Former AC Milan head coach Arrigo Sacchi has given his thoughts on the Salernitana game on Wednesday and on the Rossoneri’s prospects of catching Napoli.
Milan got 2023 off to the right start with three points at the Stadio Arechi, a ground where they were held to a draw in the second half of last season in what represented a big dent to the Scudetto hopes at the time.
The Rossoneri raced out to a two-goal lead inside 15 minutes as Rafael Leao rounded the keeper and slotted in after a through ball from Sandro Tonali, then Tonali scored himself five minutes later. Though Bonazzoli got one back to make it a nervy finish, the Rossoneri held on.
Sacchi spoke in his weekly column for La Gazzetta dello Sport about his old side and he started with an assessment of the game at the Stadio Arechi, with his comments relayed by PianetaMilan.
On Pioli chasing his number of victories as Milan boss: “I wish for him to catch me quickly, it would mean that Milan are doing great things.”
On the Salernitana game: “I think it’s a good restart to the season for them. It wasn’t an easy game, because the break for the World Cup undoubtedly favoured the ‘smaller’ teams. Milan only make mistakes when they stretch.
“I am convinced that, if the team remain compact, they will do well. The role models they must have are clear: Michels’ Ajax, Milan at the end of the 1980s, Guardiola’s Barcelona. Teams that moved a lot without the ball, that played ‘as a team’. Eleven men always in an active position: this is the Gospel of contemporary football.”
On what he thinks of Pioli: “Yes, Stefano is very good. He also proved it when, after the defeat in the friendly against PSV, he kept the team in contact and didn’t allow the day off. Some defeats are important warnings to seize. He did it. The players have to understand the road ahead.”
On how to coach football players: “With persuasion, that is trying to convince them. Or with percussion, that is keeping them out if they don’t do what they have to do. There are three rules at the basis of a great team: strong motivations, which obviously they do not allow certain drops in tension; the team spirit, and the game style.”
On if the title fight is reopened: “Absolutely yes. Napoli weren’t the usual Napoli, now they need to find that compactness and those mechanisms that brought them to the top before the break.”
On if Milan can win the Scudetto: “If they play as a team, yes. And I think they can also become competitive in Europe. The important thing is that the Rossoneri play according to the usual standards of the Champions League, and therefore: pressing, short passes, attacking space, vertical movement. This is in the ropes of Pioli’s team, he has already done it and can do it again.”
On a player who is growing up: “I’d say Tonali. He’s good, he seems like an intelligent boy to me. He struggled to settle in, but now he plays with confidence and does remarkable things. The important thing, when you have so many young players at your disposal, is to keep them always on the spot, making sure they don’t have distractions, that they never feel like they’ve arrived, that they don’t feel the success syndrome.
“But Pioli has shown that he knows how to manage the group very well, and in this he is helped by Maldini and Massara. The club’s voice is very present in the locker room.”
On a quality that can make the difference: “Humility, which is the daughter of intelligence. If you are humble, you want to learn and, consequently, to improve.”