Stefano Pioli was pleased with the 2-0 win over Venezia and San Siro and said the difference is being made by the fans.
Milan’s impressive start to the season continued yesterday as they picked up the three points at San Siro against Venezia.
Coach Stefano Pioli rotated the squad and gave some rest to his starters. Milan were in complete control for the entire match but struggled to break through the defense of Venezia. In the 60′ minute, Pioli decided to bring on his usual starters, introducing Theo Hernández, Alexis Saelemaekers and Fikayo Tomori.
Theo and Alexis changed the game for the Rossoneri: in the 68′ minute, a beautiful Ismaël Bennacer ball found Hernández and the Frenchman crossed it well to Brahim Díaz who scored. In the 82′ minute, Theo Hernández got on the scoresheet, after getting a great ball from Saelemaekers.
Milan are currently joint-first in the Serie A standings, along with Inter (Napoli can leapfrog both, they play tonight). After the match, coach Pioli spoke with the press:
“COVID-19 was unneeded, but it would have been against logic to call-up 23 players for only three substitutions…” Pioli told Sky. “I’m fortunate to have very strong and willing players. We played a very demanding week in terms of the head and in terms of the legs. I liked the team also in the first half.”
On the squad: “I didn’t need tonight’s performance to understand that I have an important squad. It’s a shame we don’t have everyone available, soon we’ll all be there and we’ll be even stronger. Venezia closed down the spaces well, it was a game that had to be played with the right intensity.”
On Brahim Díaz: “He’s a youngster who has always believed in his qualities and who needed to settle in a different league. He’s a quality guy. Last year we were playing with a midfielder in this role while he is a pure quality trequartista. He came back with great pleasure to work at Milan with his teammates. I’m happy that he’s getting some satisfaction.”
On the defensive phase: “If they work well up front then it’s easier for the defenders to win the duels. The work of the attack and midfielder is very important: Rebić, Leão, Díaz… if we continue with this work then we’ll be able to get some satisfactions.”
On Leão: “Believe me when I say that the best thing was to find players in the summer who are greatly improved and convinced – Rafa is one of those. The work done last year has paid off. We are talking about 20 year-olds, it’s normal that in such a difficult league there were difficulties. It was nice to find Leão, Díaz and Tonali so much better and stronger. Leão is a player who can make us win any game, we expect a lot from him. He can get past anyone, he’s a great asset for our offensive phase.”
On Tonali: “I always talk a lot with my players, the relationship is created on a daily basis. We talk mostly about football, Sandro has always worked well and a lot. Now he’s finally showing off his fantastic means, he’s a complete midfielder. He must know that this is a starting point and not a point of arrival, there will be many small obstacles to overcome.”
On if he sees teams with superior squads to Milan’s: “I don’t know, it’s always difficult to compare the value of squads. There are some teams that are more experienced than us, we don’t have players who have won a lot. The club has provided me with a very strong and complete squad. We are deep. Now we play Spezia, then Atlético Madrid and then Atalanta. The squad has to be like this, I have many starters. I like to hear that my players want to win, we are Milan and we must try to win. Then, if there are stronger teams then we’ll see it on the pitch.”
On if he’ll pull the ears of Theo Hernández who said he wants to fight for the Scudetto: “Absolutely not, we have to ride this enthusiasm and empathy that we have created with our fans. We must continue to show that we are a strong team that can play. Everyone wants to win, the difference is made by those who prepare the best to win. If my players think they can win the Scudetto then they need to make an enormous effort, this is the only way to win.”
Speaking to DAZN, Pioli said: “Breaking the deadlock is important, as it means Venezia cannot just sit behind the ball and launch counterattacks, but we cannot be frenetic. We lacked a bit of quality and precision in the first half, but in my opinion we played with the right intensity and determination, tackling the match with seriousness, we found a way through.”
On Brahim and Tonali: “I expect a lot from my players. I knew that the work of consistency and availability of last year would have paid off. They are quality and talented players and it’s normal that sooner or later they would have reached certain levels.”
On the growth of the team: “We won many games last season, but in my view the thing we have more now is that we have matured and also have support from the fans that last season we were lacking, they are giving us an extra strength, an extra support that we didn’t have last year. Our objective is to improve our home record from last season, and I think we can do that with the help from our supporters at San Siro.”
On Kalulu: “He is doing very well, he played in the Olympics with France and the Under-21 team. He has matured too, and still needs to improve in some areas, but he’s progressing as expected. I also liked Gabbia and Ballo-Touré, he worked well in both the defensive and attacking phases, so deserved this opportunity.”
On the tactical performance: “In the first half we found little space with two trequartisti, then we added another one, squeezing the defense of Venezia and finding more spaces to open. We thought in the first half with two trequartisti that we could break between the lines, but we didn’t manage it at all. In case the opponents squeeze a lot, we have Leão on the left side who can become impregnable in 1-on-1 situations. Maybe in the first half Bennacer could’ve pushed forward a bit more, but otherwise it was what we had planned. In the second half, we put Kalulu a little deeper, to protect against Johnsen’s runs on the counter.”
On Ibrahimović and Giroud: “They are certainly doing better, we all hope to have them at our disposal soon. We all know what they can bring to the team, in terms of quality, talent and leadership. I don’t think about Saturday… let’s hope.”
In an interview with MilanTV, the Diavolo boss stated: “We played a very serious game, very determined. We were slightly lacking in quality in the first half, but we created while conceding very little to our opponents. I’m happy with the team. If you fail to unlock games like this one, your opponents close down even more and it gets tougher. But tonight we always kept our mental clarity, we never became frenzied or anxious and the fans helped us a lot. This year we need to make the most of their support, as we are trying to do. I’m very satisfied with our performance tonight.”
On the attitude of the team: “If we maintain this attitude, the willingness to sacrifice; with the talent and quality we already have, we can achieve great things. The team that runs the most, that pushes the most, and collaborates the most, the side that is more of a team from beginning to end – has the greater chance of winning. Add to that the quality of our players, as we showed tonight, it’s clear we have the potential to do well.”
On the movement of the offensive players: “I think our defensive work depends a lot on the pressing of the forwards: they press with the right timings and great spirit. It’s what we want to try to do even though it’s demanding but the players are all willing to put in the work and it’s paying off. When we see certain things give us an edge on our opponents, we need to keep doing them.”
Pioli also held a post-match press conference at San Siro: “The team cracked the game by playing with intelligent and clarity, continuing to push and create. We have more than one quality players and they are used to win games.”
On Milan that conceded only two goals in Serie A: “It’s important, it means that the team is there and it feels good, it believes and plays. We are only at the beginning, I have a very deep squad, apart from a few too many injuries at the moment. They are all players who can help the team.”
On at what point is this Milan team and where it can improve: “We can improve in many things. All matches give us interesting ideas, there are many situations where we can grow.”
On the difference between the 13 points after 5 games of last year and of this year: “The fans, because now we play for our fans, they give us enthusiasm and energy. It’s a spectacle to play at home. We created this environment because of our performances.”
On the importance of having alternatives: “I don’t agree that we had a lackluster first half, just a little bit of quality was missing. I’m not surprised by the players who’ve played little so far, they are all strong.”
On the injured players: “Tonight everything went well… I don’t know who will recover for Saturday. Surely Ibrahimović, Giroud, Calabria and Kjær are doing better but I don’t know for Saturday, we’ll see between tomorrow and Friday who we can recover.”