Pioli: “It was a deserved and important win, Ibrahimović showed today how good he is, Castillejo and Kessié played a great game, Piątek and Paquetá…”

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Stefano Pioli during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

Stefano Pioli believes Milan deserved the three points they earned at Sardegna Arena as the Rossoneri beat Cagliari 2-0 with a Zlatan Ibrahimović goal.

After going three full matches without finding the back of the net, Pioli listened to the football tips of fans and experts and changed the formation: using a 4-4-2 with Suso and Krzysztof Piątek on the bench, and Ibra & Rafael Leão up front.

After a rather quiet first half, the decision of Pioli paid off: Samu Castillejo played a long ball to Leão in the 46′ minute and the Frenchman sent a shot that was deflected into the back of the net. In the 64′ minute, Theo Hernandez found Zlatan inside the box and the big Swede beat Robin Olsen to make it 2-0. Milan played confident football in the second half and Pioli can smile for the first time in 2020 as his side picked up the win in a difficult stadium.

“This was certainly a different performance to recent outings,” Pioli said in an interview with Sky Italia. “We were more effective, more solid, Zlatan’s presence clearly gives us a reference point to build around and it’ll take us a while to really get to know each other. It was an important and deserved victory against a difficult victory to help us get out of a delicate moment.

Samu Castillejo, Rafael Leão, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Giacomo Bonaventura and Ismaël Bennacer celebrating during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

“Ibrahimović? We must try to make the most of the characteristics of our players. Ibrahimović probably won’t run into space that much, so we need someone around him who can do the running, as today we saw Leão, Castillejo and Çalhanoğlu, then Bonaventura. We’ve only just started working on this system, but the early signs are positive. The team has shown a desire to suffer and fight together, for this base we have to start again, an important second round awaits us for our future.

“The condition of Zlatan? In the second half I often asked him how he was doing, I was worried about his condition as he hadn’t played a full game for months and I didn’t want to risk muscular problems. He settled in with great intelligence. He understood the moment of the team well, he is saying the right things to his teammates and is a real reference point on the field. He can only get stronger and we’ll see the real Zlatan in three or four games.

Zlatan Ibrahimović during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

“The impact of Ibra? I was sure he’d be ready just by talking to him on the phone, I didn’t even need to see him in action. He told me not to believe what was being said. He is a Champion, working with this determination will do so much good for this team.

“Ibrahimović wants to prove he’s still got it and his presence is really helping what is one of the youngest squads in Serie A. He has such character, determination and experience that it inevitably passes on to the others. The example he transmits in everyday life will be important for everyone.

“Leão and Ibra? There are the characteristics to play together, they have physicality and quality. Rafael can rip through in a way that can guarantee us attacking the depth. Then, you need balance and the work of the whole team to support them.

Zlatan Ibrahimović and Rafael Leão during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

“Kessié? Franck had a great game today, in this position he is certainly important. We have more mezz’ali than central midfielders but intelligent players can adapt to play in a two-man midfield rather than three.

“Paquetá? He is working well, he’s in good shape, but I made different choices to have a balanced team that could suit this playing system. The choices are made to win the games and put the best team on.

“Piątek? He is more of a central forward, a little less varied than Leão. But there are also the characteristics to do well with two center forwards.

Mateo Musacchio and Gianluigi Donnarumma celebrating at the end of Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

“Tactics? I like the team to have various situations, before we dribbled a lot. We will have to play a more direct football, we have not lacked the volume of play but the effectiveness in being more dangerous, keeping our principles and concepts. The players between the lines we are also there, we did well in the depth and we must insist on it.

“The mercato and the choices? If the transfer market ends early, I’ll be happier, because it can distract some players, but my decisions are only to win the next games, as we really need the results. We are making evaluations, the mercato is unpredictable.  

“The meeting with Boban at the end of the game? We always meet at the end mainly to talk about the game. Any nearly deals are not concluded, so we’ll wait until they are made official.”

Ismaël Bennacer, Andrea Conti, Alessio Romagnoli and Zlatan Ibrahimović celebrating at the end of Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

Speaking in the post-match press conference, Pioli stated: “If I like the adjective ‘solid’ to describe this Milan? A lot… we worked with concentration and self-sacrifice, we hit at the right moment. It was a just and well-deserved success.

“Joy for the goals of the strikers? The victory counts first, then I’m happy for the strikers. Zlatan confirmed that he’s a world class player, he is not yet 100 per cent but he was a really important signing which can help the team a lot.

“If I’ve changed the way we play with Ibra? We’ve increased the chances of having more solutions, today we dribbled a lot and well, but this certainly gives us more choices. I don’t think 4-4-2 is the only formation for us, the important thing is to put a player near Zlatan who has the legs and can take the space.

Rafael Leão, Zlatan Ibrahimović Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Alessio Romagnoli, Theo Hernández and Ismaël Bennacer celebrating during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

“If this game is the start of something? It must be, absolutely. Not because Ibrahimović has arrived, but because we have to be protagonists in the second round. I believe that this team can change its performance, 19 games are many. We will not win the Scudetto, but we have qualities that will do us good in the future.

“Castillejo often appeared in the heat of the game? He’s put his characteristics on the pitch and that is what all Milan players must do. He’s a player of great dynamism and depth and he played a match suited to his characteristics and that was what we needed today. He played a good game in my opinion.

“If Piątek continues to be a part of this team? He is part of Milan, if I had changed Ibrahimović then I would have put him on.”

Theo Hernández during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

Pioli also had an interview with MilanTV: “This was absolutely a deserved win, it was tough, especially in the first half because we struggled to find the right set-up, the right positioning and spacing. However, we ran very few risks and were always dangerous so this is a deserved and important win, which will give us courage and strength going forward because there are a lot of games to go. We need to push on and believe in ourselves.

“If this win can give self-confidence for the future? If defeats take things from you, like confidence and awareness, wins need to convince you that you have quality. We have that quality, we showed for a period of time to be worthy, when we were fighting for matches from start to finish, now we have to continue and try to set up a winning streak that is long and lasting because I think we are capable of doing if we continue with this self-sacrificing attitude and this desire to fight, the desire to fight as a team right till the end and determination to overcome any rough patches, because there will always be rough patches but if you can hold your own during the tough moments, like we did today, then you can go on to win, especially now that we have important qualities.

Stefano Pioli during Cagliari-Milan at Sardegna Arena on January 11, 2020. (@acmilan.com)

“Ibrahimović’s goal and impact? I was worried because I didn’t know how much of the match Zlatan could play. In the second half, I was asking him how he was feeling very five minutes. I think he started the game a bit, perhaps not emotional but a little tense and worried, because it’s not easy to make the step up to the level again… The league is very complicated and competitive, so it wasn’t easy but as time went by I think he even improved his physical condition. Clearly he is not 100% match fit yet but today he showed how good he is.

“The understanding between Zlatan and Leão? This is only the beginning, now we have a player with characteristics we didn’t have before so we need to learn to understand him and put him in a position to make the most of his characteristics. But most importantly to have players around him who can complement him and do well, and Leão certainly has the right characteristics.”

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imad
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imad

“We will have to play a more direct football” that’s the CRITICAL POINT!

Milan10
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Milan10

“…listened to the football tips of fans and experts” i know u aint talking about me mister *wink “…Leão in the 46′ minute and the Frenchman sent a shot that was deflected into the back of the net.” I dont speak portuguese but im pretty sure leao means big leo, so yeah. “We will have to play a more direct football” goddamn straight coach. Please practice crossing and long balls more in training sessions. Ur gonna need to master it to master 4-4-2. Leave 4-3-3 to more technical and mature squads. 4-4-2, check. Kessie as dm, check. Now play rebic/bonad10nho… Read more »

Milanfan4ever
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Milanfan4ever

“Good morning” Pioli. Now drop that Turkish for rebic or some1else. Play paqueta/ bona behind our 2 strikers and make suso the waterboy for for good then we’ll get somewhere. With ben and kessie as dms and Castillo on the right we will be in a much much much better shape. It took you forever to drop suso.

Milan653
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Milan653

No need to be racist

Milanfan4ever
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Milanfan4ever

I’m not. I have nothing against turkish people or any other nationality. But hakan is turkish. Sorry if my hate for hakan’s and suso’s style of play comes of as racists. That is not my intention. You can blame the managment and coaches for our anger towards these mediocre players that should have been dropped long ago. Meant no offense to anyone.

anom
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anom

Turks are Turkish. Paqueta is a Brazilian. Zlatan is a Swede. How’s that racist? When has referring someone to his nationality become racist? SMH

Chudy
Guest

We need a DM what happens if Benaccer or Kessie gets hurt?

nick
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nick

If that happens Pioli can use Paquetá and Krunic to replace them.

Agustinar
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Agustinar

My concern now is our both wingers has the opposite foot. Samu has done well at RM with his left footed. At RM, Hakan/Bona or Paqueta is right footed. I think one of them should has the “right” footed. I don’t think Rebic as LM, I prefer him he as back up for Leao who do the running for Ibra. Besides Rebic is not good in defending

Lando
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Lando

3 reasons for me to be happy :
1. Milan finally won
2. They changed formation and dropped suso
3. Napoli with their new coach is no longer a competitor

soheil junior
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soheil junior

We milan fans have a great ability to understand whats wrong before the coach. For 6months some fans have been saying, suso and chanalogolu is the real problem. What happend regardless of the formation change, suso didnt play….. and the team was 100x times better. Chanalogolu played and you saw how wastefull this guy is, how can you shoot straight at the keeper for 6months almost 30matches, how can you not deliver good trough balls and good croses. Anyways bonnaventura came on, the prophecy of suso and chanalogolu out was fullfilled, and milan scored 2 goals…. If only the coach… Read more »

Nästa
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Nästa

Milan should look at Bonifazi and some strong mature DM
Get Politano or some similar
And please work to get Tonali
If i see him at Juve or Inter it Will break my heart

Milan10
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Milan10

“ What ever the system, 433 or 442. The lack of quality wingers with good pace is a major problem. ALl top team have those players.” really mate? what do u call samu, leao and rebic then? hell, even laxalt and theo could play as lw, likewise conti as rw, if the coaches are that inclined and desperate the problem with 4-3-3 at milan is the coaches never play the right players in the right positions. paqueta (cm) – kessie (dm) – bennacer (cm) supporting leao (lw) – ibra (st) – samu (rw) is good enough. playing classic #9 piatek… Read more »

Pharaoh
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Pharaoh

Leao scores a goal. Who said it baby. It was a great win. We are all happy that a change of formation was needed.
I think deulafaeo would be perfect on the left side of midfield. Chala is not upto it. A centre back and left winger for the new look formation.

Martin Bernhard
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Martin Bernhard

He did fine but was also rather lucky that the ball got that deflection and i even wonder why he was credited with it as it clearly hit the cagliari players heel/lower leg causing it to behave as it did. Anyways hope he will gain some confidence and further develope as a player. Calhanoglu deffently isnt up to the task of playing on the flank but not really convinced about Deulofeu rejoining us either. He was fast and had dribling skills i’ll give him that but also seemed like a rather egotistical player when we had him the last time… Read more »

Baresis Dream
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Baresis Dream

Deulofeu makes sense if we stick with Suso and the 4-3-3; if we play a mid of 4 then we best play a diamond (which fits our mids better, and gives more space to the wingbacks); otherwise, if we stick with a “flat” midfield then we need mids that can play in the flank. Deulofeu can play that role, but he seems much more suited to play as a forward.

Martin Bernhard
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Martin Bernhard

I really dont see a away around us not selling suso unless he is demoted to a substitute role but i dont see him accepting that role in the long run and then theres also his demands of a new and improved contract previously been said to be in the region of 5-6 mil a year. It would be really good for us to sell him as well for the ffp regulations as we practically didnt pay anything for him. I agree though that Deulofeu would be far batter suited for a 433 formation than a 442 one. Diamond is… Read more »

Rossi
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Rossi

Castileho had a good game but it seems Milan still dosent see him as a starter so they want to get Politano from Inter and plan to sell Piatek to rise money for Politano. Just in short Politano is very similar to Suso in style of play, he scored 6goals and made 6assists last year when he was a starter, Castileho scored 4goals and made 4assist last year as a sub in less than half playing time from Politano. It makes no sense to waste money on a winger that is weaker than what we got, just give Castileho a… Read more »

Chudy
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Politano is good, young and Italian. We can’t rely on Samu alone.

Rossi
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Rossi

If Politano comes its back to 4-3-3 since he is a winger like Suso, and will cost around 25mil so might as well just keep Suso. The point is to get rid of players who are one dimensional and cant offer much more than 1 or 2 tricks. Rather get some one promising like Leao for that amount of money and not an average 26year old, we have Rebic as a back up on the sides as well i would personaly go for a new top quality mid.

Ted
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Ted

Now I hope they re-think about selling Kessie. As I said many times him and Bennacer in a two man midfield will form a great and strong partnership.

442 is the way to go, this system has been a saving bell whenever they had difficult times and for couple of seasons now but every coach ditch it after a while and returned to previously used system.

Stick with it and build on it!

nick
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nick

Selling Kessie and Piatek would be a big mistake. Unfortunately, it took 10games for Pioli to realize that the 433 formation is not working as well not playing Suso in the starting 11.

Personally, Milan should sell Suso, Çalhanoğlu, RicRod, Borini, Reina, Calabria and Biglia.

Piatek, Kessie and Paquetá should not be on the market.

Ted
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Ted

I think Pioli did not want to risk changing the system the same moment he took over shattered team but rather give them more freedom of play and to settle in first

I agree with the players you listed for selling but I think Piatek should also be sold. For his own good. Face it, he won’t settle for substitute role to Ibra. First we need to think who will be Leao’s sub? Honestly I would stick with Rebić as Leao’s sub, he knows how to play SS role. Give him a go there

nick
Guest
nick

Piatek hasn’t really been tried in a 2 striker formation so it’s unfair to judge him.

He was amazing at Genoa when he played alongside Christian kouame. Leao is similar to Christian Kouame.

We should not rely on Ibra as our savior. He won’t play everyday game. Besides, The change in our formation and team selection is the main reason why we scored goals from open play from our strikers.

Piatek can play alongside Ibra or Leao. He’s valuable to our team.

Terry
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Terry

I agree. Kessie is very useful. That strength is very important. Piatek can go though. I like him but we need someone with Ibra’s characteristics (strong, and can hold up play) to compliment someone like Leao.
I personally think we should bring Bakayoko back. As we get rid of Biglia (so useless). And we can sign another striker or someone who runs at defenders. A cheap option will be Boga of Sassuolo.

nick
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nick

Kessie is proving that he can do well as a DM alongside Bennacer. So I doubt that Milan will go back for Bakayoko or another central midfielder given that Brescianini is in the 1st team and it said that Pioli is very impressed by him. If we make a decision to sign another DM it probably would be Duncan from Sassuolo. Boga would be a very good cheaper option for the LW if we stick with the 442 formation. As well as Politano for the RW if Suso is sold. As for Piatek, please understand that quality strikers are hard… Read more »

Baresis Dream
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Baresis Dream

Nick I agree Piatek should remain; I don’t think he’s a superstar but still a solid seria striker; and these aren’t common nor cheap

nick
Guest
nick

EXACTLY! Milan must find a solution to get Piatek back to his best or be prepared to spend a lot to replace him. Ibra will not last long and we should not see him as a long term solution. Leao is still too young and inexperienced. Also, his finishing is poor. If Piatek stays then Milan should plan for Christian Kouame next season to partner Piatek. I don’t believe Milan should hold onto Ibra more than one season. He had two bad knee injuries at Man United and there’s no way he can play a full season without a potential… Read more »

Milan10
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Milan10

lol what kind of mickey mouse shit is this? “ Ted I don’t think a plain 442 will work for Milan. For that you need strong wingers or wide midfielders that are ready to track back which we saw last year that Suso and Castillejo are not able to. Hakan did it but he is not a winger which was evident in his final third. They don’t have the fuel to track back and at the same time perform an offensive action. Also, it is evident Piatek performs better as a lone center forward, moving freely and creating space for… Read more »

Ted
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Ted

I need to give you credits for taking your time, finding my comment but at the same time I have to raise concern cause it’s creepy and desperate. I do not tend to reply to your counter comments since it is evident you are not mentally stable person and should be isolated. I will make an exception now So? Is something wrong with my post? Are Suso and Castillejo the players for 442? No, they are not and that is why 442 would not work at the time. I rather see Jack and Paqueta on those wings. No speed? Atletico… Read more »

Milan10
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Milan10

actually, its not that hard to find ur comment regarding 4-4-2 formation because i REMEMBER the exact moment when giamfanculo decides changing the formation; aftermath of udinese match. thats exact moment when les midtabes like u had collective hard ons knowing 4-3-3 was making a come back. see, its not that hard when u have (overly) functioning brain, like urs truly *wink “ Is something wrong with my post?” is this serious question? because if it is then u have very bad insight. u literally wrote “4-4-2 wont work for milan” and now, after that easy win, u write “4-4-2… Read more »

Baresis Dream
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Baresis Dream

Jeez, everyone is going batshit crazy over a win against seria a giants Calgiari; reports about the players referring to Zlatan as god, savior … If that doesn’t tell you something about our situation nothing will

Milanellofm
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Milanellofm

In a reality that we have been so so poor this year it’s ok to be happy to easily beat a team that has been over achieving this year. Zlatan is zlatan, he’s not what he used to be but he adds something big. It sucks the situation we’re in but it’s a step up to what we’re used to seeing this year

Baresis Dream
Guest
Baresis Dream

Fair enough; I sure sympathize with those emotions… but we should all be realistic so as not to get our hopes up high; we’re so far from getting out of this hole we dug for ourselves it’s frightening

Milanellofm
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Milanellofm

I’m sure nobody is happy with our current situation, let alone the past 8 years. But seeing zlatan playing for milan and being zlatan sure did put a smile on my face for the first time this year. Also a formation change and no suso lol

Rossokaka
Guest
Rossokaka

People are probably not gonna like this but you know who Milan should give a chance to at least on loan “Marko Pjaca” from Juventus. He has recovered from injuries and he fits perfectly with us. He can play as a striker, lw,lm,rw, rm and cam. Very technically gifted, strong, good passer, faster then the players we got and he is a Milan fan

Martin Bernhard
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Martin Bernhard

One question if he is an ac milan fan why the hell did he then choose jueventus when both clubs was trying to bring him to italy ? maybe he is one now of convenience but he certainly wasnt one when we tried to buy him.

Rossokaka
Guest
Rossokaka

As i recall it was because we couldn’t afford him or weren’t willing to pay his price tag. He always said that Ronaldinho was his favorite player and that he was a Milan fan. You are right though he should have chose Milan then but you know how it is with those money hungry agents

Martin Bernhard
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Martin Bernhard

Not how i remember it but obviously i might be wrong. I remember it as galliani getting caught having dinner with the ownership and afterwards of pjacas sale saying that they had a pretty much done deal with them and then pjaca at the arrival of juventus interest chose them instead, Agents might have a lot of power nowadays but if a player prefers to play for a speciffic club then they wont have a say in the end as they work for the players and not the other way around. He deffently should have chosen us and even though… Read more »

Milanellofm
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Milanellofm

If suso leaves for roma (hopefully so) and psg are chasing paqueta, wouldn’t it be a good move to try getting draxler out of this? Draxler would be great for a 4 4 2 and give us much needed quality in that midfield. If we are to proceed with a 4 4 2 or any formation with two strikers a creative midfielder is much needed

Martin Bernhard
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Martin Bernhard

Wouldnt mind draxler at all but i will prefer us keeping paqueta especially as the reports ive read then psg offered 20 mil for the brazilian which is an preposterous offer and shouldnt even be entertained. Im against us selling both piatek and paqueta but if they unfortunately are to leave we should at minimum get our money back and even then i wouldnt be satisfied with only a financial status quo so better keeping them for the time being in my view.

OmarLittle
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OmarLittle

I predict that as soon as Suso & Piatek & Paqueta leaves Milan for another club they will start to produce goals and assists again while Milan sign below average players and keep Lord Kebab in the squad LOL