Stefano Pioli has spoken ahead of Sunday’s match against Roma, discussing the work done at Milanello during this week, the #SusoOut movement, Çalhanoğlu, Paquetá, Rebić and more.
Milan face Roma at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening (18:00 CET) and Stefano Pioli will be looking for his debut win as the coach of the Rossoneri, after drawing 2-2 last week at San Siro against Lecce.
Pioli worked with his squad for a full week and it will be very interesting to see how the Diavolo will play against Roma.
“My impressions after having the full team at my disposal for the first time this week? Time is very, very important because we need to know each other very, very well,” Pioli told journalists at Milanello on Saturday. “What I can say is that the players approached the week with the right attitude and desire, it was a good week of work. Now, we need to transfer all the work we did this week onto the field. We have clear ideas and the right approach for this game.
“This has been a delicate and particular week for Suso, especially on social media [#SusoOut was trending on Twitter]? We do not get involved in these social media trials, we are a united and cohesive group. Our objective is to do everything we can well in order to get the best results we can as a team. Being a team means helping teammates, making sacrifices for our teammates – I give you a hand and you give me a hand – and the whole team comes out on top. When one of my players is attacked then it’s an attack on me and an attack on Milan. We know what we want to be, we want to be a team that goes out with clear ideas, plays with intensity and strives to win. It’s very important for us to be as positive as possible at the moment, we need to analyze – and we have analyzed – the good things and the bad things from our last game without hysteria. We must not be carried out, we must stay clear-minded, freethought and determined to well.
“The fact that the entire management watched the training session at Milanello this morning? When I talk about the club, the team, I don’t mean just the players who go out on the field. There’s the right atmosphere at Milanello, there’s the right set of skills, the right competences, and we all are determined to prove that we can do well.
“Can this be an important period for growth considering we face four major clubs in the next five games? That is a mentality we need to take, but at the same time, every game can be the chance to prove ourselves. The more difficult the game we face, the more we have to prepare, the better we have to prepare, and the more we have to prove that we’re a good team. I am not worried about our fixtures, but I and the team are focused solely on tomorrow’s game. We need to have the right approach to the game, to play with the right attention and we need to avoid making the same mistakes we made against Lecce. We need to be compact, sturdy, well-organized and determined for all 95 minutes of the game. We’re not looking too far into the future, we have one very difficult game to face tomorrow, and that’s all that matters at the moment.
“What has my impression been this week of my players’ attitude and mentality? The players have worked well and paid very close attention. We have prepared very well. Now, we need to transfer this work onto the field tomorrow, we will be facing a team that has only lost one game this season so far, that shows they’re a very good team. They’re missing some players through injuries, but I’m sure they’ll still be determined to win this match. Difficulty and adversity make a team stronger in terms of character, so we expect them to be highly determined and very difficult to break down. We need to be very careful and even more determined to play our game.
“If the alibi of having a young team has been used by too many at the start of this season? I think that the decision taken at the start of the season are very clear, I wasn’t here but the players that were brought in are clearly players who are worthy of playing for Milan. If you want to talk about young players then that means players born after the year 2000; we have players who are in 23-24 and have a lot of experience in Serie A. For example, Donnarumma, who was born in 1999, has played over 150 games with Milan, he’s very mature, a very serious guy, and he is a leader.
“We are a team that was built to do well and has every possibility of doing so. Youth is a good characteristic, but we are not inexperienced. For example, Leão is young and has little experience in Serie A, but aside from him all of our players have considerable experience in Serie A. Experience is not just a question of age, it is the way that games are interpreted and it’s the way they’re played. We have players who know how to play, who know how to prepare for games, who are professional, and they are aware of the importance of the jersey that they wear. I’ve seen a lot of professionalism and commitment, very professional behavior, since I’ve arrived. And on this we need to build our future. I think that in our first game we did a lot of positive things but we also made mistakes. This week, the attention has been on the mistakes. So I want to see massive improvements tomorrow.
“If the next games against Roma, Lazio, SPAL and Juventus tell us whether this Milan is worthy of competing for the Champions League and if the top-four still within our grasp? A year ago, Milan were 4th with 16 points at this same stage. We need to work hard every week to pick up three points in every game. Whether we face Roma, Lazio, SPAL, Juve or whatever other team, the important thing is that we always go out determined to win. In the end, we’ll see how well we do, we’ll see what we did right and what we did wrong.
“How can we avoid repeating the mistakes of the second half against Lecce? We have to work hard, we have to study, and we have to be able to interpret the moment of the game better. In the first half, we dominated completely. Had we interpreted the tactical situation better in the second half, we could’ve conceded even less to Lecce, so we clearly made mistakes in the way we read the game and the way we positioned ourselves. The game changes, the result during the game changes and our idea of football, which we want to carry out over the course of the entire game, requires us to read every moment correctly. We need to know when we should push harder, when we should commit fouls, when we should keep possession and when we should play more directly. We made a number of mistakes against Lecce and we paid dearly for them. This is something we have to improve on, very quickly.
“If I’m thinking of experimenting with alternating Piątek and Leão due to the very close fixtures we’ll be facing? I don’t like the word experiment, I fielded the team I felt the best we had for the Lecce game and I will do so in every game. I think Leão and Piątek are different players with different characteristics so I can choose a different approach depending on how we prepare the game. They are different players and they can even play together, we just need to find the right balance. I will also field the team, I think, gives us the best options and possibilities to win. But the players who come off the bench are just as important as those who start, it’s always important to be able to change things during the game.
“If Leão needs to be more present in the penalty area? I think it’s very important that we don’t only attack with our central striker. But his positioning is certainly something he can improve on. Leão must better learn to understand and read his opponent, his marker. Given his talent and quality, I’m sure he’ll be able to do it. But he needs to improve his ability to read the defense.
“I wanted Leão to be more central not only when we attack, but when we are defending as well. It’s important for the central striker to stay more central in order to the team climb back up the field once we’re again in possession. Leão has to improve his concentration during the game and stay inside the game, because it’s very important. It’s important for everyone to make sacrifices and to help each other out. This goes for all players at Milan, not just Leão.
“Maldini stated that Piątek needs to learn to play more with the team? I think the statement is correct, every player at any club, needs to work hard for the team. No team can afford to have a player who doesn’t participate in the entire team’s moves. I think Piątek is in good shape, but he’s not 100%.
“Given his performance last week, can Çalhanoğlu be a leader for my team? Hakan is a great player with fantastic potential. He is a top-level player, he played very well. I was happy with more than just his goal, I was happy with how he was moving off the ball, for his intensity for the entire match and for how he interpreted things. There are a lot of players who can reach that level at Milan and the goal is for them to do so.
“If Paquetá’s style of play still a bit too aimless and goalless? He made a couple of runs off the balls which made him very useful for our attack. As for on the ball, we’re working on it. I do expect him to be more concrete, I do expect him to serve more assists and take more shots. He had a chance to score just a few minutes into the Lecce game, and if he had then we all know that you’d have a very different impression of his performance. He does give us very important contributions to our attack, but he’s a midfielder, so he needs to work on his intensity and his concentration.
“Theo Hernández said that the team is freer on the field with me? I try to put the players in a position they are most natural in. I prefer to have a proactive approach rather than passive but in the end it’s the players’ qualities that make the biggest impression. The players need to feel at their ease in their position, they need to be put in a position to give their best. It’s important for the players to know each other well, to understand their teammates well. The more cohesion you can build, the more chance you have of overcoming your opponents. Last week Çalhanoğlu was the player who played the best, Leão also created a number of chances; we created numerous chances last week and we have a lot of players who can be protagonists. But I’m happy that one of my players feels free to do the things he’s gifted in.
“If I can see Biglia and Bennacer playing together or are they mutually-exclusive? If they were both to play then I’d have to make other changes, which I do not currently intend to do. It’s important to have consistency, at least initially, especially in terms of the players’ positions. I think Bennacer is a fantastic player, he’s one who’s very good at playing directly. He clearly played in more advanced positions earlier on his career, he’s a player with good qualities, I’m very happy with him and he’ll certainly be an added weapon. His chance will come soon, we’re counting on him.
“Why is Rebić playing for Croatia but not for Milan? He’s a player who can do better. He has the qualities to do well and I expect him to make a bigger contribution. If Suso will play tomorrow or not? Tomorrow I will field the best team I have available for that game, you’ll read who plays or not.
“The fans’ biggest complaint seems to be that Suso is untouchable and he always plays and if he’s not doing well then why is he not being put on the bench? To make things clear, I prefer to start from the beginning in a season. But one advantage, when you take over from someone else, is that I’ve made no promises to anyone, I have made no compromises and I did not choose a single player. I make my decisions based on the players’ performances in training during the week. As long as Suso gives me more guarantees than others then he will play. Physically, he’s clearly fine. When he lost a ball, he chased back 30 meters to win it back, so that clearly shows that he does have the fitness to play at this level. I will field the best team I can. I am not prejudiced, I will make my decisions based on the players’ performances in training and games. That is all.
“How is Caldara doing and if his recovery will lead to a three-man defense? Caldara isn’t in great shape yet, last Saturday he played one half with the Primavera. We’d intended to play him with the Primavera again today to build-up his match fitness but unfortunately he wasn’t ready to play. Yesterday he was a bit fatigue and he felt pain in his tendon, it’s going to take a bit longer. But he’s an important player, with specific characteristics which I hope to have available as soon as possible. Once he’s available, I’ll decide whether to make any changes or not.
“If I was shown any roadmap when I joined the club considering Maldini’s statements that Milan can’t wait 10 years to be successful again? I think that everyone here at the club has specific ambitions, starting from the owners, down to Maldini, Boban, Massara, and all the players. We do not have the luxury of waiting a decade to return to success. We are all fully-aware that we need to do well, that we have the possibility to do well. Maldini made very clear statements yesterday. Now it’s up to us to do well on the field. I understand the questions about the future of the club but the important thing is to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. We are confident that we can be protagonists this season.
“If I’ve understood where this team’s problems are? I need to focus on what Milan has been doing since I’ve joined. There are a lot of things we learned from last Sunday’s game. Given our performance, we would’ve deserved to win, but we didn’t, and that goes to show that we have many things we need to work on. But at the same time, we did show a lot of quality on the field, and we need to use that as a foundation going forward.
“Would Milan be better with Ibrahimović considering Maldini called him a ‘dream’? I’m just focused on my current team, I don’t think of anything else.”