GdS: From the Arechi to the Artemio Franchi – the factors behind Milan’s resurgence

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan have now won six games in a row across all competitions and are building up a head of steam moving into the business end of the season, with some key factors behind it.

As La Gazzetta dello Sport write, Stefano Pioli will probably have a peaceful Easter compared to Christmas, in which there were rumours of him being sacked after the draw against Salernitana on 22 December.

The last day of March and the first day of April are different, because Pioli has once again turned things around and the chances of returning in July are growing. But how did he do it?

The big key

Pioli maintained a solid relationship with the team during the storm and this is the first reason. There was no shortage of difficult moments – some internal criticism, veiled or obvious – but Milan came out of the difficult moments fighting.

This was demonstrated by the wins over Udinese, Frosinone and Lazio: three victories that came in the last ten minutes. Pioli managed, between clear strengths and weaknesses, to make the team express itself.

The midfielders began to look forward rather than cover and this will not change, the defence is far from perfect but the improvements can be seen. “We are approaching a very high level,” he said after the win at the Franchi.

The individuals

The individuals speak for him too. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has always had an imposing physique but the ability to attack the area with the right timing and manner did not come from London: he grew at Milanello.

Yacine Adli declared that he had completed his game and now – rather sensationally – he is also on the pitch because of what he does without the ball.

Rafa Leao has always had moments where he has been frustrating but in Florence he reiterated that he feels like a man, with a performance that saw him put the team on his back.

The numbers

As mentioned, Milan have won their last six games, they have the second attack in the league and – with a 14-point gap to Roma and 15 to Atalanta – they can think about the Europa League with serenity.

Furthermore, Milan are already at 65 points (average per game 2.17) and in Pioli’s five-year period they only did (just) better in the Scudetto season. The squad has probably never been this strong but the path can be seen.

“Nothing is invented in football and new players cannot be denied time to settle in. They had to get to know me and I had to get to know them,” Pioli said on Saturday night.

Here is another growth factor: the summer signings have begun to understand more about playing in Italy. Pioli must be given credit for having made clear choices: Loftus-Cheek, Reijnders and Pulisic immediately became starters; Okafor, Musah, Chukwueze and Jovic are the alternatives.

The worst moment

Fazio’s goal in Salernitana-Milan was the Rossoneri’s worst moment in the season but in a way today’s Milan was born from the struggles between November and January, when the entire defence collapsed.

Simon Kjaer was out from 29 October to mid-December. Kalulu: injured on 29 October, first training session back at the end of February. No Thiaw from November 29th to February 12th. Tomori had to watch on from December 22nd for two months.

For a good part of December, until January 7, Pioli had Theo Hernandez play as a central defender with credit due to the Frenchman for offering to do so, and in the end the idea proved to be a success.

From mid-January, for a month, the centre-back pairing was Kjaer-Gabbia, a fourth choice and a player sent to Villarreal on loan. Milan held up, avoided a prolonged breakdown, almost eliminated injuries and are now enjoying the progress.

The future

Now the two derbies count above all: Roma in the Europa League, Inter in Serie A. Giorgio Furlani, as a conscientious CEO, said that individual incidents will not decide Pioli’s future.

“It would be ungenerous to evaluate him based on his future path in the Europa League or the outcome of the derby, however important it is,” he said.

While that may be correct, football is like this and the view of the journey depends a lot on the destination. Milan in the semi-finals of the Europa League and possibly even further ahead, perhaps with a trophy on the open bus, would put a smile on the season.

An elimination in the quarter-finals and another defeat against Inter would obviously force reflections. The management have certainly defended Pioli far and wide.

Scaroni said: “I have always said that Pioli is staying, we are doing well, he is a fantastic person.” Ibrahimovic: “To stay, he must continue like this. He is doing a good job”. Moncada: “I’m happy to work with him.”

The road to July is still long, some defects remain but the odds on Pioli remaining in charge continue to fall.


Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli

1 Comment

  1. Optimism grows. Results matter. Inter Derby result WILL matter – can’t bring back a coach who lost SIX Derbies in a row.

    BUT, does Milan winning EL overshadow Inter’s 20’th Scudetto?

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.