Andrea Bertolacci: A Potential Milan Protagonist?

In this season’s Summer mercato, Milan decided to purchase Roma-owned midfielder, Andrea Bertolacci, for €20 million, via GianlucaDiMarzio.com. It was an attempt to reinforce an area of the squad that desperately needed improvement. Based on last season’s good form where the Rome native scored 6 goals and gathered 8 assists for Genoa, via WhoScored.com, Milan were hopeful he could replicate this good form for the Rossoneri and help out with the midfield woes that have plagued the Milanese club for the past few seasons. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for Bertolacci.

He has been struggling lately with trying to replicate last season’s good form in a new system of play that is unfamiliar to him. The couple of injuries he has suffered this season haven’t helped his cause either. Some are now thinking his 20 million euro tag is not justified and the money should have been used for someone else. Although this opinion is warranted based on his current form, I am of belief that Bertolacci can turn his season around and become a protagonist for Milan to justify the transfer fee that was required to bring in him.

Bertolacci has only earned 1 assist in 5 appearances for Milan’s 2015-2016 Serie A campaign thus far. His only assist came through a lovely centered pass into the path of Carlos Bacca, who made no mistake finding the back of the net in Milan’s 1-1 draw against Torino. The vision to see Bacca in open space demonstrates the quality that the Azzurri international can bring to this Milan side. For most of the season, Milan coach Siniša Mihajlović has deployed Bertolacci on the left side of a 3-man midfield in a 4-3-1-2 formation. He just hasn’t looked comfortable playing in that position. Bertolacci isn’t able to make the same runs down the center like he was able to do at Genoa last season. His number of key passes has dwindled.

Last season, he was averaging 1.4 key passes per match, but this season he’s only averaging 0.8 key passes per match, via WhoScored.com. The Italian’s passing accuracy has also taken a hit where his pass success percentage this season is only 75.2% so far, which is down from last season’s overall 79.2%. As a result of playing in his new role, he just hasn’t been able to find the form he had last season and it has prevented him from trying to improve.

Based on Milan’s recent match against Sassuolo where the Rossoneri would earn a 2-1 winMilan seemed to look at their best while playing in the 4-4-2 formation once Mihajlović introduced the substitutions of Luiz Adriano and Andrea Bertolacci in the second half. Here, we saw what I think was Bertolacci’s best showing for the Rossoneri thus far since joining the club during the Summer. He was making the same runs he made last season for Genoa. His passing was able to cause more problems for the Sassuolo defense. Bertolacci, for the first time in a Milan shirt, looked like the player that Milan spent €20 million to acquire. Why is this then? I think it has to do with what his role was when he was introduced into the second half for Milan. He was able to play a much more central role partnering Riccardo Montolivo in midfield. It was the position he played most of last season under Genoa coach, Gian Piero Gasperini. It seems this is the position Bertolacci is most comfortable playing and where he’ll be able to help Milan the most.

In my opinion, it would be preferable to start Nigel De Jong next to Bertolacci as he is able to cover the defense better than Montolivo can. The inclusion of the Dutch defensive-midfielder will allow Bertolacci to make his runs forward more often when the opportunities present themselves. Something like the concept lineup pictured below would be my idea of how Milan could lineup for the upcoming match against Chievo Verona:

Milan Lineup Builder

Bertolacci had the following to say after Milan’s 2-1 victory over Sassuolo, via FootballItalia.com:

“We definitely wanted to win at home,” Bertolacci told Milan Channel. “Now we have another tough game against Chievo on Wednesday. We’ll have to face them with the right mindset and win the match. The coach spoke about an organised team which runs a lot, so we’ll try and go out there with the right mindset. We’ll try and play better football, which could also improve with a few wins. Did the formation make a difference? I’m used to filling multiple roles, but the difference yesterday was that we also had the right attitude.”

With an important match against Chievo Verona at the San Siro coming up on Wednesday, Milan will need to be careful when facing a team who have earned their fair share of shock results this season. Milan News reports that Bertolacci could start the match along with De Jong over the Juraj Kucka and Riccardo Montolivo midfield pairing that Mihajlović seems to have favored in the past few weeks. If he does start, Bertolacci will have the chance to put in a good performance once again and show that he is worth the money that was spent to bring him to the club. In turn, Bertolacci finding the form he had last season could be a major boost for Milan’s efforts to finish in a European spot in this season’s edition of the Serie A campaign.

Regardless, all Milanisti along with Milan coach, Mihajlović, will be hoping Bertolacci can rise up to the occasion and repay the faith they have shown in him thus far.

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