Zanetti explains how Empoli held the Rossoneri: “If you give Milan space…”

By Oliver Fisher -

Empoli boss Paolo Zanetti has admitted that the objective of his side was to minimise the space between the lines that was available to AC Milan.

After Milan put four goals past Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona last week many expected Stefano Pioli’s side to breeze past Empoli in front of a near sell-out crowd at San Siro, but they failed to break down a resilient defence.

Pioli made the rather bold decision to make five changes to the starting line-up that beat Napoli as Malick Thiaw, Alexis Saelemaekers, Tommaso Pobega, Ante Rebic and Divock Origi all came in, clearly with an eye on Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Napoli, but it did not result in three points.

Zanetti spoke to DAZN after the game to explain what he did to frustrate Milan and also earn a valuable point away from home, with his comments relayed by MilanNews and translated below.

Was taking away space between the lines one of your biggest concerns?

“Absolutely yes, we say it without shame. For a team that has to save itself, there are also these matches. If you give Milan space, you risk going home with a goal blitz. Before leaving Empoli we had a load of humility to fight for every ball and keep the pace as low as possible, this rewarded us in the end.”

How has your relationship with young players changed over the years?

“It depends a lot on the education they have. Our youth sector is of the highest level, it gets the players mentally ready. By the time they get to the first team they are already addressed and I just have to keep them on the rails.

“I have to save the team, the points count, and we are succeeding with the young players on the pitch because they are strong young players.”

On De Winter: “He will get to play in the top clubs. When there’s a one-off game to be played, he hasn’t made a single mistake, but when there’s continuity to be given, he’s left something behind. But it’s perfectly normal, he’s maturing. Last year he played in Serie C, this year he played a lot and when he did he played very well.”

On Perisan: “Second goalkeeper is certainly an important role. We believe in him, we think he can become a great goalkeeper. He has to replace the best goalkeeper in Serie A this season, he has a great weight. Good for Empoli’s future if Vicario leaves, we’ll already have a goalkeeper ready.”

Tags AC Milan Milan Empoli Paolo Zanetti
Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.