Pioli believes Milan ‘played the game they had to’ and addresses future: “Too much talk”

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes that his side put in the performance required against Empoli, while he praised two forwards and addressed the rumours about his future.

Milan did get the job done against Empoli at home but it was far from a vintage performance. Christian Pulisic got the only goal of the game a few minutes before the break, thanks to a VAR review.

A ball from Ismael Bennacer found Noah Okafor down the left and he pulled it back to Pulisic who hit a first time shot that went in off Luperto. The offside flag went up because the linesman thought Okafor had gone too early, though the goal was given after a review.

The second half was a tad disappointing as Milan failed to give themselves any breathing room, but they did manage to see out the game with a clean sheet and jump two points above Juventus for the time being ahead of their match against Atalanta.

Pioli spoke to DAZN after the game to try and pick apart what was an important win and clean sheet but also a game that had some frustrations, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

What answers did this game give you in view of the Europa League second leg on Thursday?

“We played the game we had to play. We had a very good first half where we created a lot but only scored one goal. Then in the second half we weren’t so brilliant but we were good at controlling and conceding little.”

Is the only shame having not having killed it off earlier?

“Of course, if we had managed to double the lead we would have suffered a little less. We worked hard as a team, we gritted our teeth even with players who took to the field two days ago.

“This is a very important week for our season. I told the team this before today’s match. Starting this week well with a win and a good performance is certainly positive.”

Pulisic said that he is in the best condition of his career and that solidity will be fundamental in Prague…

“Chris has never played – in the last 7-8 years – with so many minutes and appearances. We are helping him and managing him well. He is available, he is an intelligent a player and an excellent boy, so important.

“Solidity yes, but football in Europe is a little different. Just look at the results of the previous round. Only Freiburg-West Ham ended 1-1, otherwise 4-4, 4-2, 2-2… Many goals are scored because there is more space, the teams want to attack.

“The best mentality will be to score one more goal than the opponents, who will try to play the game of their lives but I told the team that we can play the game of our lives too.”

What did you think of Pulisic and Okafor’s performance?

“Christian is giving us consistency, quality, intensity, pace. He is a very high level player. Noah was very good, we prepared our game so that Theo could push up a little more and he could concentrate more close to Jovic.

“Then when we saw that Theo was followed by Gyasi we preferred to keep him deeper and widen Okafor more and he was very good in one-on-one situations.

“He could have been a little better at attacking the goal when Pulisic put two or three balls in the first half. He gave a good performance, he worked a lot for the team. I’m happy that he was ready.”

In 2024 only Inter did better than you. Has something changed?

“We certainly went through a difficult period due to injuries and suffered. The group did well to hold a line. We changed a lot during the year, we didn’t have Bennacer out due to injury, the midfield was almost entirely new…

“In my opinion it’s a series of causes that led us to better understand certain situations and to have the more continuous performance we were looking for.”

There’s a lot of talk about his future, is it all media buzz?

“I don’t know, you say it (laughs). I continue to hear and say that the club is making me work in the best possible conditions, that I coach a very helpful and quality group.

“There is too much talk about the future, the future is uncertain for everyone, let alone for the coach of a big club. We are all focused on the present and the next game, that’s what matters most.”

You now have 351 points with Milan, like Ancelotti…

“I’m experiencing something exceptional here at Milan. I have given everything and have been giving everything since I joined Milanello and I have received a lot from everyone.

“A lot also means a lot of criticism, but it’s normal for it to be like this and I can only be happy but above all motivated in trying to make this thing last as long as possible.”


Tags AC Milan Milan Empoli Stefano Pioli
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