Pioli discusses Ancelotti praise, Brahim Diaz, Asensio and his methods: “Everything has changed”

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has given an insightful interview to Spanish media about the Scudetto win and the methods behind it, and spoke about two Spanish playmakers.

Pioli gave a long interview to the Spanish newspaper AS about the league title he just won – the first major trophy of his managerial career- but also about many of his most talented players.

“It was incredible. It is one of the best things that can happen to you. Seeing our fans happy has been the most rewarding thing of all we have done,” he began (via MilanNews).

“We always believed in it, but there were two games [that made us believe more]: the comeback in the derby and the victory over Lazio. Winning the last six matches, despite the harder schedule, has shown our mental strength. The medal? They haven’t given me yet, but they’ve got it at Casa Milan.”

One of the biggest moments of the season was when former Real Madrid man Theo Hernandez picked up the ball on the edge of his own box against Atalanta and ran it 80 metres, beating several players and slotting past Musso. It was the goal that sealed the win and put Milan one point away from winning the title.

“It was spectacular… and rare. If you look at the action, he could have done a thousand other things. He could have passed the ball earlier, sought the help of a team-mate, shot first, all things that, perhaps, were right to do. But Theo is like the wrath of God, he has incredible strength and determination,” Pioli said.

“This year he has become a more complete player, it was good for him to get called up by France, because it means he has reached a high level. He is already one of the best full-backs in the world, but I think he still has room for improvement.”

One player who didn’t have the best of times during the last few games of the season was Brahim Diaz, who failed to score after netting against Spezia in September and never really seemed to hit the same heights post-Covid.

“Brahim started very well. After having some problems, he struggled to get back to his best form. Many forget that Brahim is still young and that it was his first experience as a starter in a great team,” Pioli said.

“It happened even for Tonali a year ago, it can happen that such an important pressure can lead to ups and downs. He started off great, I agree, then the injuries and Covid took away his confidence, and maybe even some of my decisions. I’m sure , however, that he is a great player, with enormous qualities and very useful for the way we play. I would like him to stay.”

On Serie A as a whole: “The level is rising thanks to the ‘small’ clubs, which are developing a more intense and attacking football. We should have fewer breaks during matches and less wasted time. In Europe the intensity is greater and we pay for it. Of course there is a major difference in investment and this is an inevitable burden.”

On playing actual time rather than 90 minutes: “This already happens in several sports. I do not accept being told that there are 8 minutes of added time, because if you do not intervene when a team wastes time, you take away the intensity of the game. It would be a norm that would bring benefits, especially in Italy.”

Pioli has often been compared to a great Milan coach in Carlo Ancelotti for his man management, ability to improve players and also to tweak his tactical instructions when the situation dictates.

“Carlo often talks to Maldini, he complimented me through him. He is a great coach. He has won in all leagues, has an intelligence and sensitivity that go beyond the norm. He knows how to manage great teams and great ones. players like no other,” he said.

Pioli was also asked about Marco Asensio, who Milan have been linked with: “He’s a great player, but he’s a Madrid player and I’m too happy with my players to talk about others.”

On the possibility of winning with young players, he added: “The idea was from the club, but the support for our work has been enormous. They know that if you work with young players you need time, but we have come to this result because people like Zlatan, Giroud, Maignan and Florenzi were a reference for the youngest. There was a perfect mix, an empathy between everyone and this made us give more than 100%.”

There has been a lot of emphasis on the use of data analysis at Milan both in constructing the squad through signings but also in the way that the team play, which Pioli has had to adapt to.

“Everything has changed. When I started, I had only one collaborator and now I have a coaching staff of 11 people. Also, I will ask for another one for the trends of the game. You need to know how to read this data, we will we mostly use it for positioning, to see which players perform best together,” he said.

“Of course, in the end it’s the feelings that make the difference. It’s hard for me to pick a player because an analyst tells me he had a 78% success rate. I think still in the appearance of my players and in what they transmit to me.”

Pioli has had to see several key players depart on free transfer such as Gianluigi Donnarumma, Hakan Calhanoglu and soon Franck Kessie and possibly Alessio Romagnoli.

“Just look at what the pitch says. I’ve never seen any of them being superficial. I saw tremendous care, professionalism and a desire to prove they were very good. They worked very well and, for this reason, I always wish them the best, as I wish Franck,” he said.

“He is a guy who has proven to be a great player and a great person, who always works with a smile on his face. that everything is fine for him, at Barça or elsewhere, except if we meet in the Champions League. That’s where I hope to beat him (laughs).”

On the Champions League: “This year’s matches have taught us a lot and we will be in the first pot. We have increased our value and our experience, we will play this competition with the idea of ​​moving forward.”

Finally, on his career and previously unrecognised merits: “In football it’s normal. I’ve always felt appreciated where I’ve worked, trying to leave everything better than I found it. Now being praised with the Scudetto is part of the game. But that’s how it is. Ether you are very good or you are very bad.

“The labels do not interest me, every coach has his own ideas. On Saturday we will see a final with two great coaches, but with different ideas. There are many ways, but the best solution is always the one that makes the players feel at ease. They are the ones who make the difference.”

Tags AC Milan Brahim Diaz Marco Asensio Stefano Pioli theo hernandez
Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.