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AC Milan

How Krunic, Musah and Theo became Pioli’s utility men

Just when you think Stefano Pioli has exhausted all of his available options, he pulls another trick out of his hat to restyle his AC Milan in a winning way.

La Gazzetta dello Sport recall that it was Rade Krunic’s turn to play centre-back off the bench against Borussia Dortmund when Malick Thiaw went off injured, and it didn’t really go to plan as Milan conceded twice and lost 3-1.

Against Frosinone, however, it was Theo Hernandez’s turn as he played as a central defender for the first time. Pioli is like that, every now and then he loves to change, even if this time the intuition came from the Frenchman as the coach admitted: “An idea of ​​his, born during the final training.”

Theo must have taken a cue from Krunic. He positioned himself in defence, contributed to the build-up play as he knows how and never made a mistake. Indeed, he also started the play to make it 3-0 with a cross from the left.

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Krunic will have applauded on the bench. The Bosnian is able to play anywhere without having the gift of ubiquity. From 2019 to today he has been a regista, a mezzala, an attacking midfielder, a false nine, a winger, a wing-back, a full-back and now a central defender.

Most of the time you don’t see him, but for Pioli he is indispensable. This year he has played 14 games, 10 in Serie A and four in the Champions League, almost all as a starter. Against Atalanta he should reach 140 matches for the Rossoneri.

Pioli built Milan’s game around him after the absence of Bennacer, who returned to being available after almost seven months. In between, the former Empoli man played a match as a right-back against Genoa – about ten minutes at the end – and another as a false nine against Salernitana, coming on after a quarter of an hour in place of Pietro Pellegri.

It was December 4, 2021, he managed to get a rating of 6.5 out of 10 playing next to Brahim Diaz. On 18 September 2022, however, he played as a winger against Napoli in the 2-1 defeat, but without convincing. He has three goals in 30 games playing in the No.10 role

Another who has already stood out in a different role is Yunus Musah, pick of the midfield. Someone who also acted as a defensive midfielder with the US national team. The former Valencia player was born as a right midfielder, but against Frosinone he ended up as a winger in a trident completed by Francesco Camarda and Chaka Traorè.

It was a good game from him: 17 positive passes, four duels won, three balls recovered and a post hit on the counter-attack launched by Jovic across the pitch (he was offside). The American also played wing-back against Verona and right-back against Lecce.

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Pioli has often praised his sacrifice and flexibility. The key word to open the world of a 20-year-old born in New York, raised in Castelfranco Veneto, weaned by Arsenal and then returned to Italy.

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