Sacchi highlights key tactical error Pioli made during Atletico loss and suggests benching Kessie

By Oliver Fisher -

Former AC Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi believes Stefano Pioli made a key mistake during Tuesday night’s defeat against Atletico Madrid.

A second defeat in two games leaves Milan rooted to the bottom of their Champions League group after losses by one goal against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, but the game at San Siro in midweek was full of controversy.

After Rafael Leao had given Milan a deserved lead after some relentless early pressure, the referee Cakir decided to give Franck Kessie his marching orders for a second yellow card and that changed the game.

Antoine Griezmann broke the Rossoneri’s fierce resistance inside the final 10 minutes before a frankly farcical penalty was converted by Luis Suarez deep into added time to steal all three points for the visitors.

Sacchi spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport explaining the mistake made by Pioli in the game, with his comments relayed by MilanLive.

“Against Atletico, Pioli’s Milan were playing a beautiful, courageous and international level football, but unfortunately in the moment of difficulty – the red card of Kessié – he ignored their tactical approach and he bolted by forming a defensive line of six players with two midfielders intent on filtering every ball,” he said.

“Perhaps the best defence for Pioli would have been to keep the same organization with one less striker (4-3-2), so the opponent would also have to think about defending themselves. At the 1994 World Cup it also happened to the Italian national team to play a couple of games in 10 against 11, and they won both, so you can also win with 10, with the organisation. In the end, the boys did not deserve to lose, but once again the tactics did not help them.”

Asked about his opinion on Stefano Pioli, Sacchi added: “He is an intelligent person and I hope he does not fall into this error anymore. Despite being defeated, the Rossoneri proved to be competitive with Atletico. The path is long, but we can hope.”

Meanwhile, there is a lot of scrutiny at the moment surrounding the performance of Franck Kessie and it was his red card before half-time on Tuesday that changed the game, with contract uncertainty hanging over his head too.

“Maybe he doesn’t perform as he did last year due to a contractual problem: if so, either the agreement is defined or the player is left out of the team.”

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Tags AC Milan Arrigo Sacchi Milan Atletico Madrid


  1. After a battle, everyone is a general… that being said, he is absolutely right 300%. I really hope Pioli will learn from these mistakes, because that is a difference between a good and a great Manager and we need a great one if we’re gonna be competitive in UCL

    1. Sacchi is absolutely correct when he pointed out Pioli’s tactic error, while saying “ I hope he does not fall into this error anymore.”

      This is THE problem about Pioli, who just chickens out to defense and totally discard his functional attacking tatics when facing tough competition. He lacks of real COURAGE!

    1. Exactly! He should be left out of the squad. Pioli has done well. Let’s not condemn him because of the mistake made against Atletico as he would only learn from it like the players too. Seriously, I see us bashing Atletico 3-5 nil if not for the red card, cos we were too hot to handle! They couldn’t contain us. Kessie’s head isn’t here anymore. Let him stay on the bench and play players that loves the team!

  2. Well said Mr. Arrigo

    I hope Maldini has started to work on replacing Kessie in January as it’s obvious he won’t extend his contract.

    Tanguy Ndombele, Donny Van de Beek or Thiago Alcantara are quality players we could pounce on if the player swap deal is to be considered.

    I believe Maldini knows the right thing to do as always

  3. That’s true.
    Benching Leao was a huge mistake. He was the most dangerous player for Atletico. They even had to tie 2-3 player to him and in literally nulled that they had advantage playing 11 against 10.
    The second mistake was to let Giroud in. It left us 9 against 11 which ended up with what we have now.
    Well, mistakes are mistakes. If Pioli learns from them he will become stronger and stronger. That’s how we all learn. Anyway I like our manager. I do believe he will lead us to long awaiting trophies. Probably becomes a legend of the club one day.

      1. Always replacing Saelemaekers between 60 – 70 is another hallmark tactic mistake that Pioli keeps on making.

        Saelemaekers is a player with great field vision and football intelligence, which helps his teammates play better, even if he does not score much.

  4. Yep, said it in posts the day of the game. Pioli played a strange 6-2-1. Should have been a 4-4-1 with Theo pushed up as a defensive LW and Alexis the same on the right, with Balo-Toure and Florenzi as the LB and RB, respectively. The two rows of 4 should have been no more than 10 yards apart. This creates a defensively solid “box” which still has the ability to counter through the quick two wide mids (Theo and Alexis) for counter attacks. As it was you had 6 guys in a row in defense and Tonali and Bennacer woefully outnumbered (and too high up as well) in the center of the pitch. Pioli tried something and it wasn’t the best. Trying things is OK, but I hope we don’t see this 6-2-1 again the next time we play with 10 men.

  5. Pioli is just the ( Normal One ) he’s average but his improving as a Coach.
    We’ve got a strong Squad but we are stronger when Kessie and Zlatan plays.
    Kessie is definitely disturbed psychological with the Contract Saga.
    Again Massara and Maldini are doing a good but not a great job (letting Hakan and Donnaruma go for free) is Pardonable.
    However letting ( Kessie go at all ) would be stupidity of the Highest order.
    Kessie is the Only Milan midfielder presently that guarantees 90+ minutes of quality football with back to back certainties.

  6. Why everyone against Kessie? He’s still a Milan player I think we only need to urge him to resettle with the Milan board and the Milan board too should try and consider his opinion on the contract situation though non of the player would be bigger than the club but to think of it well, Milan need a long and stable player not an ordinary but the one who’s talented, strong and that can be pointed as Mezalla.. pls.. think of it very well it’s not easy to build a well strong team that would last for minimum 10 yrs to come… I do not surport violence but everyone’s happiness the two party need to be surported … I love my Milan… Forzan Milan…

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