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While there was little Mihajlovic could have done to speed up the process of figuring out which players he preferred in certain positions, he certainly could have done a better job of establishing a tactical identity.
Milan have rattled from game to game, making constant stylistic changes along the way. For some matches, they have opted for a deep defensive line; for others, a high one. For some fixtures, they pressed the opposition in their own half aggressively; in others, they took a more passive approach.
On top of the style alterations, Mihajlovic has chopped and changed formations with troubling frequency.
In his final season as coach of Sampdoria, he utilised a 4-3-1-2 effectively. Hence, it was no surprise that he brought this system with him to Milan. However, after a 4-0 home defeat to Napoli in October, he threw out this shape in favour of a 4-5-1 in order to restore some defensive solidity.
This led to an improved resolve and the concession of fewer goals, but it also stultified the Rossoneri’s own attacking threat. Against more conservative sides, Bacca struggled up front on his own.
A 0-0 draw at home to Atalanta in which Milan were second best triggered Mihajlovic to bring in his third formation in just three months: the 4-4-2, a shape he has stuck by ever since.
In the first match after this change, Milan won 4-1 against Sampdoria. And in the 17 Serie A games since adopting the 4-4-2 setup, they have lost just twice. Unfortunately, they have drawn eight of those fixtures.
It could be argued that each modification led to an upturn in form, though this has only ever been temporary. Eventually, teams have figured out how to nullify Mihajlovic’s side no matter what formation they line up in.
Recently, the coach suggested that another change could be on the cards. Speaking to the press ahead of the clash with Genoa, he said, per Football Italia: “Returning to the 4-3-1-2? It's certainly an option once everyone is fit. In some of the matches we'll change the formation mid-game.”
With just eight league matches left this season, Mihajlovic’s uncertainty regarding his favoured formation is a worrying sign. It’s also a key reason behind his team’s identity crisis and subsequent inconsistency.