Marco Giampaolo believes his team did well in the second half against Hellas Verona, but is well-aware that there are many things to improve.
Milan broke the curse of the international break, as they managed to beat Hellas Verona 1-0 at Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi on Sunday evening.
The Rossoneri were far from impressing, and despite playing with an extra-man for most of the game (Mariusz Stępiński saw a red card in the 21′ minute), Milan only scored in the 68′ minute and that was through a penalty which was converted by Krzysztof Piątek. Davide Calabria was also sent off (94′) and he will miss the Derby next Saturday.
“This Milan concedes very few goals? This is a Milan that tries to do things correctly, we need to improve on many things, but it’s perfectly natural for it to be so,” Giampaolo told MilanTV after the game. “There are no, and will never be, perfect teams. We need to work hard to improve and get all the details right. Our defensive record is a positive stat, but it’s based on just three games, so it’s of little significance. That said, the team has the desire to do things properly.
“Next week’s Derby will be the first time Milan face an open team and they could have fun? First of all, the event itself is important and fun, as it should be. We’re not going to war, we’re going to play a football match. We’ll do our very best to play as Milan should. I always tell the guys that we must respect everyone, whether you’re facing the league leaders or the bottom team, and you respect your opponents by preparing well during the week. If I were to come here to Verona and underestimate my opponent, I wouldn’t be respecting my opponent.
“The team worked well, paying close attention to the little details. They understood what kind of opponent we faced. We respected our opponents, the team didn’t get the match wrong, our mental, physical and behavioral approach was correct. That is positive. We might have made technical and tactical mistakes, but we got the approach right and must always do so.”
Speaking to Sky, the coach said: “My certainties? I have the team that gives me certainties. The team is working well, I have to make it more and more balanced. I know what the strengths and what the weaknesses are, I work to improve the individuals and the team. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, there is no perfect side. I like the effort and passion we put into the game, then errors can happen.
“The game? In the second half the team played well, with the right approach and precision. We spread the pitch and occupied the right positions. A team that defends with 10 men in their final third are difficult to break down. Verona played their honest defensive game and we were constantly pushing forward. We didn’t do it perfectly and of course there is plenty to work on and improve, but the victory helps us to work. I won’t just brush the dust under the carpet, I won’t hide behind the positive result. I know full well we need to improve and there are issues we have to deal with.
“The formation? We have to work on the systems of play, we could afford playing 4-3-3 because it was 11 against 10. I don’t like to improvise, I want my team to have a structure to work on and some guarantees to build on. There are many talented individuals in the side and I still need to get them to fit within the context of the team unit. We need more tactical maturity, the players are working to complete the mosaic in the most serious way and this gives me confidence.
“Our tactics in numerical superiority? In the second half I brought Rebić and Suso on the flanks, the midfielders on the central defenders, it was what the team had to do, and we took half of the pitch. The goal came on a dead-ball but staying there for a longer time for a team in 10 is not easy. We had to adjust to lower the defensive phase of Hellas. When the opposition is defending in a block, you have to move the ball side to side, tire them out, stretch them and create the spaces.
“All games are difficult and you have to earn the points. VAR has rightly taken away the doubts and uncertainties we had in the past when some more prestigious clubs would get the benefit of the doubt, so all the matches are now even. The team believes in what we do, I notice it in training and if it weren’t like that I would say it. We must be honest, I don’t hide. This team is trying and is accustomed to playing as individuals, whereas I must get them working in the service of the collective. We must learn to attack better, that is true.
“Piątek? He fought hard, he converted the penalty and I didn’t see anything controversial about his celebration. He’s a good lad, he doesn’t stir up trouble.”
Giampaolo also held a post-match press conference: “Milan were ’embarrassing’ in the first half but took home the three points? I think it’s a bit exaggerated to say that Milan were ’embarrassing’. Milan played an intelligent match after the numerical superiority. In the second half we went to take positions on the pitch that we had to take, defending in the last 30 meters when you bring so many players over the line of the ball. We had a lot of attention, we practically gave away nothing, I believe. There’s a lot to improve. There are no perfect teams in mid-September.
“Hellas? I like them much more against Lecce last Sunday. They made them run in circles, but on Sunday they played to keep us from playing in 1v1 and in physical counter-attacks. We were good at making them tired. I told the guys that sooner or later we’ll find our way around.
“Piątek? After the game I never talk to the players. It’s clear, I saw him well and I told you this before. He must be calm. The general content of the game needs to be examined. Biglia? He is a leader, he’s a strong player. I see him, I hear him, and I have a feeling with some players. Biglia knows how to be on the field. Bennacer is also a strong player. I build the foundations with the players that I think are right at the time. He’s a serious player, recognized within the group. I thought he can play because of his ability not to be drown in the difficulties of a game.
“If I made just one substitution as a signal for those who were on the pitch? No, it was because I thought there was no need to change. We were with one more man and we were fine. Usually I make three changes, but there was no need to alter the balance. Suso? He’s good in dribbling and at timing the play. He’s not a player of depth, but he has 1v1. When you play against closed teams you need those players there.
“Paquetá as a trequartista [Giampaolo subbed him out on half time and it was his only sub in the game]? He is a bit disorganized in that role, but I put him there on purpose. He has to work on it, I still have to make him a complete player. He lacks something, but not in his will. He must understand when to be concrete and when he can take some liberties. But he will get there because he’s an intelligent guy.
“Çalhanoğlu and Bonaventura? Hakan is a great player, he has dribbling and shooting. He is one of those players who can unhinge when you find closed teams. I’ll have a hard time depriving myself of him. Then, he must fix some things but he will get there too. Jack is working well but he’s not in a position to play a game like this. He must be patience too, he is improving.
“An identity? I work to improve the identity of the team. We must learn to dominate the game and keep track of the timing of the play. There are many things to improve, only with time and work we will improve. The identity is a collective thought, which at this moment the team has sniffed.
“The racist choirs against Kessié and Donnarumma from Hellas fans? I don’t educate the people, I’m unqualified. The derby? We’ll play it…”
In an interview with Tiki Taka, the former Sampdoria coach said: “The game? The team had the patience to get around the defensive wall. The opponent remained in 10 and defended themselves in 10. It takes patience to make them run and find spaces that are not there. In 11 against 10 the team did the things right. It is never easy to find solutions against 10 defending players. In the second half, with different positions, the team did well. We had to find positions on the field to get around the defense.
“Paquetá? It’s not a rejection. He is a player who can play there. He was put there for this game. The word trequartista means nothing, it depends on how you move. I needed to expand the game, not a player between the lines and that’s why I chose Rebić. I could’ve removed a mezz’ala and let him play but the game demanded a different characteristic.
“The derby? U think that all teams are not perfect. The results help with confidence. Milan must make their way. I know there are many things to improve. I have the confidence to do it because the team works well.”
RAI Italia also caught the Milan tactician for a post-match interview: “The matches are not all downhill. The opponents were fierce. The important thing is to have won, trying to do the right things in numerical superiority. The resistance of Hellas could not last the whole game, they never broke away. We did what we had to do.
“What do I like and what do I dislike about this Milan? We have to work on a lot of difference aspects. I like that the team works to see improvement. They are attached to the things we do. I know there is still a lot to do. My objective is to make the team ‘as team as possible’, gaining certainty.
“Paquetá? The trequartista is a new role for him. He can guarantee technical and physical depth, but he must learn to move like a trequartista. I wanted to reinforce that department with a player with his characteristics, I will work on it. Rebić? He can also play as a second striker. He has selflessness and good legs, he came on well. He played in the Bundesliga and the national team so he’s in a good condition. But he too must breathe the team’s amalgamation.
“If there are any problems in the players’ conditions? No. They all went to the national team. I know you have to work to be better. The condition is good, the team works hard and it follows me. We have the idea of winning back balls high, we need to metabolize and understand what the maximum of the things we can do is.”