacking ranks. They still attack with the same pace and intensity, so with numbers, it can create real problems.

The other side of this however is their poor transitions. Typically, they send long balls from the back up the middle towards the forwards. This gives time for maybe only one or two midfielders to join the attack. It’s pretty commonplace to see Sassuolo transition into attack with only two players.

Timothy Castagne and Alfred Duncan during Sassuolo-Atalanta at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on January 27, 2018. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Timothy Castagne and Alfred Duncan during Sassuolo-Atalanta at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on January 27, 2018. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

Defense

Sassuolo runs their defense with low pressure up top and a heavy concentration on containing opponents on one side through the midfield. They prefer to congest play closer in towards goal.

They get a few things right when running out of a 5-3-2. They do a very good job of dropping deep and defending as a unit. The strikers will even come back to defend within 30 meters of their own goal, not allowing opposing center midfielders a ton of room. They also contain well in the corners, the midfield will press hard to the side the ball is on and force turnovers down the line. This doesn’t allow for a lot of overlapping runs between wingers and fullbacks. On top of all this, they run a back 5, which congests the box and forces teams to attack smarter.

Stefano Sensi and Ali Adnan Kadhim during Sassuolo-Udinese at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on October 25, 2017. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Stefano Sensi and Ali Adnan Kadhim during Sassuolo-Udinese at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on October 25, 2017. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

While they aren’t a bad team defensively, they do have some rather exploitable weaknesses when defending. While their 3 man contain in the midfield can be affective, it leaves them completely open to switches on the weak side. This tight 3 man contain often results in large amounts of space available for advancing fullbacks and wingers on the weak side.

In addition to leaving space on the weak side, their midfield also plays flat across, allowing for large gaps between the midfield and defense. This results in extra room for more creative attackers to be on the ball and find killer passes or take long shots. Sassuolo also does a pretty poor job or marking wingers on the outside, a few teams they have played have been able to exploit this and score goals on crosses going towards the back post. Lastly, Sassuolo play very aggressive around their box resulting in a lot of cheap fouls. This gives good teams great opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Francesco Acerbi and Arkadiusz Milik during Sassuolo-Napoli at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on March 31, 2018. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Francesco Acerbi and Arkadiusz Milik during Sassuolo-Napoli at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on March 31, 2018. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Transition to Defense

Because they don’t often throw numbers forward, Sassuolo doesn’t have to make many transitions back into defense. However, when they throw multiple midfielders and wingbacks forward, they open themselves up to some serious problems. First and foremost, there isn’t a great effort to work back from their midfield when they do come forward. This mixed with their poor passing and inability to retain possession can often result in opponents getting a few opportunities a game to run at just a 3 man back line.

Set Pieces

Again, nothing genuinely special from Sassuolo here. They have a few key players like Acerbi and Peluso. Offensively there aren’t a ton of moving parts to their set pieces, most players float around and they look to flick the ball on from the near post or spring a big man loose on the back. Defensively they aren’t strong at marking. They play mostly out of a zone and will often leave big players running free in the box, especially on either side of the six yard box.

Giuseppe Iachini during Udinese-Sassuolo at Stadio Friuli on March 17, 2018. (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Iachini during Udinese-Sassuolo at Stadio Friuli on March 17, 2018. (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)

Final Thoughts

If they play to their potential and not Sassuolo’s, Milan should really run away with this one. Sassuolo just doesn’t have the potency or cohesiveness when attacking to hurt good teams. They may get a few chances, but nothing Milan cannot handle. Defensively they’re good and compact. They play a similar defense to Genoa’s 3-5-2, but they really lack the organization and quality that Genoa have. With big switches through the midfield to break the 3 man contain and having forwards run off the shoulders of the wingbacks, Milan should be able to break them down.

Prediction: Milan 2–0 Sassuolo

Lastly, I know after the last two matches our Champions League hopes have taken a serious hit, but we’re 8 points down and crazier things have happened. Keep faith. Forza Milan.

With that being said, how would you approach this match?

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Milanellofm
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Milanellofm

This should be an easy win but not to be taken for granted. Sassuolo has always given us trouble.

Ruskin
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Ruskin

With Milan no game is easy

Ink
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Ink

With you, every post is annoying.
Seriously mate, am I the only one?

Ruskin
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Ruskin

That’s bcos u have failed to be realistic

Calm down
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Calm down

Why are they not firing their coach with that type of football. I know good individual players in that team. Coach must be very bad not to be able to make them hold on possession against teams like Crotone and attack. The type of overrated coaches killing talents in Calcio. Anyway I can’t be upset if they would play that way tomorrow.

Ali
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Ali

A win is the only acceptable result.

san-siro
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Three points is as stake nothing more. All the best General &co

Nazz
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Nazz

I don’t know about you guys, but reading this report remind me of Milan under Montella….