Milan face Sampdoria at Stadio San Siro on Sunday night (18:00 CET / Italy time kickoff), and Bartlett Tammaro’s scouting report will help you know what to expect from the opponents.
Sampdoria by the Numbers
– 5th in Serie A (15 points)
– 16th in shots per game (11.1)
– 8th in shots allowed per game (14.1)
– 8th in possession (52.3%)
– 10th in passing (81.9%)
– 1st in tackles per game (21.3)
Formation: 4-3-1-2 or 4-1-2-1-2
Expect a 4-3-1-2 against Milan.
Sampdoria’s offense is a patient build up from the back that gains speed, creativity and width as it moves into the attacking third. Their defenders are more than content with exchanging the ball between themselves until openings arise in their narrow midfield diamond. However, their narrow diamond in the middle can be easily congested by opposition. As a result, Albin Ekdal, their holding mid, will consistently check into the back line to collect and hold the ball, only to play back passes. His job draws opponents in, alleviating congestion in the middle of the park for his more creative midfield counterparts. From there, the midfield plays short, quick, one to two touch passes to advance into the final third. In the final third, Samp rely on a solid trio of Grégoire Defrel, Fabio Quagliarella and Gastón Ramírez to pass and move off of each other. When this trio is on their day, the result is both attractive and effective.
While creativity and short passing is the name of the game over at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, it can also be a weakness. Samp advance the ball in such a narrow space that it is easy for opposition teams to put their midfield under serious pressure. To counteract this, Sampdoria use fullbacks to follow the buildup up the pitch. While they act as a much needed outlet for the midfield, they also force the opposition’s defense to spread wider, decreasing central pressure. Should defenses try and contain only the midfield diamond and forget about the fullbacks, they will be punished. Open spaces for the fullbacks allow them to fire off crosses inside to Defrel and Quagliarella. Defenses that don’t pay respect to the fullbacks have already conceded some pretty memorable goals this year off crosses from out wide.
Samp overall have a clear understanding that their quality is in their creativity and movement within the middle of the pitch. Their fullbacks are really secondary options to decrease pressure in the center and give them a second dimension when attacking. Through either route, Sampdoria have managed to score some truly great goals on their competition thus far. The final reason for their potency is their attackers’ ability to play off one another. Defrel, Ramírez and Quagliarella have an understanding of each other that is second to none. A good amount of their goals this year have been scored off exchanges between those three in and around their opposition’s box.
Sampdoria play low pressure from up top and allow their opponents into their half of the pitch to defend. From inside their own half, they play a highly aggressive defense that is focused on rushing opposition midfielders and smothering attacks in narrow areas of the pitch. Édgar Barreto and Ekdal in particular do a great deal of this in the midfield. Should oppositions break their midfield diamond’s pressure, Sampdoria still do a good job of recovering and playing with numbers in front of their goal. In all, they will give up very few chances from the center of the field.
Typically when teams break Sampdoria’s midfield diamond down, they do it by switching play out wide. Sampdoria are slow to shift wide and cover crosses, however, they have some serious ball winners in the middle of the field in Joachim Andersen, Lorenzo Tonelli and Ekdal. In fact, they’re so confident in this respect, that they mostly defend zonally during crosses. There is actually very little man marking when defending chances in and around the box. Instead, their defenders can be seen ball watching, playing a zone and waiting for interceptions (this team excels at intercepting passes). While the ball watching and zonal defending instead of marking is unorthodox, it has worked well for Sampdoria thus far.
Offensively they haven’t displayed much this year on running set pieces. However, they have a plethora of attackers that can knock in direct free kicks around the box. Caution should be used when defending close to goal.
Much like how they defend in the run of play. Sampdoria usually only mark a couple key players when defending set pieces. They opt to have their best defenders play in a zone and pick out troublesome crosses.
They haven’t really produced much offensively, or given up much defensively so far this year. Offensively, most of their goals are scored in the run of play. Defensively, all four of their goals conceded have come in the run of play.
Milan’s Keys to the Game
I’m excited about this match. I’ll admit, I’ve been one of those guys in the 4-4-2 camp for a while now and believe it could work well for us (I know… I know… We’ll need more strikers in January for depth if we plan to stick with it).
Defensively Milan needs to keep Sampdoria in the middle of the park. Our outside midfielders will need to do a good job of pressing high and wide to keep Sampdoria’s fullbacks honest. If they can do this, it takes away the only width Sampdoria can provide and makes their attack one dimensional. I also don’t doubt Biglia or Kessié (who may actually miss the game due to a muscular injury) could have a field day against a team who keeps very narrow spacing between their midfield four. So long as Milan can contain Sampdoria into the middle of the pitch and beat them there on defense, there shouldn’t be many issues. Milan actually lines up nicely against Sampdoria’s offensive style.
Offensively, Milan need to draw Sampdoria’s midfield in close and then play the switch out of pressure right from the start. Napoli lost 3-0 to Sampdoria and their only bright moments came when they realized they should play the switch out of pressure. Sampdoria’s midfield presses so hard in small areas that it’s extremely hard for them to recover should opponents work the ball to the weak side. 3 of their 4 goals conceded this year came from opponents switching play. Our outside backs need to be consistent in coming forward on the weak sides.
Lastly, Andersen and Tonelli’s tendency to ball watch and defend zonally could prove a gift for Cutrone or Higuain. Patrick in particular can especially exploit this tendency.
Defensively, Milan need to press high and wide to keep Sampdoria’s fullbacks honest and not allow them to roam up the field and join the attack. This keeps a good Sampdoria offense rather one dimensional. Offensively, Milan needs to draw Samp’s midfield into one area so they can play switches onto the weak side. From there they can create chances. One would think that in a 4-4-2 with Cutrone and Higuain up top, they’ll have the quality to put those chances away. Anything less than three points here is unacceptable.