The previous post explained the reasoning for the choice of AC Milan. This post will look at the approach to squad analysis alongside player recruitment and retention.
With a desire to use data to evaluate squad performance and inform player trading decisions, the game has been holidayed for a full year to 1st June 2020. It’s worth noting that upon creating the save, the first transfer window was disabled and no transfer activity took place over the Winter transfer window, so as such, the squad remains the same as it was in 2019.
AC Milan finished 7th, landing them Europa League football for 2020-21, but in part thanks to the poor UEFA Club Coefficient discussed in the last post, AC were going to have to undergo three qualifying rounds before the Group Stage. Juventus achieved their 9th consecutive scudetto. This will be some mountain to climb to overtake them.
Scoring only 43 goals in 38 games tells a sorry picture of low-scoring football games, especially given that they finished the season with a goal difference of +7. Thirteen draws, some 34%, represents some 26 points dropped on its own, before even touching upon the ten losses. Where do the issues lie – is it with uncreative players, or with the forwards not being efficient in their finishing of the chances that were made for them?
In order to dive into the squad analysis, a squad view was set up to show all the metrics available within FM20 using the chalkboard statistics available in the ‘Customise Current View‘ drop down. Then, using the print screen facility within FM20 (Ctrl + P) and saving as a web page, an Excel file was created.
Using this information, the squad was assessed on their ability to create goals, shooting efficiency and tackle efficiencies.
Given the clear issue over goal-scoring, the priority went towards looking at chance creation and shooting efficiency. When looking at the creativity of the AC Milan squad during the 2019/20 season, Bonaventura and Bennacer are the stand out players, consistently creating chances and one that are (presumably) of reasonably high quality given that they’ve led to the most Assists/90. Both clearly played in playmaker roles looking at these metrics and so should be placed into these roles in any tactic adopted for the 2020-21 season. These figures are clearly low, and this is not surprising given the lack of goals that the team have scored. This is perhaps an indication that the team were playing low-paced football against defensively organised teams? Further investigation is needed on this.
Using a slight variation of metrics, this time Passes Completed/90 against Chances Created/90, a familiar pattern emerged. Bonaventura and Bennacer were again stand out in turning more of their passes into chances for the rest of the team to score. Biglia on the other hand, who has a broken ankle and is set to be out for a further two months, is far less efficient in turning his passes into chances for other players. Given his injury and the fact that he is on a substantial contract, over £105k/week, which is expiring at the end of the season, it looks wise to let him go, as Kessié can be used to more effectively make runs for either or both Bonaventura and Bennacer. Rade Krunic is also a concern – he may have played far fewer minutes (529) compared to Bennacer (2,986) and Bonaventura (2,178), but his play does not look to be adding much to the team. What is also of note in these metrics is that Piatek does not look to be involving himself in play that much, with just over 15 passes/90, pointing towards his role being more advanced (and perhaps isolated?), whilst the full backs are creating around a half chance per game each – Conti (0.49), Calabria (0.61), Rodriguez (0.72) and Hernandez (0.32). More clearly need to be done to convert passes into chances – and crucially good quality chances.
So if, at least some, chances are being created – how efficient are the forwards at finishing these chances? Are there further problems here too?
Piatek’s stands out from the crowd with his 3.92 Shots/90 and 1.66 Shots on Target/90. Pioli clearly preferred a single striker formation, most likely with Suso and Rebic playing out wide. Both Suso and Rebic actually outperform Piatek’s shot efficiency, with 47% and 57% respectively, to Piatek’s 42%. Yet as Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of shots you don’t take”. At least Piatek is buying a ticket to the lottery. However, averaging below than 0.35 Goals per 90 is less than impressive. Whether the quality of the shots he was taking were low, we’ll never know, but this needs to improve if the team is to improve. 13 goals in 39 games is certainly not going to cut it. Pioili clearly also didn’t have much faith in Piatek’s back-up, Rafael Leão, with Leão only playing 182 minutes over the season – ten substitute appearances and no starts. This at least indicates that Piatek should be fit to start most games in a season and appears to avoid suspensions. Qualifying for the Europa League for 2020-21 will only increase the workload – Leão should therefore reasonably expect more game time going forward.
The above evidence points towards the fact that the team did not appear to take many shots during the season, and when they did, they were largely funnelled through Piatek. If the opposition could shut Piatek down, they drastically reduce the chance of AC Milan scoring against them. With Serie A typically having deep set defences, with at least one, if not two pivots in the defensive midfield slot, more creative players and players who are willing to find their way into the box will need to be recruited. To improve his shot accuracy and efficiency, Piatek will be put onto a personalised training plan to give him the places shots trait.
Investigation into the defence is worthwhile on the back of their somewhat stellar performance of allowing less than a goal a game – 36 goals in 38 games. It’s worth noting that at this point, none of these stats are possession adjusted, so these are the raw figures. With regards to the centre backs, Romagnoli has the most appearances, unsurprising given he’s club captain, and Musacchio and Caldara have 17 a piece. Léo Duarte should be ignored – he only made six starts and ten substitute appearances. His average rating of 6.56 also indicates that when he did play, he did not play well.
It’s remarkable how similar both left backs are with their tackle percentages and the frequency of their Tackles/90. This could be an area to improve upon but may also highlight that opposition teams looked to exploit the gap in behind Suso and target either Calabria or Conti in the right back position. This will need to be assessed as the season goes on. Given the well-established defence, there does not seem to be an imminent need to address any areas in this department. AC Milan have well-balanced squad when it comes to the defensive set-up, with four quality central defenders, all possessing solid attributes for positioning, heading, marking and tackling and two good left and right backs for each position. Transfer spending allocation can be better utilised elsewhere.
Looking at the initial finances available to spend, this is clearly going to need to be controlled wisely and wait for sponsorship deals to come in so as not to plunge the club further into debt. Fortunately, despite the clubs recent downturn in European standing, the sponsorship deals do come flooding in. When combined with TV revenue and season ticket sales, the club goes from red to black – pun intended. There is some concern that some of these deals only last for one year, but hopefully, if the club is able to return to the Champions League as per the ambition, then these deals could be improved upon.
With creativity an absolute priority, the Club move quickly to add depth and quality to the side. The Directors, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Zvonimir Boban, head East to Brescia to bring Sandro Tonali back with them, the natural successor to former AC Milan great, Andrea Pirlo, whose career also began at ‘Le Rondinelle’ (the little swallows). His pass completion statistics are well above average, but it’s the frequency of chances created that sticks out – 0.16 more chances than the average.
Further funds were raised from player sales, including Diego Laxalt (£4.4m) and Alen Halilovic (£4.7m). Manchester United had interest in Hakan Çalhanoglu, so he left for £17.5m – not a disappointing sum given he had only one year left on his deal with the Rossoneri and had an underwhelming season with only five goal involvements in seventeen starts and eleven substitute appearances. The further sale of Fabio Borini to Frankfurt for an initial £3.9m (with potential uplift to £4.8m depending upon appearances) led to on-loan Ante Rebic being the first-choice option for the left-hand side of the attacking trident, with winger, Samu Castillejo, a back-up option. Further depth was required so Rodrigo De Paul was signed from relegated Udinese.
With Suso’s contract containing a £31.5m release clause and the player having a market value of £35m, Tottenham were sniffing around. Suso was unwilling to renegotiate his contract in light of this interest from a Champions League club, so to provide further depth and prepare for the scenario of Suso being taken from us, scouts were sent out to look for someone to play in the AMR slot. These players needed to be adept at playing in similar roles to the Spanish wide man and aged 23 or under to fit with the Club Philosophy. They came back with Emi Buendia as the top prospect, above the likes of Victor Tsygankov, David Neres, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Artur.
It is hoped that these three players will add quality to the squad, as well as depth, ready for Europa League football. These signings will be analysed at the end of the 2020-21 season to check their metrics against how they performed the previous season to see how well, or otherwise, they have adapted to life at Milan.
Taking into consideration the paucity of quality youth prospects and the Club Vision, the Chief Scout, Geoffrey Moncada, has been provided with the following brief:
At the start of the season, the media and bookmakers have AC Milan down to finish 4th behind Juventus, Napoli and city rivals, Inter Milan. The next blog will be an update following the closure of the January transfer window.
To read the next post in the series, click the below image.
* Player radars have been created using the website http://cboutaud.github.io/radar/radar.html