Pioli: “We will try to become even more unpredictable, do not rule out a three-man defense, I think CDK can play on the right – we will discover this together”

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

Stefano Pioli discussed some tactical aspects with La Gazzetta dello Sport, as he prepares for the new season.

Pioli sat down for a chat with La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Luca Bianchin and Alessandra Gozzini, and in addition to the usual Q&A (read here), the Milan Coach also discussed the new tactical approaches of Milan with the journalists.

Stefano won the Scudetto with Milan last season, but he understands that in order to keep winning, innovation and new ideas will be needed. It’s going to be a team that relies on the foundations set in previous seasons, but with some novelties as well.

With Franck Kessié and Alessio Romagnoli gone (and not directly replaced, as mentioned by Pioli), and with Simon Kjær back and Yacine Adli, Charles De Ketelaere and Divock Origi on the team, Pioli will have different options on how to line-up his team in the very intense 2022/23 season.

Pierre Kalulu, Ismaël Bennacer and Alexis Saelemaekers during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

The first and foremost novelty is in the formation: Pioli told Bianchin and Gozzini “do not rule out a three-man defense”, and you understand what he means: in his head there’s a line of Kalulu-Kjær-Tomori. He then explains that Milan will be able to play “without a trequartista”, a 4-3-3 as per La Gazzetta. Changes to the 4-2-3-1, but with one constant: “If it were up to me, I would always defend high, with the defense in midfield. Of course, a lot depends on the work of the attackers.”

Coaches often say, however, that formation numbers do not matter: “I think it is necessary to read the spaces, to play even without a center-forward,” Pioli told GdS. “The important thing is to field intelligent players, who know how to put the opposition’s defense under pressure and move together. We will try to become even more unpredictable. I introduced verticality and the exchange of positions in my football after the first year in Firenze. I believe that the fewer fixed positions you have, the better.”

Charles De Ketelaere and Simon Kjær during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

One of the questions is where De Ketelaere will play, as he can basically fill every position in attack: “I think Charles can also start as a center-right. We will discover this together,” Stefano said, before revealing what led to Milan chasing CDK: “With Paolo and Ricky, we noticed a bit of struggle against closed defenses. And we thought that with more quality in the last quarter of the pitch, we’d have a better chance of unlocking games. We were looking for quality, goals, assists and even a certain physicality.” De Ketelaere fits the bit, almost perfectly.

La Gazzetta explains that with De Ketelaere on the team and without Kessié, Sandro Tonali will find himself less attacking, as he did in the final stretch of last season. The two central midfielders will have more strictly-defensive tasks, to keep the balance in the team. The same balance that results in Alexis Saelemaekers and Junior Messias staying on the team, as they work in defense.

The new Serie A season starts in August 13, and Milan take on Udinese. It will be a familiar Diavolo, but with some changes and new ideas, as the Rossoneri are looking for the second star.

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