Stefano Pioli spoke at length ahead of tomorrow’s Venezia game, giving an interesting take on the situation of the players one yellow away from a ban.
After beating Roma 3-1 at Stadio San Siro, Milan tomorrow face Venezia, who had their game on Thursday postponed due to COVID, at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo for a lunch-time kickoff (12:30 CET).
Today, coach Pioli held a press conference at Milanello, where he answered the various questions of the journalists, from Mauro Suma, through Sky and Milannews.it, and even questions from Twitch:
Good morning Mister. Seeing the match against Roma, does it seem as though there was a great sense of team protection for Kalulu and Gabbia?
“It’s a sign of maturity and a sense of responsibility, of unity, of a sense of belonging, of a group that works together to give the best with great passion. We know that compactness is the strength of a group and we do it with the awareness of a strong team.”
How did you see Ibrahimović after his mistake from the penalty spot? Angry? Motivated?
“Zlatan is always angry, he is always angry with someone to get the best motivation out of himself and of others. He is certainly not happy with the penalty he took wrong but he is happy with the contribution given to the team and with the win. The determination he has will be put on the field tomorrow when it is needed.”
Is Leão 100% back? How important is his recovery?
“He is approaching 100%, he still can’t be 100% and he will need time. I believe he must continue to work with ambition, he can become a really strong player on the European and World scene.”
There’s little time to recovery. How is the team physically? Will there be changes?
“I saw the team well yesterday, today we still need to train. Since I’ve been at Milan, whenever we’ve won, we ran less than our opponents. That’s because we kept our lines closer and maintained possession. Mentally the Roma game was exhausting but physically we managed it well. My choices tomorrow will depend on different factors: my players’ physical condition and the strategic choices based on what characteristics might be needed in this game.”
Do you have to wait for another round of swab tests? What do you think of the fact that given the COVID emergency we could return to playing behind closed doors?
“Certainly it’s a particular moment, we must be very careful and respect all protocols to be as safe as possible. We encourage all players to be ready given the unexpected. We are getting checked daily and we’re ready to play. As for the stadiums, we suffered the absence of the fans so much during that period, we’d taken for granted that the fans would always be there. Now that we’ve experienced their enthusiasm and passion again, their support, football is made with the fans. Without a doubt. However, to allow the Serie A to continue as it is, the fans need to do their part. They need to be very careful and adhere to the rules because football without the fan sis something different.”
In the next two Matchdays, Milan play Venezia and Spezia while Inter play Lazio and Atalanta. Is it correct to say that these are two games that you cannot fail?
“It would be fair to say we’ve got two difficult and complicated matches, because our opponents are of a good level. Venezia is a well-coached and well-prepared team, they are quick and technical. We’ll need to play at a high level if we’re to play better, do better than our opponents. Games need to be played with this mentality, intensity and preparation. Then we’ll see what we were able to do and what our opponents have done. But we must keep in mind, this is our process – we are not comparing ourselves to our opponents. We want to win as many games and pick up many points and see where it’s got us in the end.”
Have Milan made the leap in quality against the teams on the right side of the standings?
“In terms of performance, the team has always been ready. We must combine quality with spirit and maximum organization to win games.”
Last night Roma posted a picture of Tonali holding Zaniolo inside the box. Did you suggest to Milan to post the picture of Mkhytarian going badly at Krunić? Also, once again you conceded a goal from a corner. Do you do anything to remedy this problem?
“I don’t follow social media, I don’t know anything about that and I don’t care. As for the goal, we work on dead-ball situations because we know how much they can weigh in the course of a championship and in individual matches. We always try to find the better solutions.”
What do you think about Caldara? Can he come back?
“I’m happy that Mattia is playing consistently and that he can back to his levels.”
What is the secret of this Tonali?
“Sandro’s secret is the talent and the work he does every day to improve.”
Bakayoko is starting to get going. Was this delay due to physical characteristics or something else?
“Baka’s initial difficulties were due to his physical condition, he arrived with some problems and it took him a bit longer. He has changed his playing principles a bit as well. I’m convinced that he is a very strong player. He has been unlucky in some occasions in which he could have done better but he’s had good performances. He can do better and he’ll give good support to the team.”
Tonali and Theo are one yellow away from suspension. Seeing the calendar, will there be a strategy? Secondly, will Ibra take penalties again?
“As for players one booking away from ban, there is no such thing as less or more important matches, all games are worth three points. Tomorrow’s game is very important for us to continue our process and to build on our performances and results. On top of that, things are so unpredictable at the moment and a player who is available tomorrow might not be on Monday. Therefore, I will choose the best options of the players that are fit.”
Theo seemed more empowered wearing the Captain’s armband. What does he lack in order to not have those drops?
“I agree. Against Roma he played his best game of the season in terms of application, attention and defensive work. He didn’t miss a move. He worked well in the days prior the game. In football you can tell many tales, but if you train in a certain way then you play in a certain way. Theo has to find this consistency because he has characteristics that are too important for us.”
How do you judge the work of Paolo Zanetti?
“He falls into the category of young players, but he has precise ideas and clear concepts. He’s a capable coach who is doing well.”
At the moment of the Lockdown, Milan restarted very. Do you have something in mind?
“Not at the moment, it’s a situation that we hope not to relive again because we want to continue playing with the support of our fans.”
What do you think about Milan Femminile who play the Supercoppa Italiana final today?
“A big good luck to Milan Femminile, I spoke with Ganz this morning. We look forward to starting the year in a positive way.”
Venezia did not play against Salernitana… can we talk about a distorted league given the postponed matches?
“The season is as it is, we all need to adapt and respect certain situations which have come up. In all European leagues there are some games that are played and there are games which are not played because the number of cases is too high. We’re happy that we did play, we face a team that didn’t play. It’s hard to predict which side will have the advantage. We must focus on performing well; a solid, serious and effective performance to win the game. That’s our sole objective. As for the situation, there are competent authorities which will need to take difficult decisions and we’ll be the first to respect those decisions.”
Roma gave up on high pressure against you. What kind of attitude do you expect tomorrow?
“It’s true that we moved the ball around well against Roma, but it’s also true that Venezia will come for us and we’ll have to move a lot.”
Do you prefer Rebić as a winger or as a central striker?
“I think Ante is a strong striker who has quality, aggression and an important physical strength. He did well both as a central striker – we played great games with him as a central forward and Leão on the left – but he can also do well starting on the left. Now he has to find his best condition and he will be an extra weapon for the team.”
Against Roma you used Tonali as a deep-lying midfielder. Is it his ideal position or is there no difference?
“Sandro has grown so much that the position on the field is not so important. He needed a path of acquaintance but now, whether the team plays with a single of two midfielders is not a problem for him. He has acquired that awareness and that way of being on the pitch that allows him to be useful both in the buildup phase and in the defensive phase.”
It is thought that Milan win when they play fast and when you slow down you make it harder. Is that right?
“It’s a truth but it applies to everyone. If you play combining a certain intensity with quality, you have greater chances of winning. If you lower the intensity, you have fewer chances. Very strong teams need to try, and I think it happened to us a few times already, to win games even when you’re not going at 100 kilometers per hour. Still, our mentality and our way of playing lead us to playing with great intensity and I think it’s one of our most important characteristics; not the only one but an important one.”
Can Leão reach Mbappé’s levels?
“Rafa reminds me a lot of Henry. I think he has to convince himself and work hard on his head to try to be ambitious. One with his means must think of reaching the top of the world, because talent alone is not enough. He understood that he has to work in a certain way.”
Has the enthusiasm returned?
“Winning and positive performances, especially following delicate days like those that preceded the Roma match, give you more confidence and awareness. We have a certain type of play and of players at our disposal so it’s right for try a winning play in certain areas of the field.”
Is Tonali the strongest youngster you’ve coached?
“I think so, Sandro is at a very high level.”
Closing statements about tomorrow’s game against Venezia?
“It doesn’t matter what we did the other day, what counts is what we do tomorrow. The team will be ready.”