Sacchi fights Pioli’s corner: “I see no reason to change him at the end of the season”

By Oliver Fisher -

Arrigo Sacchi believes that the AC Milan ownership should keep Stefano Pioli as head coach because he continues to show himself to be the best man for the job.

Sacchi is someone who knows what it takes to win with Milan, given he won Serie A title in his 1987–88 debut season and then got back to back European Cups in 1989 and 1990.

Pioli meanwhile has had a bit of a rollercoaster recently. While many acknowledge that he has credit in the bank after winning the Scudetto and getting the Rossoneri to the Champions League semi-finals, recent results have been frustrating.

As such, there is a chance that Pioli – after a potential second straight trophyless season – may be remembered more for his losses than his wins, and for what he didn’t achieve rather than what he did. Meanwhile, speculation about his future continues to rumble.

Sacchi spoke during an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport about the head coach position and he made his thoughts clear on what the management should do.

“If he continues like this and if the improvements continue, I don’t see why Pioli should be sent away at the end of the season. The important thing is that Milan always keep their foot pressed on the accelerator and that they believe in his potential,” he began.

What do you like about the current Milan?

“I’m starting to see a team, which is the most important thing. Let me explain: it hasn’t reached its maximum yet, but finally the players help each other, they show they follow the coach, they fight, they commit, they never give up.”

An example?

“If you don’t have important moral values ​​at the base of the group, you don’t win matches like the one in Udine: coming back, in the last minute, after making a tremendous effort. It was a reward for willpower.

“Well deserved for what was seen in pitch, especially before the racist episode against Maignan. There are three factors that determine the strength of a team, I will never tire of saying it.”

What are these factors?

“The very strong motivation, the high team spirit and the game. It seems to me that the first two qualities, considering how the last period is going, are there.

“The game, however, can still improve. Even if we are already at a reasonable level. However, we need to acquire greater continuity of performance.”

Other aspects to correct?

“I would like to see Milan narrow and compact: no more than thirty meters apart. In this way the synergies between the departments develop, the collaboration between the players, and then you can press, which is the real secret of modern football.

“If you are compact, and if everyone is close, you help each other, you steal the ball from your opponents and you increase your self-esteem by plunging others into depression. In short: the goal is to become proactive, to dominate the game.”

How do you rate Pioli’s work so far?

“I look at the table: the Rossoneri are third, with a good margin ahead of fourth. This means that only two teams, Inter and Juve, have done better.

“And let’s not forget that Milan is not the club that spent more in the mercato. Inter, for example, has invested more in the last three seasons, yet, despite having won several trophies, they have never reached the Scudetto.

“Pioli is working with a group of boys who almost all come from abroad: it’s not easy, patience is needed. The improvements that can be seen now are the result of the coach’s teachings, I have no doubt about this.

“It’s logical that, at the beginning of the season, there was a price to pay given the many changes in the market. It’s not easy to make people who come from another universe understand your ideas.”

In your opinion, has Pioli made himself understood?

“Given the recent results and, above all, the performances and commitment of the players, I would say yes. Stefano is an excellent coach. Before arriving at Milan he was above all a tactician, then he evolved and now it seems to me that is a strategist.

“He thinks over the long term and not just on the result of a single match. He wants to give identity and style to the team: these are the most difficult things. I said it before: if he continues like this, I see no reason to change him at the end of the season.”

The fans have often expressed their disappointment.

“Very true, and when they blew the whistle they were right because they weren’t having fun. But in the last period Pioli has shown that he has the team in control and the team has shown that it wants to follow its coach.

“And in fact the results are there and they are no longer there the boos. People are not stupid: if they notice the commitment, if they understand that the players have given their soul, they applaud and support.

“And the Milan environment, which is a very competent environment, I am sure will give a hand in this second part of the season.”

The role of the club will be decisive for Pioli’s reconfirmation.

“The club is always fundamental, and it is even more so in a moment like this. When I arrived at Milan, at the beginning I had some problems, we lost a few games. Berlusconi said to me: “Do you need my intervention?’. I replied to him: ‘Yes’.

“He summoned us all to Milanello, to his office, and in thirty seconds he settled the matter: ‘I have full faith in Arrigo. Those of you who have it will stay next year too. he doesn’t have it, he’ll go away. Good work everyone’.

“Of course, right? From then on we began the comeback that would lead to the championship. The club comes before the team and the team comes before the individual: these are basic rules.

“Here we are faced with a young club, which is demonstrating passion and, I am convinced, will slowly acquire greater skills and greater experience. The important thing is that there is clarity. In the heads of the managers and in that of the coach.”

What should Pioli do now?

“Insist with his ideas, which led him to win four consecutive matches in the championship. He must be a hammer, work hard, not take anything for granted. And if there is someone who doesn’t follow him, after trying to convince him to once, twice or three times, he must have the strength to put him out.

“The most important rule, I have always maintained, is respect for the rules. Woe betide you if you grant exceptions.”

Aside from the championship, there is also the Europa League and Milan can play for the final victory. What do you think?

“The Europa League is a very prestigious trophy and the Rossoneri have what it takes to get to the end. They must believe in their possibilities and their qualities: the mental aspect is decisive when you want to achieve great goals.

“And then there’s always the league, where Milan have the duty to improve and to once again show that commitment and desire to fight that I’ve admired lately.”

Is it forbidden to talk about the scudetto?

“If I were coach of the Rossoneri, I would abolish this word. The goal must be something else: becoming a team, being compact, united, modern in the way we are on the pitch. Then, in the end, as in all things in life, we’ll draw conclusions.

“But I believe that Inter and Juve have a notable advantage and therefore I wouldn’t waste energy thinking about the scudetto. The players must keep their heads down and run, run, run.”

A man who, in this period, can make a difference?

“Not just one man, because no one wins matches alone. But all together, if they become a collective, they can get a lot of satisfaction.”


Tags AC Milan Arrigo Sacchi Stefano Pioli


  1. Sacchi has been consistent with his comments reality has reflected what he has been saying. He has been very balance with criticism and credit. In terms of spirit and mentality, the team is in a good place. Tactically, we haven’t found the balance yet but we’re getting there. It will all come down to the goals and aspirations of the new management and Pioli will be judged at the end of the season.
    So far, as he has proven throughout his career, Pioli is capable of creating unity and harmony within the group. Tactically, he’s had some blunders, but mostly this season. I’m not sure whether that is down to him or the big change in personnel. I’d say he’s proven to be tactically capable otherwise. I think a top four finish and a continued improvement in team performance is enough to give him another year.

  2. If, If, If.. People got blinded by udine win like it was some masterclass miracle but the reality is Milan went 2-1 down. Why? Because of sh*t tactics ofc and we got lucky that we won in the end. I honestly dont want to see more of the same. And thats what we get from Pioli..

    Pioli should have been fired a year ago, but i guess people also forgot about those results and how we finished 5th last season..

    Sacchi talks 2 much i said this before. Come work at the club. Do something.

    1. Honestly mike was rattled, the first goal had he not been abused I’m sure would have been a clean save. I’m not saying Pioli has convinced but that was a strange game. You’re right though you can’t definitively draw many conclusions from that game.

  3. Sensible talk at last we have a great coach ..His name is pioli …If we want to things again ..Stick with this man ..He has brought harmony to this club ,,and indeed in a short while he has achieved a scuddeto title a champions league semi final place ,,,and a very good at present AC Milan side …
    Changing will bring a collapse…Look at some of the players who have benefited during his stay…
    Look at the form of Pulisic ..Loftus cheek ..Rafeol leao
    Aldi ..all have progressed..Yes look at our veteran Giroud his form this season truly remarkable…
    Yes it’s down to good communication between coach and players ..We are a united team ..
    Next season you / we will reap the rewards..
    We are having a much better season than some of you so called fans are suggesting.
    It’s AC Milan for me ..

    1. do you even watch the games? Rafa, our so called best player, hasnt scored a goal since september in seria A..

      Pioli sad to Adli he does not plan tu use him this season, that he should leave. And youre here saying Pioli made Adli? please. Go eat a spoon of reality

      1. I don’t know if you watch the games yourself or just check the scoresheet. Leao is still by FAR the most dangerous player on the pitch. He is double and triple teamed and yet in Udinese he should have had an assist but Giroud boofed a sitter, he had the hockey assist on the second goal, and he got us the corner kick that won the game for us. The fact is this team does not need to rely on our LA for goals anymore as all players across the forward line and even midfield are chipping in. We have the most or second most different goal scorers in the league and the most by subs. The danger of Leao is what creates many of those chances for others. Look up xT, expected threat, Leao leads the league by a HUGE margin and that’s because he is picking up assists and creating chances from Impossible positions while being double or triple teamed at times.

  4. I don’t think Pioli should continue the next season, some wins here and there against tomato cans (Udinese, Sassuolo,…) who just somehow made a reputation because they defeated us from time to time is not gonna cut it. We are LUCKY that many of our opponents (Lazio, Roma and Napoli) fell considerably compared to last season.
    We are comfortably third but that’s not the whole story, we are pretty much OUT of any title race and this is barely january (unless you think we can beat Leverkusen, Liverpool or heck even Atalanta to the Europa League). Not winning titles is a thing, being out of eveything TWO SEASONS IN A ROW by mid-season is another.
    I’m grateful to Pioli for the 21/22 Scudetto, I really am and contrary to some I think he played a big role in it. But that’s already 2 seasons ago, and many of the contributors to that success (Maldini, Zlatan, Tonali and Kessie) are already gone. You don’t keep your job on and on because of a single title you won seasons ago.
    Also our opponents (namely inter and juve) have improved massively. We somehow thaught that we are too good to take them seriously and that what we need is more of the same.
    This season, Pioli got what he asked for. He and only he wanted to switch to a 4-3-3, the management brought him the players he wanted, he even called some on the phone and was able to veto some transfers (Singo come to mind). Many of the current players were already at casa Milan by early summer and were able to take part in the US Tour. And to be honest, everything looked great 3 games in.
    But then reality hit like a truck. Whatever genius pioli had during the scudetto season is no longer here. Pioli has shown to either bein unable to adapt tactics (sticking to high press even against teams that already punished us for it), or change tactics in the worst way possible (the 4-4-2 he tried in San Siro against Udinese and the 3-4-3 or whatever is he tried at times). When questioned about losses, he always go back to us somehow dominating the game and just lacking the finishing touch, while our defenses were pried open.
    We had our big injury crisis again this season but that’s not the whole story. Most of our big losses happened even with most of the whole squad available, and Pioli didn’t seem to know how to cope with it at times even though it’s been the same case ever since he took charge of the team.
    For me (but that’s only me), Pioli need to bring something with him if he wants to manage the team next season, either the Europa League or the Scudetto. A third place is not a title.

  5. At the end of the day I think we all can agree that Pioli has done good work for Milan. I’m still in the camp that he has run his race and it’s time to move forward in a new phase. My main beef with Pioli continues to be team selection and the way his teams move the ball, especially in games where there’s no press. I also don’t think he’s the best in game manager. Inzaghi out coaches him regularly and that won’t do.
    However Milan could do much worse than Pioli so replacing him just to replace him is a bad idea. We’ll see how the season progresses.

  6. I want a new, more capable coach but… One cannot ignore the stats. He hasn’t had the quality anywhere near the teams of Ancelotti, Capello etc. but he has one of the best winning-ratios and point-averages. And the averages aren’t calculated on the basis of “handful” matches either.

    The results say a lot. Even if the game itself isn’t pretty.

    I understand why he should be sacked. But I understand also why they COULD keep him.

    1. winning ratio and point-average mean nothing without titles, and in 4 seasons, we only won one scudetto.
      Also you have to put things into context. The serie A was 30 games (16 teams ) until 1988-89 and 34 games (18 teams) until 2004-05. That’s LESS games against sitting ducks which are generally free points. Also until the nineties the win was 2 points. I know that statistics adjust for that, but prior to the 3 points win, a draw was more rewarding and tactically more valuable.
      Pioli simply found himself in an era where gaining points and winning is much easier and rewarding compared to old eras. But honestly, Pioli is no better than Allegri who won a scudetto and a supercup.

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