AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has revealed that he wants to see ‘quality of play, team spirit and a big heart’ from his team between now and the end of the season.
Milan need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible having lost back-to-back games against Sassuolo and Lazio, with the most recent being a damaging 3-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday night which saw the team drop to fifth.
The loss left a sour taste in the mouth but Milan know that their fate is in their own hands with direct clashes against Juventus and Atalanta before the end of the campaign, though first relegation-threatened Benevento will pay visit.
Pioli spoke to the media who gathered at Milanello for his pre-match press conference, with his words conveyed by MilanNews and translated below.
What do you think about how the media talk about Milan at the moment?
“There is a lot of discussion. We had a great first half of the season, while in the second half we are doing less well. We have to be more compact and determined, we concede a few goals too many and we don’t take advantage of as much as we create.”
Did you expect more nastiness in the last few games?
“For me three things are important. You need to have quality of play, team spirit and have a big heart on the pitch. If we fail in these three things it becomes more difficult to achieve certain results.”
How would you describe the week? Is the team reacting?
“This team has always had the right attitudes. Through these challenges and difficulties a young group like ours can grow further. We have had happy and positive moments, we must show that we can overcome even the difficult ones. I have seen a determined team, but we must prove it tomorrow on the pitch.”
How important is the closeness of Maldini and the club?
“The support of the club has never been lacking. They are people who know what football is, they know that such difficult seasons also pass through delicate moments. Their closeness helps us and is important.”
How is Ibrahimovic?
“We all know how important it is for us both from a technical and from a personality point of view. We are happy that he is back at our disposal.”
Calciomercato.com wrote earlier in the week how Pioli has five games to make sure that Milan do not miss out on the target of top four, and also to guarantee himself at least another season on the bench, because if the collapse were to continue he would be at risk.
On his future, Pioli responded: “I have always had the support of the club and the owners. I am at a great club and therefore the expectations are high. Now we think about the last few matches, then we will do all the evaluations. I am convinced of what I am doing and of my work. I go on my way.”
What is the watchword right now?
“The key word right now is energy. We have to have a lot of energy inside. We knew it was going to be a difficult season, we are here to play our goal and so we need a lot of energy. The last two defeats hurt us, but we have to believe in us and in our qualities. We have to control the games better. I am coaching an intelligent group. Tomorrow I will give my usual motivational speech, but all the boys know what we are playing for.”
Is the issue of renewals affecting the group?
“I see an attentive group with a great desire to do. Against Lazio we were lacking in the second half, we all know we have to do better. I didn’t see little concentration. We are tense at this stage of the season, but we are focused on the pitch. Nobody thinks about the future, the rumours that circulate outside have not reached here. Our future is tomorrow, not ahead.”
The forwards are struggling to score…
“I don’t look for the culprits, but I work to find solutions. Every game we try to find solutions to be more dangerous.”
Is it a coincidence that Milan struggled more against teams that play with three-man defences?
“I don’t think that’s it, but we need to be more careful in the defensive phase.”
In view of the clashes against Juve and Atalanta, could we think of a change of formation?
“Against Sassuolo we played 4-4-2, but we weren’t very concrete in some situations. We still want to think only of tomorrow’s match, not of the ones after. Tomorrow we need quality and concentration to win.”
Is there a psychological problem in the team?
“It is an important moment in our growth, we must be convinced of what we are doing. We must enter the field with clear ideas and with the right attitude. Tomorrow we must not think about the classification, but only to win against Benevento. We have to enter the field without other thoughts, we just have to think about giving our best and even more. We have to go beyond our limits.”
Could the Ibra-Mandzukic pairing be a solution?
“We have great choice. It depends on the strategy, if I want players that are closer or more open. In every game we try to choose the best strategy. Tomorrow will be complicated, we have to be a team from start to finish.”
Is there a risk that some are already thinking about Juve?
“None of us are thinking about Juve. That match can only become important after tomorrow’s results. We only think about tomorrow because we want to win. Tomorrow I will not look at who the suspects are, I will field the best team.”
What do you need to improve in the middle of the field?
“The trend needs to be changed because we leave some situations too many to the opponents. Like the first Lazio goal, not serious individual mistakes but many small things that led us to concede goals. We need to be more compact, it’s not a question of midfield or defense.”
How’s Hauge doing? Could he be useful?
“Of course it can be useful. We have many different attacking players, it depends on what game we want to play.”
How do you comment on the many criticisms that have arrived?
“I do not comment. The important judgments will be those at the end of the season, not now. It will depend on what we manage to do. If we finish in the top four there will be positive judgments, otherwise they will not be positive judgments. At this moment the comments count for little. Now let’s think about the pitch and give it our all. I have a lot of faith in my players.”
What game will you play tomorrow?
“We want to control the game, this means being in control of situations. We must continue to grow on this aspect.”
Mentally how is the team doing?
“We don’t have to change the way we play based on the result. We have to be strong and mentally balanced.”
Do your players need to be motivated?
“We want to go back to winning. The last two results hurt us, tomorrow we will have to do our best to win again.”