AC Milan 2020-21 Season – Player Analysis: Attackers

Wide Attackers

The attacking wide men in the AC Milan side play in the inverted winger and inside forward roles, depending upon who is playing in the various positions. The players drive at the half space in between central defenders and full backs before looking for a cross/shooting opportunity in the inverted winger role, or look to cut across further in the inside forward roles before seeking to shoot or pass to an on-rushing teammate.

Attacking Midfield Right-Hand Side

New boy Emi Buendía had an excellent first season. One brief look at his player radar and percentiles tells you as much. He was league-leading in both non-penalty goals and assists – putting him out on his own for goal contribution amongst attacking wide players. With a total of 32 goal involvements out of all goals scored by AC, this was a whopping 45.71%. His 14% goal conversion is also incredible given that he was responsible for taking direct free kicks when on the field of play. His desire to drive at his opponents, using his trickery to go beyond players and lay on chances for his teammates or find himself in goal-scoring situations. His 76% passing success highlights that he was willing to attempt risky passes if it was for the benefit of the team, and given his 0.37 assists per ninety, these look to have been highly effective when they did make it through to a teammate.

Fellow right-sided attacker, Suso, would by any normal standards have had an excellent season, were it not for his teammate above. He was second in the league behind Buendía for both key passes and assists per ninety. His eleven assists and nine non-penalty goals in 30.42 90s gave him a goal contribution of 0.66 per game, or 28.57% of all goals that AC Milan scored across the season. He too sought out the riskier passes for the benefit of the team, explaining his poor pass completion statistics, but again, when these risky passes are leading to goals, they should not be discouraged.

Attacking Midfielder Left-Hand Side

Rebić’s performance highlights a potential weakness within the AC Milan set up – either with the recruitment team or the tactical system. His two year loan spell has been average at best – literally, if you look at his percentiles for 2020-21. Whilst he was something of a goal threat (registering seven non-penalty goals) he was not a key contributor of assists (just two to his name), his goal contribution saw him fall at the 60th percentile – nothing much special for a side that outscored the rest of the league relatively comfortably. He could and perhaps should have scored more given his high number of shots on target over the season – poor finishing or just bad luck in front of goal cannot be assessed with the current available data. Overall, looking into these available metrics, his loan will not be made permanent, nor will AC be seeking to extend the loan.

The question of recruitment or tactical set-up is further compounded when analysing Rodrigo De Paul’s performance. He too had a mediocre season to put it mildly. His recruitment from Udinese at the start of the season looked promising, given his relatively cheap price and the performances he had put in for over the season that saw the Udine-based club relegated. Whilst it was anticipated that he would be a back-up player to Rebić, his quality of performance when he was on the field was not at a level that is expected of AC Milan, despite his eight assists. A goal conversion rate of 4%, and only 0.86 shots on target per ninety meant that when De Paul was in a position to shoot, he was either taking poor quality shots, or wasting good chances. Recruitment will need to focus on this area, not just because Rebić’s loan is at an end, but primarily to add quality and redress the issue of an imbalance across I Rossoneri’s attack. With both players coming in at around half of Suso’s goal involvement, and well below that of Buendía, scouts have been charged with finding a player ready for first team football at the San Siro.

Emi Buendía’s performance in front of goal becomes apparent when you compare it directly to the other AMR/AMLs. He destroys most other players in the same sections of the field, with only Lorenzo Insigne coming close to matching his goal output to shots. With Suso and Rebić somewhere around average, Rodrigo De Paul’s poor season looks even more drastic with this comparison.

Ronaldo’s ridiculous number of shots on target/90 can go partly towards explaining his goal output, but he was far less efficient than either Buendía or Insigne. Using this metric to analyse potential replacements for Rebić’s loan expiring, no-one appears to be an abundantly obvious prospect.

Buendía also looks to be way out from the rest, but alongside Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, when it comes to the number of non-penalty goals and goal conversion. This metric is more useful to demonstrate that Ronaldo is profligate in front of goal, shooting with incredible frequency within ninety minutes. Roberto Insigne is a big outlier in this metric, but only played 16.47 90s (1,482 minutes) and scored only two goals from just twelve shots taken. As such, his metrics should be ignored due to a small sample size.

Measuring creative abilities against finishing output of these attacking players gives further evidence as to how successful the two AMRs were for AC Milan.

When assessing the input of players playing in these positions towards creating chances with key passes to the number of passes completed, remarkably, given his frequency of assists, Buendía isn’t far away from the crowd. Fiorentina’s Marius Wolf is another example of a player who appears to have been exceptional in terms of his desire to be involved in play. Yet, when the numbers are analysed, he only played 15.14 90s (1,363 minutes). Therefore, his 1.78 key passes across 65.44 passes per ninety need to be taken with a pinch of salt, it’s plausible that these numbers could have come down across more minutes. Hestad also only played 16.86 90s (1,517 minutes), so there’s cause for caution there too. However, Federico Chiesa’s figures came across 39.64 90s (3,568 minutes), so are far more reliable. His key pass frequency is actually better than that of Buendía, even if they are across considerably more passes per ninety. Federico Chiesa is already known to be a considerable talent and fits the requirements of the AC Milan board of signing young players for the first team. Scouts will be sent out to watch his games and assess his availability from Fiorentina.

Centre Forward

Krzysztof Piątek top scored in Serie A over the 2020-21 season, with 31 non-penalty goals. His marksmanship saw him score 14% of all shots taken, putting him in the top ten percent of all strikers in Serie A. Overall, his involvement was not as strong though. His instinct in front of goal did not appear to be on the same level as his contributions to the rest of the team, in terms of trying to press and win the ball back from the front and make passes to bring in others. A goal involvement of 58.57% is exceptional, but 50% of that came from his goals (including penalties).

His performance in front of goal has him out all on his own when it comes to looking at the number of non-penalty goals against minutes per non-penalty goals. His ability in front of goal has him at the pinnacle of Serie A’s strikers, averaging less than 200 minutes per goal.

Given the above evidence, you could be inclined to believe that Piątek’s season couldn’t have gone much better. Yet when you break down his goal conversion against the number of non-penalty goals that were scored by Serie A strikers, he actually performed below the trend line, this indicating that there was perhaps more to squeeze out of him.

In terms of the rest of the League, Gabriel Barbosa (Gabrigol) looks to have had a remarkable season, scoring at an incredible conversion rate. It has to be questioned as to whether or not this is sustainable going forwards for the Atalanta forward. Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot frequency and quality is also plain for all to see here. Yes he scored the third most goals over the season, but just 8% of all his shots went in. Higuaín practically ashamed him in this regard being far more clinical with the chances provided to him from the playmaking powerhouse in behind him in the form of Modrić, Can, Pjanić and Rabiot.

Serie A strikers appear to be a selfish cohort and Piątek doesn’t seem to be any different from the rest of the crowd. Coming in at just over 0.10 assists per ninety, his goal involvement stemmed from him predominately putting the ball in the back of the net himself rather than laying on opportunities for his fellow teammates. Given his output in front of goal, this should not necessarily be discouraged, assuming he can continue to hit the target on a regular basis.

Romelu Lukaku on the other hand is out there on his own in terms of his goal involvement. A ratio of nearly 0.3A/90 & 0.45G/90 sees the Target Man a fantastic foil for those around him. It’s a wonder that Lautaro Martinez did not finish higher on the goal scoring charts with this level of service from his fellow striker. Martinez actually endured a relatively torrid season by his high ceiling, as did Džeko, though perhaps time and a poor AS Roma showing contributed to this.

Indeed, despite playing as a Complete Forward on Attack, Piątek did not look to heavily involve himself in play. Perhaps a combination of being assigned the Attacking duty, pushing him further away from his teammates and being the sole striker, thus being easier to mark, are explanations for this lack of involvement in the build up play. Yet when he was integrated into the play, he was not profligate with the ball, regularly finding his teammates, to give him an excellent pass completion statistic for a lone front man. Given the preference to play two wide men cutting in to support the attack, hitting in between opposition centre backs and full backs and also to play three central midfielders, the system will not be adjusted just to increase the involvement of a striker, and nor should it if he is able to demonstrate his effectiveness in front of goal with the lowest minutes per goal in Serie A.

With Piątek’s performance taken into consideration and Andre Silva returning on loan from Frankfurt, there is no need to go into the transfer market to add more depth. If anything, Silva’s return frees up Leão to go out on loan himself to gain valuable first-team experience.

If you wish to go back to the hub for the rest of the player analysis, click here.


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