Stefano Pioli has spoken ahead of his Tardini return, talking of the ‘technical efficiency’ that Milan need to work on.
Milan sacked Marco Giampaolo after 7 games in charge and replaced him with Pioli and tomorrow is Stefano’s 7th game as the boss of the Diavolo.
While performances have certainly improved, results have been severely lacking so far in Pioli’s tenure. On Sunday at 15:00 CET, his Rossoneri face Parma at Stadio Ennio Tardini and they will try to start a new path.
“How has the week been in training, especially in light of the team dinner this week? It was important to reinforce our concept of being a group, our team spirit,” Pioli told reporters in today’s press conference. “It is only by working as a team that we can come out of our currents slump. We need to continue becoming tighter and more united as a group, working towards the same objective.
“What will Milan need to take from the last few positive performances into tomorrow’s game? Parma is an excellent team with very specific characteristics, they are very efficient. Their defense and offense are very effective. We need to play with the same spirit we had in the last games. But we need to improve on the quality of our play, we need to be precise, not just in possession but also in our movement off the ball. Of course, we need to lose fewer balls and we need to be more precise in our passing. We need to improve the quality of every aspect of our game.
“Musacchio said this week that while it’s true that ‘needless to say, we play well but we need to make points’ and if tomorrow’s game weights more than others? Over the course of the season, there are always games that are more important than a simple three points. But opportunity never comes knocking – we have to create our own opportunities, our own chances; that is a thing our players need to be aware of.
“If I see fire from those who enter in the course of matches and if I’m seeing a different attitude from the whole team? Whoever starts needs to be burning with passion and the same goes for the players who come off the bench. We need to all be incredibly determined, we are a squad, we’re a team, we’re Milan – whether a player starts of he comes off the bench, whether they play 90 or 10 minutes they must give everything they’ve got. It would be a terrible thing if I had to intervene and make changes because players were not motivated and not determined. We have our objective, we know what we need to do to reach it and we’re on the right road.
“If Piątek will play from the start tomorrow? I will reveal tomorrow who will start… everyone is available except for Duarte. I want to thank Léo for working so hard since I’ve joined, he has been extremely professional and determined and he’s also shown excellent quality. His operation went well and I wish for him to come back stronger because he’s a valid and important member of our squad. We need players with his quality and especially his attitude. Paquetá will also be unavailable because he’s not yet recovered from the knock he picked up at the beginning of the week. But aside from that, tomorrow I’ll choose my starting eleven.
“If Piątek has perhaps a personal problem as his shots are not as effective as they were last season and that he’s not as determined on the ball as he was last season? I don’t believe that a game is won or lost by an individual. It’s important for everyone to work together. He is performing well because he gives us depth. They were a lot of chances he could have scored but was unable to, but it’s important that he gets into the right positions. Of course, he can improve, but so can all our players.
“If the talk in the press about Ibrahimović can create extra pressure that can hamper the development of Piątek and Leão? The rumours about Ibra are your job. I don’t know if Piątek and Leão read the sports papers, but at the moment, in the dressing room, we are not discussing this situation, we are focused on what we’re doing. There’s plenty of time before we have to talk about the January mercato.
“If I’m not satisfied with the performances of Leão seeing as his time on the field has diminished considerably lately? I think Leão has specific characteristics: he is not a striker who fills up the box. He’s not a point of reference for the rest of the team up front. He can do something more and he has the quality to become an important player.
“Do I believe Bonaventura plays better in midfield or in attack as Jack said during the week that his favorite position was a winger? Well, he didn’t say that to me… I think that talented, intelligent players can play in many different positions – players such as Bonaventura. We are lacking a slight bit of technical efficiency and Jack is a player that can help us improve in that aspect. I don’t think where he plays is so decisive.
“How can you improve the technical efficiency? It regards many aspects of the game, including passing. Making the pass to the wrong player, making the pass to the player who is already marked… tomorrow we face an opponent who knows to make the most of these mistakes. We need to make the right choices, as well as passing properly. Whoever is in possession needs to make the right pass. And these aspects are certainly trained or can be trained. You can train a player to make the right choice, and you can also train the other player to make the right runs. We are currently shooting a lot more but not shooting efficiently and that is certainly something that can be improved. We are conceding goals despite not conceding a lot of chances to our opponents and we are scoring few goals despite taking a lot of shots.
“How are Caldara and Gabbia doing? Mattia is doing well but he is not in top shape yet, so he’ll be playing with the Primavera to improve his match fitness, to give him rhythm and intensity; in training, we try to emulate situations that players find during the match, but it’s not possible to make it 100% the same. Matteo meanwhile played with the under-21 Italy team, he’s young and reliable and he’s waiting to be called into action.
“If Ricardo Rodríguez can be extra solution as a center back? Rodríguez is also gritting his teeth, he is currently playing with a slight injury but he’s given his availability. He could be an alternative there, he knows how to read the game, he knows how to stay on the field and build also from behind. So he is an alternative.
“If Milan’s objective is the Champions League? Our only objective at the moment is to focus on the games ahead of us. We must be realistic. We know where we are in the table. We are aware of our difficulties. We know we have improved, we have yet to obtain the wins that will help us climb up the table.
“How do I feel returning to the Tardini where I played and coached? Well I’m definitely a Parmesan 100%, that’s where I was born, that’s where I grew up. Parma is my city and Parma is the club where I started out as a player. I played in Serie A for over a decade, but I made my debut as a professional in Serie C with Parma. It was one of my greatest satisfactions, even though I reached great levels as a player. As a coach, however, I joined the club in a very difficult moment: the club was struggling financially, so it was not easy. However, I’m 100% a Milanista, focused solely on winning this game for us.
“What percentage of the squad is intelligent players of whom I often speak? I think there are many. We need to build the confidence of our players and the way to do that is to pick up important results. Winning helps us to improve the quality of our players.
“How important it is for the team to win a string of games now that the toughest part is behind the team? I am very optimistic based on the work I’ve seen the players do in training and on the field. I am pleased with the determination they’ve shown. But we are solely focused on tomorrow’s game. Talking about future games will come after tomorrow’s match. The only thing we’re focused on at the moment is to make the most of this opportunity to return to winning ways.
“If the players suffer from watching the Champions League on TV like the fans do and if they are aware of how important returning to the Champions League would be? I’d like to make a joke but you’d take it the wrong way: Wednesday night we all ate out together but the truth is we are Milan and the right place for Milan is the European stage. But it’s pointless to talk about it now, it’s pointless to talk about whether the players are aware of that or not. The players are aware we need to improve and we need to climb up the table. The team is alive, they fight for the entire game. What we need to do is improve the quality of our play. If we want to make it back to the European stage, it’s time to start getting points, which is the key step. It certainly isn’t easy, Parma is a very tough opponent but this is an opportunity we must seek.
“How much of Pioli is in this squad at the moment? There are many things I like about how the team is performing. But there are also a lot of things we are lacking. There is no such thing as a perfect match and to expect one would be unrealistic. I want to see my players transferring the work we do during the week onto the field on matchday. We are clearly still missing something, it’s normal, it couldn’t be any other way, and it takes time even though we know that in this business there is no time. At such an important and ambitious club, results and attractive play are expected as soon as possible.”