Why Pioli must assume his own responsibilities as failing rotation strategy persists

By Oliver Fisher -

Stefano Pioli’s selection choices must again be scrutinised after a heavily rotated AC Milan team dropped points against 19th-placed Cremonese last night.

In recent weeks we have already written at length about the exaggerated rotation carried out by Pioli in recent weeks had an underlying error: the players must be ‘tested’ over the course of a whole season and not with sporadic calls to arms all together at once.

So here we are to comment on yet another slip-up by Milan in the league that even yesterday, against a modest Cremonese side who are heading for the drop, even came close to an embarrassing defeat.

Pioli made six changes compared to the previous match at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma, which did not yield a win but a 1-1 draw which again needed late heroics. The result last night was an uncertain, incomplete and soulless Milan.

This time, unlike what happened against Bologna and Empoli, it was not the Champions League round that prompted Pioli to rest the starting players en masse, but the head-to-head challenge against Lazio in the league.

Here the first contradiction: the points do not have a different weight depending on who you meet, yesterday it was essential to get three just as it will be essential (after the dropped points against Cremonese) to now win against Maurizio Sarri’s team.

Milan have been able to get into trouble all on their own and now they are preparing to have to play for Champions League qualification with no more mistakes permitted and all their lifelines used up.

This is the reason why it is highly probable that Pioli’s rotation will now be put in the attic, forcing the owners to starters overtime in the most important week of all: that of the Euroderby.

The turnover, therefore, from an antidote turns into poison and if before the errors in the transfer market held up as a justification, now it is time for Pioli to also assume his own responsibilities.

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli


  1. They will sack Pioli, sell some players, and continue with same data bull*hit.

    This is when you give artificial intelligence to lead Ac Milan.

  2. Playing devils advocate here….. what if his idea to rotate is the right one, but in the wrong match? What if he fielded a full strength team last night and the reserves, both legs, against Inter? We may or may not beat Inter but we have no chance against City or Madrid – BUT we do have a chance to get 4th place in the league and get CL football next year.

    Just something to consider….

    1. We struggle against those teams that play low block.. None of City not Madrid, play low block and I don’t think, they would fancy playing low block against us! So we have a chance, to beat City or Madrid.. Your comment is spot on!

    2. Or how about the “first team” would also struggle against the so called “weaker teams” because they drop deep.

      It’s not the players, it’s the team we’re up against that drops so deep. But if Saelemaekers‘ knows stays onside it’s a different game.

      1. Or if CDK executes, or if Diaz executes twice (received the ball twice in spance and time near the penalty spot), or if Leao executes (receives the ball in the 82nd or 84th minute just outside the 6 yard box and shoots wide). Players are just not executing. It’s the players, not the teams we’re up against.

        1. And it’s not even the “players” but the “moments”.

          Those exact same players have scored in the exact same positions.

          Think about how the game played out.

          Saelemaekers had the goal disallowed. Had he scored it’s a completely different game.

          Milan had numerous chances after that. Clear cut chances that those same players have scored before.

          Then Cremonese score from their one chance from a comedy of errors at the back.

          There was a huge chunk of misfortune with this game. And there has been a huge chunk of misfortune with many games.

          But the one thing I would say is the message that it sends to the team when Pioli rests players against so called “weaker” teams. I’ve said before there’s not this huge gap between teams and players. There are inches. But by resting players the message it says to the team is: “This should be an easy one”. And then when a player gets a chance he thinks “There’ll be others”.

          This I think is fundamentally the problem. These matches need to be played like finals which means starting the team for the final. If players need to be rotated they should be rotated over a series of games rather than resting 5-6 at once.

          We should be treating Cremonese as seriously as Lazio particularly given our record against weaker teams. Rest some players for Cremonese and rest some for Lazio. Don’t rest all your players for Cremonese because that sends the message that Cremonese are easy when they’re not.

    3. Play the reserves in the Champions League semifinals. Lmao. What do you even support the team for? To see them win the 4th place trophy? This is AC Milan.

      What a mind boggling comment. Honestly reads like a parody.

        1. Your point is interesting but I have to say that it’s not very seriously applicable. We cna’t tell Leao, Theo and others not to start in UCL. Justifying it to the fans would be hard too.
          But kudos for expressing something different.

          1. Thanks. Actually i agree with you, and even with DJS. It couldn’t realistically happen, i just thought it was an interesting theory, and it would certainly spark debate if he did it.

  3. If he fielded, reserves against Inter because of injuries and fatigue.. Then you will see: comments like “Well our run to Semi Finals, was a fluke” “We were lucky, with the draw” “I knew that, we don’t have bench strength” and many more! Oh and there is this guy, @Poli who would’ve blamed Maldini.. So, you have your answer!

  4. The coach is a disgrace to football,how can you keep on making such stupid selections all time…put your big players from the start,win your game in the first half and replace them with Fringe players..rather you choose to bring them on in the second half pressure time to reduce their mental and physical energy.you have done this countless times and all went wrong..what’s the difference between that coach and a stubborn fool

    1. Haaland are still young player ,of course he can play , his deputy are julian alvarez striker that win world cup . Compare young player like haaland vs our striker giroud 37 years are very funny. You want to forcing 37 years striker play full time 31/35 games? With his deputy are lord origoat ?

      1. giroud and kjear are the 30+ players in this team.. so obviously his comment was not aimed at them but the likes of Leao, Theo, Tonali, Benacer. They could and should start every game till the season ends

        1. Yup as I said, to keep playing those young players is one way to keep their mentality and spirit high. It’s a complicated thing when you enter the field in the middle of the game, trying to find a desperate win, and fail. Entering next match, your mentality will go back to square one. Moreover if we’re dealing with young less experienced players.

          Just look at Theo’s eyes last match. He really wants to enter the field and help all his teammates. That’s the spirit of young player we have to convey. It’s frustrating when you’re fit, the match is quite important, but you can’t do anything to help.

          1. yeah. Pioli should rotate a few players all the time so the the subs get the rythm and the main group does not lose it. But doing 7,8,9 rotatiotions and then none, its disruptive.. Like you havent played for 7+ matches, not a minute, you start this game, we need to win.. CBs have been rotated all season and work fine in any composition. Mid and atk havent

      2. To be accurate, Maldinis Heir didn’t compare him to Giroud but Milan players in general. Majority of Milan’s starting 11 is waaaay younger and fall into the “Haaland category” agewise. And it’s a solid, good question. EPL is faster & harder too. More contact. More physical. And also consider this: Milan plays the slowest football there is. The attacking build-ups (if you can even call them that) takes 5 minutes as the passes are so slow. Players stand 90% of the match time.

        So yes. I’d ask the same question as MH above.

      3. Haaland struggled with injuries at Dortmund and then he starts playing for Pep and suddenly he never gets injured and can play every game.

        Pep has been saying how he keeps him wrapped up in cotton wool between games to avoid injuries.

        Pep has a history of getting these players to play huge amounts of games with very few injuries. It was the same with Barca and the likes of Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. They never got injured and played in nearly every game across multiple competitions.

        It’s one of the reasons his teams play almost on automatic. There’s a huge amount of familiarity.

  5. Remember when we got long list of injuries (half of last season to half of this season) and we envy those teams who always play full squad and sometimes we felt we could do more if those several injured players were available.

    And now our injury list is far better. Yet we still can’t field our best 11 for 2-3 matches. Isn’t it a bit of an irony? From the very first I don’t support this rotation concept. Moreover when we still desperately need points and given several obvious evidences it’s just not working.

  6. Of course Pioli bears some responsibility but I can never shake the feeling he is always put in a catch-22. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

    For this reason I do not really take that much of the criticism seriously. I accept that we may reach a tipping point resulting in his sacking, if we are not playing UCL next season. But that would really just be emotional face saving, it would not be an accurate reflection of the success of the project we are in the midst of.

    I have heard many say that the performances against Napoli are the real Milan. That is only true to the extent that the way Napoli plays provides us with the freedom to play well (at least as soon as Piloi sorted out the midfield outnumber against 3-man midfields by using Bennacer as a 10 and playing Krunic alongside Tonali).

    We can’t score with any freedom against opponents who play low blocks / park the bus. It doesn’t matter how poor the quality of the opposition is. We do not have the creativity or range of passing in the middle of park to help spread an opponent to free Leao and Theo.

    Tonali is the best passing player we have, I believe he’ll end up something like Pirlo, but he is playing deeper roles and the all-round game is beyond him at this point in time. I don’t think this limitation will last too much longer but he’s young and still developing.

    It is not like Pioli hasn’t given Brahim extensive opportunity in the middle (as an AM for 3 seasons now) but he can’t consistently impact a game as an AM (and would only be considered a signing due to his work on the right). CDK has also had significant opportunity but gets worse as time goes on.

    That leaves Adli. Perhaps he could have played more but if he did we would not have seen CDK. We’d almost certainly then be having the same discussion about CDK. You’re also then tipping out a key piece of the way Pioli wants to play, which is also a necessity given the issues with the squad. Adli clearly does not fit in based on how he likes to play as an AM.

    The squad is weak. It consists of 15/16 players we can rely on. That includes a range of 21 to 23 year olds (they make mistakes). Pioli was being criticised early in the season for not rotating. Now the rotations are the problem when a team primarily made up of the 15/16 referred to above couldn’t break down 19th placed Cremonese, just as it struggled with Empoli a month earlier.

    I think Milan fans just need to take a breath and look at things objectively. The squad last year was nobody’s idea of a scudetto winning squad. A few amazing individual performances took advantage of other teams’ failures to realise potential, such as Inter, or Allegri being a handbrake at Juve.

    It goes to show that the project is on track. Maldini and co have gotten more of the key pieces right than not. These are the pieces that won a scudetto having lost the likes of Donnarumma and Hakan. They’re in a UCL semi final. There is no doubt that they got it wrong with CDK, and some other player, but that’s the nature of the beast. They didn’t have the resources to sign the multiple players required, of the desired quality, because there was no money until well into the Mercato.

    If our financial constraints for the upcoming mercato look like they did last time around, they’re going to have to sell CDK, recouping what they can, and spend money on an AM and at least a striker. I think we then have to promote from the Primavera for depth. It’s a tough sell because instant improvement would be no guarantee but it’s our lot.

  7. (4) points perdus à San Siro (Emploi, Cremonese) synonyme de 2eme place, quel gâchis ! avant 4 journée de la fin !

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