It’s been roughly 24 hours since AC Milan lost the Supercoppa final against Inter in a rather spectacular fashion, failing to create a single dangerous chance and conceding three goals. Why should the fans believe when the players don’t?
I asked myself that question with around ten minutes left of what ended up being an embarrassing display in Saudi Arabia. During the entirety of Stefano Pioli’s reign, the motto has always been optimism, belief if you will, and there’s been no real reason to question it before.
After the 5-0 defeat against Atalanta, the manager was indeed questioned but certainly not in the same way. Back then, Milan were in a shambolic state and that wasn’t all to do with Pioli. Now, on the other hand, he’s had time to build his team and that puts the motto in a very different light.
One disappointing result, fine. Two disappointing results, there is room to restart. However, third time’s the charm in this scenario as well, especially when the third time is a 3-0 loss against the city rivals in the Supercoppa Italiana final.
The constant referring to belief and optimism is easily heard in the heads of the fans, because that’s what we keep hearing week in and week out. Even when there is criticism from Pioli, it’s overwhelmed by his optimistic approach towards his players. And that’s all fine and dandy, when it’s justified.
However, when the going gets tough, the fans have the right to the same information as the players. Heading into the final, a majority of the fans believed that Milan could turn it around, despite their poor run of form lately. This didn’t seem to be the case for the players, though.
On the pitch, we saw eleven players that seemingly didn’t believe in the cause. Sure, it’s always very difficult to concede twice early on, but the spirit in adversity that we have become so used to since Pioli joined was completely missing. So, what went wrong?
Pioli’s post-match words didn’t bring much clarity to the matter. In fact, it sounded like what he said after the other recent disappointing results. Simon Kjaer, on the other hand, did really well to express his feelings and above all, he apologised immediately to the fans.
There was no talk of belief or optimism from the Dane. He admitted that Milan lacked exactly that last night, and that they indeed have an identity crisis. This is exactly what the fans need to hear, because only then can we understand the process within the team and what kind of support they need.
“We have to look back and apologise to the fans. The young players narrative is over. We have to grow up and take responsibility. It was a tough evening, especially mentally, but in these moments we have to find our identity,” he stated.
Pioli’s words, which frankly are jibberish many times (most likely to protect his players), don’t do any good when we’re in a situation like this. Now, as this piece sounds harsh thus far, I must underline that Pioli is a very competent manager that knows what he’s doing. However, he could use some media training from the PR team, an aspect that separates the average from the great managers.
The scope of Milan’s failure at the start of this year, and in some games in the first half of the season, undoubtedly go all the way to the top of the club. As such, not even Paolo Maldini can be defended currently. However, it’s also very clear that this team should do better.
Milan overperformed when they won the Scudetto, everyone knows it, but that also means there is the quality to perform very well with these sets of players. Bringing that quality out was Pioli’s biggest strength, but now the situation has certainly been turned on its head.
The basis of this article is very clear: why should the fans believe if the players don’t? There can be no more beating around the bush from any of the involved parties, because if that continues then they could lose many fans.
Against Lazio, the right attitude will be essential and there must be some belief, not just in the shape of Pioli’s words. The Curva Sud will be there, singing their hearts out from start to finish. There will be many watching on from home, some also singing and screaming their hearts out. Now, all we need is the same spirit from the players.