AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has conceded that his side are lacking the same cutting edge that they had before, as opponents seem to have figured out the tactical approach.
Milan booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League by beating Red Star, but they had to rely on away goals in order to progress, drawing 1-1 on the night as Franck Kessie’s early penalty was cancelled out.
Pioli was interviewed by Sky Italia after the game under the San Siro lights, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews beginning with a reflection on the performance.
“The team is mentally mature, it is clear that we are not in our best moment. The positive results gave us confidence, a little something failed. We had a serious game, we are sorry we did not manage the advantage well, but it was is important to pass the round against an opponent who created difficulties for us but Milan nevertheless deserved it,” he said.
Pioli was asked whether he feels like Milan’s glass is half full or half empty at the moment, given how such a positive start to the season seems to be under threat.
“The glass is still full of positivity, the Europa League is our goal but it gives you the certainty of reaching the Champions League only if you win it. We make a few mistakes too many but this is an important moment, good to have passed the turn to regain some confidence.”
In truth wastefulness was the theme of the night for both teams as Red Star had a couple of chances to get their noses in front but lacked composure, while Milan were again found wanting that clinical edge they had previously.
“We had the chances unlike the first leg, we weren’t satisfied as we did in the first leg. We had the chances, then the opponent even if they were down to ten can create difficulties. At this level, a less precise step is enough to decrease the level of performance and decrease the level of quality,” Pioli added.
“I try to stay close to my players, I try to encourage them, when there was a need to say things we did it. Responsibility is putting a bit of a brake on us and it doesn’t have to be like that. We are a team very young, they must go through these difficulties.”
Some have questioned whether a change in tactical approach is needed to help haul Milan out of the current rough patch, such as a new formation or bold selections like dropping captain Alessio Romagnoli.
On what is wrong tactically, Pioli said: “Before we were better able to command the games, to command better from the back. This allowed us offensive solutions and to prevent restarts.
“Now this is fading a little because the opponents know us better, perhaps because we move less. We must return to dominate the games a little more and suffer less, we need a more precise construction and more coordinated movements. We will work a lot on that.”