Capello full of praise for Pioli’s tactical ingenuity: “That’s what makes the difference”

By Oliver Fisher -

Former AC Milan head coach Fabio Capello has heaped praise on current Rossoneri boss Stefano Pioli for his tactical approach in big games.

Pioli has received a lot of praise for some of the decisions that he made during the 1-0 win over Napoli on Sunday night, a victory that might just represent the biggest hurdle that the team have overcome all season as Olivier Giroud came up trumps again.

Specifically, he fielded what looked like a 4-2-3-1 on the team sheet but it functioned as more of a 4-3-3 with each of Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali tasked with restricting their opponents, which were Fabian Ruiz, Stanislav Lobotka and Piotr Zielinski respectively.

Capello talked about the Rossoneri’s victory in Naples and about Pioli’s tactical approach in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, with his comments relayed by PianetaMilan and translated below.

On Pioli’s tactical innovations in Napoli-Milan…

“Bravo Pioli. Against Napoli he changed his tactical system and won, if he didn’t he would have risked. Let’s say once and for all: you can’t always play the same way, there are opponents that must be studied, contrasted in the strong points and hit in the weak ones. It is like a battle to be prepared. Then you can’t always do what you have prepared in the game, but if the idea is right, the players will follow you.

“Let’s say it was a 4-1-3 and a half-1, because Rafael Leão didn’t always return to midfield… Great player, funny, sometimes he is worth the ticket price alone, but in recent times he seems more selfish. Maybe he feels the anxiety of scoring a goal. Let me be clear: I am nitpicking.”

On Pioli being a surprising tactician…

“He didn’t always have the opportunity to set up: he lacked players, he could only fix. But now that his work is almost complete it shows. And the thing that surprised me most is that he defends very well even if he misses Simon Kjær: he has recovered Alessio Romagnoli and Pierre Kalulu is now a reliable centre-back who makes no mistakes. For the first time they did not immediately counterattack: Victor Osimhen was always double teamed.”

On Milan being the weakest among the contenders for the Scudetto…

“I don’t think so. Meanwhile, they replaced a great goalkeeper with another great goalkeeper. They have a nice, dynamic, quality midfield, especially if Franck Kessié returns to last year’s form or repeats his Napoli performance. And above all there is the left wing which is one of the best in Europe.

“If fully stocked, Milan are reliable and imaginative. Against the big teams they have always played well, reacted to situations, and scored points. Inter remain favourites because they are a more complete team. Milan is beautiful, fun, but with so many young players the performance is more fluctuating.”

On the coaching school to which Pioli belong…

“Today there are those who throw the ball backwards and those who try to play forward. Especially the young coaches who are now copying Jürgen Klopp, the Germans and the British. Pioli seems to me to be in the middle: he tries to verticalise with the outside players, even with Davide Calabria on the right, and he has a goalkeeper who plays the ball.”

On the importance of Milan’s tactics…

“Tactics and above all quality: that’s what makes the difference. Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara were good at this: they saw far and risked, Leão didn’t come for free…

“The important thing is to change, not to become fossilised. Pep Guardiola also changes. It was said: he only plays ball on the ground. We should be blind not to see the change in approach, the long balls.”

Tags AC Milan Fabio Capello Stefano Pioli
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