Stefano Pioli has stated Milan need to improve defensively and in finishing off chances, as he prepares to give De Ketelaere his debut start tomorrow.
After drawing Atalanta and finding out their Champions League group, Milan return to San Siro tomorrow evening as they are ready to take on Siniša Mihajlović’s Bologna (20:45 CEST kickoff).
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:
Is there a feeling that Milan endure less this season?
“Honestly, I don’t know if it’s right to keep remembering last season’s matches. I’m interested in the mentality of the team, they know they played well but they are not happy with not having won. We lacked something to win and we have to find it already against Bologna. It will be another challenging and tough match against an opponent which I believe were the last team to deny us the three points last season. They will try to make things difficult for us so we have to remain focused but with the same mentality of someone who wants to play well but also combine it with a win.”
Did you strike the right chords with Bennacer or is it his own merit?
“We only played 2 matches, attitudes and performances must be carried over a long term. I have never had doubts about the great qualities of Isma and he showed up very well right from the start in pre-season. He’s always worked with great availability and conviction: he must continue like this. He has the qualities to be a complete midfielder, including the part of scoring because he also has an excellent shot.”
How much would you like to prepare for Milan-Chelsea with Leão on your team?
“I only think my game at a time, with the players who are currently part of the team. Leão must think about improving because he has the potential to do so. I am not coaching him thinking he could leave. On the contrary, Leão is always available and willing and he doesn’t do anything wrong while preparing for games.”
Is De Ketelaere ready to make his debut as a starter?
“He could be ready and maybe it’s his time. I trust him. In any case, he should be given some time because he is in a new environment, but he is surprising me with the speed with which he is learning the language and for his curiously for our patterns. He will give us satisfaction, even if in that role I have a lot to choose from.”
What do you think of the Champions League group?
“It’s a completely different group compared to last year. We need to start from a concrete basis: the Champions League demands high-level performance. Irrespective of the team faced, the Champions League demands your maximum in terms of quality, rhythm, intensity and organization. Therefore, if we can reach that level, we’ll have our cards to play without underestimating anyone. Real Madrid lost at home to Sheriff Tiraspol last year and we are not Real Madrid yet… The experience we had last year will help us. One match at a time as always, we have to show that last year’s experience helped us.”
Are you worried about the defensive phase?
“That too is one of the aspects where we need to improve. We conceded goals on 2 set pieces against Udinese and one from a deflection against Atalanta, but certainly conceding fewer goals is an objective. Those who concede few goals have more chances of winning. In Bergamo we had to make better use of our goal scoring opportunities: something more is needed in the defensive phase and a bit of precision and determination in the finishing.”
Is your Milan full?
“Absolutely not. I see in my players an attitude that I really like in training and beyond. The match played in Bergamo was not played in a superficial manner or with presumption. We faced Atalanta with great courage, strength and intensity. We won a lot of duels against a stronger team, physically. We have written an important chapter in such a prestigious Club like Milan by winning the Scudetto last year, but this team is eager to write new chapters and create new and important pages in our history. As long as I see that drive in the eyes of my players and certain mindsets, I’ll consider myself a lucky coach.”
Are you missing a replacement for Kessié in midfield?
“It’s not true that we were outnumbered in midfield against Atalanta, we were forcing Pašalić to chase Tonali. As for Kessié, I remember that last year you were asking me he was always playing and now we are regretting him… I have a strong team, but we need to improve.”
Leão gets double and triple-marked and is fouled violently: should he be protected?
“We expect this situation, he will have to be good at managing this situation because if he is double-marked then it means that there is something free. He has to be good at managing 1v2 situations. As for the fouls, against Atalanta there was a sensational foul – not one of a yellow card – where the VAR had to intervene.”
When will Adli have space? Can he play further back?
“First of all, we are all happy for Yacine and his partner on the birth of their newborn baby. He was absent from yesterday’s training but was present for today’s session. He is available for tomorrow’s game. I like Yacine’s style of play though I will have some choices to make. This season I will have to make fewer mistakes with my choices because I have a lot of strong players and Yacine is one of them and so his time will come to play and show his worth on the pitch. As of now, given his characteristics and that of the squad, I find it hard to see him play in a 2-man midfield, it could be possible to see him play as a mezz’ala in a 3-man midfield.”
Are you studying formation changes like a 4-3-3?
“Everything is possible. I like solutions and often it’s the players who suggest me the way, it’s they who guide which path to follow. What is certain is that in a team that has 3 trequartisti using a formation without one becomes difficult but let us analyze all the situations. You have to be dynamic and move.”
Is Leão bothered by the mercato rumours?
“He is a serene, determined guy. For the way in which he is preparing, I don’t see a nervous guy. Against Udinese he may not have been in the best of his condition, against Atalanta he made impressive moves and judgement often changes by details. He has to think about improving and he still has to level-up.”
How will you manage Giroud and Origi?
“Tomorrow one of them will be the starter. Starting tomorrow we’ll play 7 games in 21 days. This year there are no 11 starters, all my players are starters, which is why they all have to train and prepare well: mentally, tactically, technically and physically because this is the time to start pushing hard because we’ve already had two important encounters but more are on the way.”
Has any work been done on Theo on the defensive phase?
“The work is done to enhance the qualities of a player and smooth out the weakest points. We are at their service, but without their availability and talent nothing is done. Now even in the defensive phase he makes few mistakes. Theo is becoming an incredible player, but he can always grow and improve.”
How is Kjær doing?
“Simon is doing much better and has given me some good responses in training lately, so I believe he will soon be ready to play from the start. Simon is one of our ‘da Milan’ starters, there’s no doubt about it and the same goes for Fikayo and Kalulu’s high-level performance. Gabbia is improving too and is a reliable player so our defense is on the right track.”
Who is the third midfielder after Tonali and Bennacer?
“Pobega and Bakayoko. Baka had some problems at the beginning. We’ll see them on the pitch in the next matches.”
Are Tomori, Kalulu, Theo and the two midfielders the most difficult to replace?
“They are proving to be top-level players, but I have other strong players. When you play so much and every three days, it becomes difficult for anyone to maintain a high level of performance without risk. There will be targeted rotations.”
Do you need one more defender and midfielder from the mercato?
“It’s a question of names, not numbers. If there is an opportunity to bring in players to improve the squad then the management is ready to do so.”
How do you accelerate the growth in Europe?
“We want to grow in Europe, even if the English teams, financially in the mercato, have potential that cannot be imagined for us [Italian clubs]. In these 3 years we have all shown that with compactness, unity of purpose, talent and ideas then it’s possible to achieve results and improve things. The Champions League demands a very high level, we think we have grown and we think we can prove it in the group.”
Do you train the decisiveness of Leão in front of goal?
“Yes, it can be improved. The matches in training are of a high standard and Rafa has the opportunity to improve. Being more decisive is one of his objectives. Leão, if he keeps his attitude, will get to another level, I’m sure he’ll get there because he’s a smart kid.”
How can you make the least possible mistakes on the bench? How do you evaluate who to play?
“The next game is the most important game and for that I will choose the ones I think are the strongest, it also depends on the opponents. Against Sassuolo it could be difficult, it depends on the condition and performance of the individuals. If I’ll continue to have this level of dedication and mindset from my players, then my choices will be harder but at the same time easier because if they are all ready, my players’ output level is high so it will be difficult to make mistakes.
Thoughts on the upcoming journey, also in view of the Champions League?
“We have to necessarily raise the level. We want to measure ourselves against the Champion League with great conviction and great enthusiasm, because we are aware that we have great quality. Then from here to say that we can win it – there’s a long way.”
What are the solutions for Bologna?
“Moving the ball well and quickly is always a good solution. We are working well at sending players deep but we need to be more refined. The positions on the pitch that we will see tomorrow will be different in respect to last games.”