Pulisic, Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek: AC Milan’s new signings have huge early influence on Pioli’s Rossoneri

AC Milan's new signings are settling in nicely. With Pulisic, Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek in particular, Stefano Pioli has the perfect pieces to allow him to shape a new-and-improved Rossoneri side.

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MILAN: A dominant 4-1 win over Torino, one of the trickiest Serie A sides to play against under Ivan Juric, was further proof that AC Milan new faces are taking no time to settle, helping the Rossoneri step up to a higher level even sooner than many had expected.

Christian Pulisic looked in fine form again as he scored his second Serie A goal in as many appearances to break the deadlock, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek‘s assist serving as a perfect demonstration of what the Englishman’s strength and pace can bring to the side. Tijjani Reijnders also impressed on the night.

Beyond the involvement in the goals, it was interesting to notice how Stefano Pioli is trying to make the most of his new signings’ features to further develop some of his side’s trademark traits, such as their ability to quickly attack after recovering the ball. Pioli is also using his new players to fix some of the biggest flaws from last season, which included struggling to open up opposing defences.

Reijnders is the footballing brain AC Milan were lacking

It was clear to see last season that AC Milan‘s offensive threat was heavily reliant on their best individuals, with the dribbling and directness of Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez playing a key part in their chance creation.

While such qualities made the Rossoneri lethal on the break, they visibly struggled when faced with the challenge of keeping possession more than their opponents and creating space against low defensive blocks.

AC Milan duo Theo Hernandez and Tijjani Reijnders. [@acmilan]

Their propensity for a more instinctive play was arguably a direct consequence of their lack of players who could ensure control of the ball when in possession. That is something that Milan have tried to overcome with the purchase of Tijjani Reijnders, the ideal midfield metronome to control the pace of a game.

Constantly floating between the midfield and attacking line, Reijnders roams the spaces to always provide his teammates with an easy solution, bringing order to what would otherwise be a too-impulsive side.

Instead, Reijnders‘ ability to impose his pace on the game, just by taking a few touches and resisting the opponents’ pressure while scanning the options available, seemed to benefit the whole team against Toro, with the other players harmoniously following the rhythm set by their new midfield director.

In his 90 minutes against the Granata, Reijnders regularly gave the impression of being able to be a spark for the hosts whenever he had the ball. This was in addition to being one of the safest players on the pitch in possession, boasting pass completion rates between 90% and 100% in his first two Serie A outings.

What Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek bring to AC Milan’s style

AC Milan’s Christian Pulisic celebrates. [acmilan.com]

The move that led to Christian Pulisic‘s opener was a prime example of what they’re looking to do. With their defence kept high to face a Torino throw-in, the Rossoneri won the ball back near the centre circle and Fikayo Tomori swiftly found Pulisic. Then, Milan set off.

The 4-1-4-1 shape AC Milan often adopt when out of possession, with four offensive players behind Olivier Giroud ready to invade the space in front of them, makes sure the pitch is well covered from one side to the other, providing a potential ball carrier with plenty of options to develop a lethal counterattack.

Unlike last season, the qualities of the Rossoneri’s new signings now allow them to mount quick and effective attacks down both flanks – Pulisic‘s ability to play with both feet and come inside was key to freeing the space on the right exploited by Loftus-Cheek, whose pace and physicality made it impossible for Ricardo Rodriguez to stop him.

The fruitful combination between the two former Chelsea teammates was further evidence of what the Rossoneri have actively been looking for in the transfer market, as they went from midfield to finding the back of the net in the space of 10 seconds.

Shaping a side that alternates moments of high pressing and intensity with a more reasoned style will probably be Stefano Pioli‘s biggest challenge for the coming months. If his attempt is to be successful, there will be fewer and fewer problems his AC Milan won’t be able to find an answer to.

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