Pioli: “Ibra is highly-motivated, 4-4-2 is a possibility, we cannot afford to be distracted by rumours, I hope a new defender arrives as soon as possible”

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Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Stefano Pioli has spoken to the press ahead of the game against Cagliari, saying ‘we must return to winning ways, we must improve our position’.

Milan have not scored a single goal in the last three games, drawing 0-0 against Sassuolo and Sampdoria, and losing 5-0 in disgraceful fashion to Atalanta.

Tomorrow, the Rossoneri have a very difficult game against Cagliari in Sardinia. Pioli is expected to make some changes in the line-up, benching the extremely disappointing Suso and Krzysztof Piątek in favor of a change in formation to 4-4-2, with Rafael Leão and January signing Zlatan Ibrahimović up top.

“What kind of week was it at Milanello with Ibrahimović always in Milanello? It certainly an important week. We need to convert the quantity of play we create into goals. This is our primary object and that is what we focused on all week. Ibrahimović trained all week, he is highly-motivated, very determined and enthusiastic. He’s in good shape.

The squad during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“The fact that Cagliari have done very well especially at home in the first half of the season and the fact that I’ve statistically always done well against them? At the moment, we need to take any advantage we can find, that has to be our mentality in each game. We need to use our characteristics on the field to turn things in our favor, we need to overcome our negative results and we need to perform to the best of our ability.

“How have I studied Maran’s Cagliari? I have a very close relationship with Maran but I’m not going to be giving him any advantages. Cagliari have been doing incredibly well this season. They didn’t pick up the results they needed in the last couple of games, but we are well-aware of their characteristics, we know when they are most incisive. We need to be very, very careful and we have to be proactive, we have to control the game. We need to create dangers and be efficient.

The squad during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If Zlatan can be a mentor to Leão considering Rafael said that he considers Ibrahimović an older brother? If Leão sees things in that way then it goes to show that you can learn great things from great players. Leão has fantastic, incredible potential, but he has not realized it yet. And having an experienced player like Ibrahimović next to him; not just on the field but in training and off the training field, can be a great opportunity.

“If tomorrow we’ll play 4-4-2? We have tried a number of solutions this week, it’s a possibility.

Rafael Leão during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If Ibrahimović is fit enough to start a game? I don’t think he has the fitness levels to play an entire 90 minutes. I need to decide whether to start him or to bring him on later on. Certainly, the minutes played against Sampdoria and the week in training have boosted his fitness. He is in good condition and he will soon be fit enough to play all 90 minutes but not quite yet. That’s normal for any player who hasn’t played in a couple of months.

“Talking with Ibrahimović and if he was brought in to develop the talent in the squad? It’s normal for there to continuous dialogue between the coach and such an important player, a player with such a strong character and personality. We were lacking it. But he hadn’t trained for quite a while with a team. So it will take a bit of time to understand exactly what he can do, where he can improve on and where he will fit in on the field. He is a great player and must be good in a position to give his best in terms of his positon, his role in the build-up and the players who can make best use of his characteristics.

“Is Ibrahimović at the center of the project? He was signed intentionally to help us improve the team in terms of technical ability and character. So of course he’s at the center of the project.

Zlatan Ibrahimović during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“The market rumours regarding Piątek? I think, like all Italian coaches, if I could move the calendar to February and get over with this transfer market as soon as possible – I would. We have to live with this mercato. But given our current position and our current moment, it is essential that everyone remains focused on giving their best for the team. We are fully focused on tomorrow’s game and nothing else. Piątek has been called-up and he will be available for tomorrow.

“What was the reason behind playing Krunić instead of Kessié against Sampdoria? It was based on the evaluations I made in the week building up to Sampdoria; that was the sole reason.

“If Kessié is still a part of the plans for this year? Yes, I understand where you are trying to get at… but a coach has to make decisions, which will reward 11 and penalize the rest. However, if a player doesn’t play in one game then it doesn’t mean that he will not be part of the project. Krunić and Kessié and all the other midfielders that we have are all a part of it. Paquetá? At the moment I’m doing making other choices.

Franck Kessié during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If the mercato rumours can distract the squad? From what I saw this week in training, the players are fully focused, they’re dedicated, and if I didn’t see that then they wouldn’t be called-up for tomorrow’s game. We cannot afford to be distracted by any rumours regarding the transfer market. We cannot afford to be distracted by anything besides tomorrow’s game. We must return to winning ways, we must improve our position in the league.

“If the possible change of formation and exclusion of players like Suso is an attempt or a sign that the formation must be changed now? I’ve always believed that in moments of difficulty, when things are not going your way and results are not going your way then you need to find a solution. If I do decide to change positions on the field tomorrow, the sole reason would be to try and be more concrete and more efficient – without giving up any of the build-up we’ve managed. We want to be proactive, we want to impose our game style, and we need to control the field. We want to seek every advantage we can get. Now, we are testing our new solutions based on our players, to find solutions to problems that have affected us for too long. We, as a squad, have characteristics to implement many different formations well. The change in formation, however, will not mean that certain players will no longer play, the players must adapt to the new formation.

The squad during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If I’m worried by the fact that we only have two center backs available, with three important games coming up? Well, there are actually three center backs available, because there’s also Gabbia as well, who plays for the U21 side and has high potential. And it’s clear that another center back will have to arrive soon.

“Can being clinical be trained or if it’s innate, considering Ibrahimović said after the Sampdoria game that Milan must be more clinical? Everything can trained, some things are permanent, and some players have those characteristics innately. But we are focused on working on these characteristics, we were focused on our finishing in training this week. Clearly, it is the thing that is harming us the most this season, we need to be as precise as possible and as determined as possible. We have the quality and the determination needed.

Suso during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If playing with inverted wingers is what one of the main problems of the Milan attack considering the last striker who came close to 20 goals at Milan was Bacca and that was in a year in which Suso was not playing? Clearly with inverted forwards the crosses are different than with a natural forward. But we also have the fullbacks coming forward, who do provide those traditional crosses. On Sunday we crossed 25-26 times. We simply need to have greater quality and be better in taking decisions. We need to take better positions to create goal-scoring chances. We had the right number of chances created but they weren’t the clear chances we need.

“What do I think about Suso’s involution, how do I respond to those who criticized me for keeping him on the pitch against Sampdoria, and what do I think about Politano? I do not take part in any witch hunts in the media… I try to help my players believe in themselves and overcome the difficulties they face and the frustrations of people who are working hard but are not obtaining the results they should be. I believe that the way in which you face your challenges show what kind of person, what kind of player you are. We need to show that we’re true professionals, that we know how to take these challenges and overcome them with pride and conviction. As for players who are not in my squad – I don’t want to talk about them.

Mattia Caldara during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“What didn’t work between Milan and Caldara and why was it decided to let him return to Atalanta? Well, we made technical and physical, fitness, evaluations and we believe that we can improve the squad with other players.

“If Ibrahimović can advise me? Well the first thing Ibra said when he arrived is that he is a player. I am the coach. And that’s it.

“If Bonaventura has fitness problems and if he can benefit from Ibrahimović’s presence with the change in formation? Let’s not forget that Jack was out due to injury for a very long time. So, it’s perfectly normal for him not to be fully fit just yet. And he had a couple of difficult situations and a couple of issues in training and was unable to train… these things have affected his fitness. As for his adaptively, he can play very well in many different formations and take adventure of many different situations. He knows how to use space, how to attack space… he is working to improve his fitness at the moment.

Hakan Çalhanoğlu during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“What does the team need most based on recent performances? A sense of pride, strength, conviction and desire to improve our quality. Looking at our recent results, our situation is not a good one. We didn’t expect to be in such a situation, but we need to prove that we can improve.

“If there’s something from the game against Sampdoria that I would like to see against Cagliari? I think we need more intensity than we showed against Sampdoria. We did well in certain situations and build-up but we need to be more incisive, a lot of decisive. We need to build on all the situations from Sampdoria.

“When do I want the full squad available, also considering both starting center backs are one yellow card away from suspension? The January transfer market is always strange, but it is not my role to handle the mercato. We are ready for tomorrow’s game and I hope a new defender arrives as soon as possible. January is a very, very challenging month for us. We also have the Coppa Italia coming up so we need the complete squad at our disposal.

Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“How to relaunch Paquetá and were would he play in a potential 4-4-2? I don’t want to talk about Paquetá, Suso or Piątek… I don’t want to talk about individuals. My job is to have Milan win. I hope all my players are available. I hope all my players can perform at their best. I want my players to get the satisfaction they deserve. In a three-man midfield he’s a mezz’ala, he is a central midfielder in a four-man midfield. He can also play on the wing and cut inside the pitch. He’s an excellent player with great characteristics.

“What is the realistic objective in the league table considering the state of the team? There are 20 games left, 60 points. Our goal is to pick up as many points as possible.”

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Martinase
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Martinase

Finally suso won’t be playing.

tcl00
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tcl00

I hope he never plays again, slow and out of sorts these days.

segunMilan
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segunMilan

Join the discussion… not dat suso is not good he need to b bench sometime

Ted
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Ted

442 is my pick too but would it be plain or diamond version?

Pelle80
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Pelle80

Good question mate. Genius! I read from an article that he would be playing 442 flat. Meaning he is practically playing 424. 442 diamond or 4312 is the best way to choke up the midfield. We really need a coach.

m.us
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m.us

Suso is half the problem. Hakan is the other half. Suso can at least hold the ball (although he’s useless while he has it), and then falls on the ground when pressured (which also reminds me of montolivo).
Hakan on the other hand gets easily dispossessed and it always results in an opposition counter attack. Last game vs Sampdoria, he couldn’t hold the ball after two passes and it resulted in 2 counter attacks. If it wasn’t for Donna’s miraculous 1 on 1 saves, we would’ve been 2 goals down.

nick
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nick

TOTALLY AGREE!

nick
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nick

I have totally lost faith in Pioli. I don’t get why so much faith is shown in Calhanoglu when he along with Suso is our biggest problem NOT Piatek. Here’s a quote from football Italia from an article they wrote about Piatek and Milan’s issues: “Piatek is a traditional No 9 and therefore needs service.” “Service, it turned out, was in short supply. Piatek started brightly, scoring six goals in his opening seven games, but then the well ran dry. “ “Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu, both mainstays of the Rino Gattuso era, failed in delivering the service Piatek so badly… Read more »

Usy
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Usy

You couldn’t have said it better! Gattuso kept on insisting on using suso and hakan and now pioli is doing the same. Why won’t rebic want to leave, why won’t there be a goal drought, why can’t we just sign at least one fast winger /playmaker and use bona/rebic in the other side. Hmmmm

Milan653
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Milan653

Id agree with u but when piatek has chances
He doesn’t take them
Juve And Torino are prime examples
Two games we should have won but lost cause his poor finishing

Valo12
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Valo12

Agree, but maybe because I’m not a fan of Piatek. Personally i think the time of pure no.9 has well ended. All big teams have modern strikers, getting involved in build up, with more than above average technical skills and almost great vision. There might be a reason Liverpool is not looking for a striker with Firmino never scoring over 16 goals per season. It is the team, which we don’t have unfortunately, and we rely only on one person upfront. Such a pitty how times have turned for Milan.

Usy
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Usy

Very true

anom
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anom

Well… I’d say it’s not that much about the main striker himself but the guys next to him. The striker can be active or passive but he rarely does everything alone. The wingers in 4-3-3 are IMO actually more important since they provide the main striker the chances. It’s up to him to score. In Milan Piatek might get 1-2 “average” scoring chances in 3-4 matches. All the other teams can create 2-3 GOOD chances PER GAME to their main striker. That’s a huuuuuuuuge difference and the blame goes to wingers &midfield. Or can anyone of you say that “Higuain… Read more »

Valo12
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Valo12

It is a point of perspective. I see the main striker as a link in the chain, not as a static position or role. Higuain needs service to score, he can’t create, at least not constantly. He had almost twice the average score per minute than Benzema and was sold. Right? Barcelona played with Fabregas as the main “declared” striker because he connected with wingers. The front three needs to have chemistry together, not wingers that only serve for the striker. Piatek can’t think quick and combine well with wingers. He is “the last call of the ball”. If he… Read more »

Usy
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Usy

Well said, can’t argue with facts

nick
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nick

Even the great Inzaghi missed chances some easy ones as well. Piatek is a good striker who just happens to play for mediocre coaches.

He’s not a lone striker and he’s better when playing with another striker.

Milan10
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Milan10

actually piatek’s off the ball movement is average, even leao’s is better. but he possesses good header, shot technique and finishing. but overall, yeah i agree that he needs players behind and beside him who’ll feed him the ball for him to finish

Valo12
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Valo12

True, he is not the type of striker who taunts defences with smart moves. Predictable.

whereisthespirit
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whereisthespirit

i don’t care. just give us 3 points in every matches and you will be fine.

segunMilan
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segunMilan

Join the discussion… I enjoy my Milan game again today has I enjoying it again bologna,their play alot of attacking football.