Pioli: “I do not agree that it is a step back from the Real Madrid game, the new players need time to settle in, we wanted someone like Chukwueze”

Stefano Pioli during Juventus-Milan at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on July 27, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

Stefano Pioli commented on what he saw in the friendly against Juventus.

After losing 3-2 to Real Madrid in the first friendly of the Soccer Champions Tour 2023, Milan took on Juve in the European night between Thursday and Friday.

Coach Stefano Pioli fielded a strong XI at Dignity Health Sports Park with new signings Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tijjani Reijnders and Christian Pulisic playing from the first time, alongside the likes of Theo Hernández, Oli Giroud, Rafa Leão.

It was an odd game, filled with fouls and interruptions and it never really got to a high rhythm. All the goals were scored from dead ball situations: Malick Thiaw (23′) headed the ball past Wojciech Szczęsny, before Danilo (33′) equalized by taking advantage of a mess in the Milan defense following a corner. Olivier Giroud (38′) gave Milan the lead back following a corner routine, but Giroud (48′) then scored an own goal and headed the ball to the wrong net to make it 2-2.

By the 60′ minute, both Pioli and Max Allegri changed their entire team and it was mostly garbage time from then on. After 90 minutes which ended in a 2-2, the game went to penalties. Juventus won the shoot-out 4-3, with Luka Romero, Tommaso Pobega and Davide Bartesaghi failing to score for the Rossoneri. Marco Sportiello saves two penalties, but it wasn’t enough.

Rade Krunić and Danilo during Juventus-Milan at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on July 27, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

“I don’t agree that it’s a step back from the game the other night,” Pioli told reporters in the post-match presser. “Many of those who started the game have been back exactly 7 days, including travel and many other things to sort out. We are trying to build our play, looking to read the spaces available left by the opposition, whether it be out wide or inside, or another teammate isn’t important. We’re trying to vary our play, to be able to dominate the game a bit more.”

On Calabria’s injury: “Davide seems like just suffered from muscle fatigue, which is quite normal in this period. We got him off quickly so I hope [he can return quickly].”

On Pulisic: “Christian’s fitness is getting better, like everyone else’s in the group. We’ve been back working for just 2 weeks. He’s a flexible and intelligent player: he can play on the left, on the right, in behind the striker… He is certainly going to be really important in our attack.”

Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori celebrating during Juventus-Milan at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on July 27, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

On the new signings: “Our new players are excellent players, but they need time to settle in, even if they are players with some experience. It’s not their first experience; they are mature but playing with another team in a different league against different opposition in a new style of play… I’m really pleased with their movement on the pitch in the games, but obviously we can do better in many different situations.”

On the arrival of Chukwueze: “We spoke a few times by video call. We’re really happy because we wanted someone with these characteristics. Obviously, the more attacking options we have, the better. If he’s happy, it’s right because he’s a fast and technical player, strong in 1v1 and attacks deep areas. He seems a complete wide forward, but until the players have trained you can’t judge completely. It’s sad he’s not currently with us, because these days would have been important, but he’ll be with the squad when we return back to Milanello in August. He’ll have all the time needed to integrate into the group.”

Christian Pulisic during Juventus-Milan at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on July 27, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

On switching positions between Leão and Pulisic: “I believe the change this evening was following a dead ball from a position that they rightly tool up on the pitch but I believe we have two very specific players: Leão is strong on the left, Chukwueze on the right and one [Pulisic] who can make an important on both sides, or even in behind the center forward. This will give us more options this season.”

On the next friendly against Barcelona: “These games are very important because they’ll get us in the right condition to start the league campaign. We wanted these tough games, and as we saw from the game between Arsenal and Barcelona, the next game will be a real test and very complicated, but that’s what we want and need. Each game teaches you something new, we’ll look to take something from them all so we reach the start of the season in the best possible shape.”

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Sort out the midfield mate or it might just be a disaster.
Get someone who can control the play there instead of buying all the runners.

And also, buying a new midfield, and hoping they will gel at the start of the season is foolish.
Especially looking at our first 10 fixtures.