AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli knows that his side must do better in both phases in order to turn around what has been a difficult recent run of form.
There is the need for a response from Milan after what has been a difficult last few days in terms of results. A 1-0 league defeat against Juventus at San Siro was followed up by a 3-0 loss in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain.
The two blows seem to have intensified some of the discontent about Milan’s approach to games and reaffirmed some of the worries about the squad’s ability to cope with big games.
However, the ‘week of fire’ as some were calling it has provided the opportunity for the Rossoneri to make a statement on Sunday night away against Napoli. It will be a tough game in a hostile atmosphere, but least season Pioli’s men won 4-0 in the same fixture against the champions elect.
The head coach spoke to the reporters who gathered at Milanello for his pre-match press conference on the eve of the game, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
How do the team seem after Wednesday’s defeat?
“They have the desire to change this moment. We come for the first time after two consecutive defeats in two direct clashes, we will have to demonstrate on the field that we have the qualities of a consistent team. When you play against opponents like this you have to be on top of your game for 90 minutes and so we want to do.”
Could Napoli be a turning point?
“I think that in sport and in daily life you can’t think about what you did until yesterday, it’s already history. You can’t think about what we’ll do in May or next year. We need to live in the present and the next match is the most important.
“This week the matches didn’t go as we wanted, we made mistakes that we made less in the past and we paid dearly for them. Tomorrow is the opportunity to demonstrate that we are a better team.”
What is the mood like in the camp?
“Days of work, of attention, of discussion with the team as I always do to try to raise the level of the team and of many situations, of those situations that saw us in difficulty.”
Do Milan suffer too many one-on-ones at the back?
“We have our own way of playing that we absolutely must carry forward, then it’s clear that there are situations in which we have to be more careful, more reflective. We certainly won’t change our style of play.”
Furlani said the Scudetto is the objective, is he right?
“We work with an ambitious ownership, an ownership that has structured the club to have many solutions and think big. It has ensured that the team is competitive. Our objective is to win the title, this is sure. It won’t be just us who want to win it but this must be our goal.”
It is said that Milan returned from Paris with tense nerves…
“Yes, tense nerves, and rightly so because we give our all to get things and we didn’t succeed. Correct tense nerves, all we need is for us to come back from a defeat like this and we are calm and smiling. In fact, everything has been clarified.
“Even better than before. Untrue things had been reported to me in the press room, this created a bit of confusion. But everything is fine, everything is clarified and we move forward.”
Was there a clarification with Calabria?
“You are the ones who reported badly [his words], because he wasn’t talking about his team-mates but he was talking about the environment. We believe in it, we work in a certain way at Milanello, we give everything and we will believe in it until the end. But we don’t there is no problem. I talk to the players, we have clarified.”
Milan have a problem scoring, are there alternative solutions?
“Of course we are working on it, it is the aspect that is penalising us the most. We are missing the last pass, the finish, filling the area with a few more players. Jovic and Okafor are well, they are called up and are available.”
Rudi Garcia is a coach you have had some tension with in the past…
“I said that we shouldn’t think about yesterday and you go back to years ago… Garcia is an excellent coach, he had some difficulties, as is normal for a new coach, but now he is on right path.
“He misses Osimhen, but it’s also true that last season without Osimhen they had great results and only lost against us. He’s a top-level coach.”
You will face Kvaratskhelia…
“A player to hold in high regard, he can hurt you a lot in one-on-one situations.”
The midfield scores little, just one goal. Are they not getting into the box enough?
“We need to fill the area more, yes, we are often going one-on-one on the wingers and we are crossing more than last season. We need to fill the area not only with the mezzali but also with the wide attacker opposite.
“I believe that Tijjani has the characteristics to do better, both in the last pass and in finishing because he is a player who has always scored goals.
“If I look at the match against PSG in the first half we recovered many more balls than them in the half of the pitch opponent, we could have really hurt them there and we missed the last pass, the shot on goal or the last movement.
“These are situations that we have to forcefully try because we cannot think of changing our results like this, we have to have a different attitude and superior quality to be dangerous in front of goal.”
How is Loftus-Cheek?
“He is important for our attacking phase from a physical and quality point of view, but we also have other characteristics and we can be dangerous even without him. He has recovered from the injury he had to the particular, small muscle, the pectineus, now he suffers from pubic/abdominal inflammation.
“Every day he seems to be better, he is missing the last step to return to the team, he will certainly not be with us tomorrow. There is a good chance that he will recover for the next match.
“From a psychological point of view, unfortunately he is a a boy who has had many injuries in the past, so he needs to be guided and supported a little. He started very well, and now he needs to be supported a little.”
Are there things that need improvement in defence?
“Yes, we have also worked on it in recent days. Being aggressive does not mean being discovered and always accepting one-on-ones, but doing so when the ball is covered, when it is not we must be more thoughtful. These are all things that need to be perfected and improve, but the mental attitude of the team must not change.”
Why isn’t Theo more incisive?
“In my opinion we are developing a slightly different attacking phase on the left, so he should be a little less exuberant on the wing. He knows that he is very strong and that he has to raise his level.
“I have the clear feeling that on Wednesday, unlike what happened with Chelsea last year, we were close to the highest level, but we need to make small steps forward. Theo is one of those players who can help us get to that level.”
What changed between Spalletti and Garcia?
“Not much has changed in the defensive phase: a 4-4-2. With the ball they prefer possession and controlling the game: it’s difficult to see notable differences with last season. Perhaps Raspadori can connect the game more, Simeone – who I know well – is better at attacking the area.”
Are Krunic and Adli battling for a spot?
“It’s right that it was created because they occupy the same position: one plays, the other is on the bench. They both know how to play well in that position with different characteristics. I’m happy with their performances and how they are interpreting the role specifically.”
Could Milan go back to a 4-2-3-1?
“In the defensive phase we are often in 4-2-3-1 and we will be like that tomorrow too, then in possession of the ball we take different positions. Then it will be the matches, the opponents and the performances that will make us understand where to change something.
“I am always very attentive on what we need to improve when we realize that there is something specific that can help us grow the team.”
New prize for the next 200 appearances?
“It would mean that we will celebrate in May.”