In short, despite the best ranking and an already stable field project, it was not obvious that the hosts were favorites, nor that they proved to be better than Milan at every stage of the game. The 2-1 final and the feeling of control over the match are the best certifications on the goodness of Fonseca's work, able to give certainty to the team on both sides of the field and to value second lines and players out of position through the strength of their own ideas .
It would be enough to observe the naturalness with which Mancini took his place in the director's shoes thanks to a system that provided him with the right references of spaces to occupy and men to give the ball to. Let's take this action at the end of the first half, with Roma in low construction on the right. Possession comes between the feet of Spinazzola; Mancini, screened by Paqueta, moves towards the band, from a midfielder used to reading the spaces, to exit the Brazilian's cone of shadow and give a clean line of passage to his companion. Mancini plays with Spinazzola right away. Meanwhile Biglia sketched the slide towards the ball, but in this way he discovered the track on Zaniolo in the middle space. Spinazzola reaches Zaniolo who can easily change the game for Kolarov on the weak side.
A decisive match on the wings
Despite the absences, therefore, Rome has proved to have more certainties. Milan had tried to focus on continuity by re-proposing the same eleven that he had drawn with Lecce. In that game he had developed the maneuver above all on the bands through chain mechanisms that, with the exchanges behind the opponents, had the objective to create the passage for the movement in depth or the game change towards the weak side. Besides, Stefano Pioli wrote his Coverciano thesis on the side chains.
Also against Roma the Rossoneri tried to build on the wings. Conti remained close to the two centers determining the passage from 4-3-3 to 3-2-4-1 in the possession phase: Suso and Theo occupied the amplitude, Paqueta and Calhanoglu the respective half spaces on the trocar, with the task of get closer to the ball area and participate in the dribble in the band. When Milan managed to circulate the ball on the side beyond half the field, then at least one player on the opposite side approached to give an outlet in the central zone or to attack the space behind the defense and invite to the filter.
The most sought-after play however, once the possession was consolidated, was the game change for the isolation of the companion opened on the weak side, given that Roma slipped in the ball area; hence the need for two large men like Theo and Suso or Paqueta when he exchanged his position with the former Liverpool.
However, Milan has never taken advantage of this situation, above all because it has sought a game change as a solution to avoid paralyzing possession more than to create real offensive advantages. The Rossoneri could not dribble among the opposing players in the band: possession did not beat the men in pressure and did not force the other Giallorossi to come closer to help their teammates. In this way Rome was almost never short horizontally and on the game change the recipient of the throw was not isolated, or in any case could not attack with an uncovered ball once the check had been carried out.
Fonseca's men were precise in the climbs and they never left free passage lines on the strong side, at any height the pressing was performed. The reference for the movements was the ball; once the slide was completed, the nearest players had to check and attack the opponent in their area. The arrangement of the Roma could therefore vary with the movement towards the band and the position of the player to be taken over: phases of 4-1-4-1 were seen, others of 4-3-3 more pure and others still of 4 -4-2 with Pastore alongside Dzeko. In general, the Bosnian and the Argentine took care of covering the corridors towards the center to invite the passage on the arms; from there the pressing on the side took place, with Dzeko and Pastore occupying Musacchio and Romagnoli in a stable manner.
If circulation moved on Conti, then Perotti would get up; then Kolarov came out aggressively on the large man (Suso but sometimes Paqueta when they exchanged positions), Veretout took care of the Milan player in the middle space and behind them Mancini and Zaniolo followed the climb.
If instead the Rossoneri developed on the left, Pastore got up on Romagnoli, careful to cover the passage line towards Kessie with the race. Zaniolo instead expanded on Theo, he also skilled at hiding the track towards the center of the field, with Mancini and Veretout ready to accompany the pressure.
The context of the match, to a great extent, has determined Milan's inability to build in the band. The Rossoneri have held the ball for more than 57% of the time, a particular fact considering the attitude to the possession of the Roma, without knowing how to circumvent the pressure neither in their own half of the field nor at the height of the median when the Giallorossi lowered the center of gravity.
To avoid the opposing defensive phase, Milan could have involved Donnarumma more. The goalkeeper of the national team in recent years has raised the level in the game with the feet and could have been a useful solution to create numerical superiority against Perotti, Dzeko and Pastore. In one of the rare times in which he participated in the circulation, Milan managed to play smoothly on the right side and to free Leao from the center due to a potential dangerous game change on Theo's isolation. At 27 ′ with a ball at Donnarumma Biglia came up behind Dzeko. The goalkeeper triggered the director who was able to turn around. Veretout or Mancini did not get up on the Argentine to remain compact on the arretrara line; Biglia can play uncovered ball and goes to Conti on the right. The Italian download on Paqueta largo; Meanwhile, Leao joins the chain in the middle space and calls the passage to Paqueta. Received the ball, the Portuguese with Mancini behind him directed the control well towards the center of the field. At this point it could change game on Theo all alone on the weak side. Leao, however, does not trust his left, touches the ball too many times and gives Roma time to settle back.
Leao didn't have the courage to look for the most logical and profitable solution. The same courage that chain interpreters should have had to beat Romanist pressure. For example, dribbling and conduction would have been useful. Although it was inaccurate both in construction and in some climbs, Kessie twice in dribbling racing created imbalances in the defense of Roma: in the case of the goal canceled to Paqueta and in the middle of the first half, when Veretout failed to contain him and he at the edge of the area served a short filter to Leao. The Portuguese instead of kicking but tried to close the triangle. It could have been useful in this sense Bennacer, more able than Biglia to free himself in dribbling. The Argentine has moved little in the horizontal to get out of the shadow of Dzeko and Pastore. If Lecce had given continuity to the possession by moving forward to give progressive lines of passage and not just security, last night it remained anchored to its position, perhaps for fear of leaving the defense uncovered against a high-level opponent.
Milan has created only in chaotic circumstances, generated by air duels and second balls ended up on the Rossoneri's feet. In those situations Calhanoglu as usual proved to be the lord of chaos, a player as few as possible to dominate disorder and give him logic. As in the case of the heel with which he sent to the door Leao at the beginning of the first half, in an action generated by one of the many launches by Conti and by a clumsy intervention by Fazio.
For the rest, Milan's performance is punctuated by many individual errors, even serious ones, even close to their own goal, which in the end cost the result.
Simple errors, in disengagement, in support. When the head doesn't go, you can end up wrong EVERYTHING ..
And here's the demonstration.
– Pietro Balzano Prota (@PBPcalcio) October 28, 2019
It must be said that Rome performed well the tasks in the non-possession phase. Of course, development and refinement have not been the best, but it is always difficult to build without one's best men. The Giallorossi did not play long phases of positional attack, but they managed to gain their chances through aggressive ball recoveries that caught Milan unprepared.
On the band Roma has challenged all admissions to opponents. With the occupation of the center in the initial stages of possession, he tried instead to generate doubt in Milan's defenders and to tilt their choices towards error. As happened on the occasion of Zaniolo's decisive goal. Roma had once again forced Milan to pass sideways. The defender in possession had the ball on the right and Antonucci in pressure closed the passage on Biglia with the race. Next to the Argentine there was Kessie; to reach it Calabria would have had to move the ball to the left, in order to remove the trajectory of the transition from Dzeko to the center. The only way to serve Kessie right-handed was with the outside, a play that Calabria obviously doesn't have in its ropes. He tried the interior tracer anyway and gave the ball to the Bosnian. From there the intervention of Musacchio that turns into an assist for Zaniolo.
The unfortunate choice of Calabria. The ball is obviously too far below the body to look for the right pass. In fact, the ball runs very slow and Dzeko has time to get on the path and steal possession
Roma were good at inducing Milan to make a mistake, but the Rossoneri were really sloppy in some situations. As in the errors in marking on corner kicks, which led to Dzeko's first goal in the versionMasked Kane".
Finally, a note on Pastore, a demonstration of how far Fonseca has managed to put everyone at ease. The Flaco entered the folds of the match with dribbling and touches of sole that broke the rhythm of Milan and demonstrated the psychological and technical control of Roma over the match. The double tunnel of the first half against Suso and Biglia – despite being stopped by Conti – is a play that belongs only to him in Serie A, the symptom of a finally stable physical condition for a player in the third game starting in seven days. Certainly the injuries are a serious deficit, but Fonseca, with principles that have improved individuality, has managed to enlarge the rose.
Milan instead seems to struggle to absorb the principles of Pioli, very different from those of Giampaolo. It could not be otherwise after so little time. However, the lack of quality of the individual is a cause for concern, also evident against an adversary at the lowest terms, the real point of contact between all the latest technical management of the Rossoneri. Even in this match Milan seemed to build their best chances through chaos and second balls, bypassing the quality problem, but if he wants to become that kind of team he would need to raise the intensity of his performances. Who knows if this is the road that Stefano Pioli will try to take. For now, Milan has the air of a confused team.