Pioli: “It is an important win against a difficult opponent, Inter? We both want to win the second star, Jović will certainly help us, Leão is outstanding”

Stefano Pioli during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

Stefano Pioli liked what he saw from his team in the win against Roma, even if he admits he was too late in subbing out Tomori and Loftus-Cheek.

Milan are with 3 wins from the first 3 matches of Serie A and last night’s win was the most complicated one yet: Milan dominated for 60 minutes, with Giroud (9′ pk) and Leão (47′) scoring.

However, things became complicated for the Diavolo after an hour, when referee Antonio Rapuano showed a second yellow card to Fikayo Tomori and left Milan in 10 men.

Roma pressed and try to get back into the game, but in the end managed to score just a single goal with Leonardo Spinazzola (93′) having his shot deflected by Pierre Kalulu and beat the Rossoneri goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who otherwise didn’t have much to do all night.

Milan now sit at the top of the Serie A table and after the international break they will face Inter in the first Derby Della Madonnina of the season, before hosting Newcastle for the UCL Matchday 1.

Milan players celebrating at the end of Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

“The result is important, but the performance is also very satisfying, it gives consistency to the first two games,” Pioli told DAZN. “I was about to replace both Fik and Ruben, unfortunately I was too late. I think the only way we could let our opponents back into the game was to go down to 10 men and that is what happened, but we still suffered under pressure with generosity, personality and determination. It’s an important win against a difficult opponent. We wanted to start well and the schedule was not easy, but now we are satisfied with what we are doing, but also aware of what we need to improve.”

On risking a draw like in the game in January: “I wasn’t thinking about the game in January, to be honest. Last year here at the Olimpico we drew in the final minutes. It’s not like we can spend the whole season thinking about what we did or didn’t do last year. I liked the way we started the match, especially in the first half we created 3-4 important chances, held possession and controlled the game without conceding dangerous situations. There are many things that went well, many things we can improve. It’s just the beginning but we are starting to see some positive things.”

Mike Maignan during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

On Calabria’s new position in the middle of the pitch: “We want to build up with Mike + 5 players. Then whether it’s 4+1, 3+2 or 2+3… By now the guys know how to read spaces and know how their opponents come out. These are mechanisms we are trying to find. Today we positioned Calabria a little more inside and left more chances for Theo to read the spaces and I think we handled it well. In 11 against 11 we controlled the game very well. We wanted to so much to finish the first part of the season with 3 wins. I think today we accelerated at the right time and there was a little tension towards the end, but we still only conceded with a long-range shot that took a deflection. That shows the team was solid and focused even in 10 men.”

On how many goals Leão can score: “I hope he can score many goals. He has to keep moving like he was moving tonight, he was a reference point for our offensive phase. He made some great runs tonight, his movement was constant, varying the runs. At times he went long, at times went centrally… in the end he was in the box on a cross at the back post. Occasionally he still forgets to go there. He is outstanding, he needs to keep it up. His desire and growth from a mental point of view is evident to me who coaches him every day. He’s a very calm, haply and motivated guy.”

Olivier Giroud celebrating during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

On Jović being Giroud’s understudy: “He was part of the list of strikers we were looking for. He came from a somewhat difficult season, but he is a quality and talented player. Players like that and with the right motivation can always come in handy, so I’m sure he will help us out. We got another center forward because we will play a lot of games and we want to be ambitious. Last season we had Giroud, Ibra, Origi and Rebić. This year we have one fewer player but we think we are covered in all roles. When we return from the break, when we will have 7 games in 21 days, there will be room for everyone. To keep the performance high you don’t need to always play all the games every three days.”

On the derby when we return from the break: “All games are exams to pass. This will be a difficult exam, there is an opponent of a very high value, but we will prepare well. Then we’ll see if we are able to pass this exam as well. Clearly there will be the break in between and we will have very little time to prepare for it. After the break it’s better to face an important game than a tricky challenge in terms of concentration. I will find the guys determined. The Derby domes very soon, there is great rivalry and ambition. We both want to win the second star, it will be an opportunity to measure ourselves and clash, and we’ll try to do well.”

Rafael Leão celebrating during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

Speaking to MilanTV, Pioli said: “We approached all three games in a really good way and that’s important and we tried to control the game how we want to. I believe we did that. We looked threatening without conceding… giving away very little, which is important. Obviously, after, unfortunately, I was about to change Fik and Ruben because of the bookings, and unfortunately we went down to 10 men. But then the group showed a lot of character, desire, and the hunger to bring the points home in a game they deserved to, which turned out a tough one in the end. Credit to my players for the effort put in. We wanted to start the campaign off well. We are really pleased with the start.”

On becoming the second coach in the history of Milan to reach 300 points in Serie A: “I hope I’m only at… I won’t start at the start of my journey, but halfway through. I’m happy. I’m happy with my players, the Club, the fans… We need to carry it on: keep working with this professionalism, calmness, the drive to improve and grow. Then, I believe we have the quality to bring some satisfaction for this year too.”

Fikayo Tomori and Andrea Belotti during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

On the red card of Tomori: “I must say that Fik was having a great game, reading it well defensively and also when building from the back. Plus, he has that great quality of being aggressive and quick. And I agree with you: he needs to understand sometimes when there’s a player between the ball and you, it’s better to just wait a little bit more. It’s a shame because I was ready to bring on Kalulu and Pobega for the two players on yellow cards because it was the only way to try and limit our opponents, and we would’ve had the same number of players on. These are situations, though, that will help us to improve. I’m sorry we won’t have him available for the next match, but I’m really happy he’s back in the international fold, so he’ll be able to enjoy going there, and then we’ll see him back for the Champions League, I believe.”

On signing Jović: “He is part of a group of players we’ve been keeping an eye on. Then, the transfer window presents to you certain situations. In my opinion, he comes off the back of a tough season at Fiorentina, but he’s a talented player who has shown his qualities, so I expect – I’ve spoken with him – a very motivated player, who is very happy to be with us. He will certainly help us.”

Tijjani Reijnders and Bryan Cristiante during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

The Milan coach also held a post-match press conference: “I am definitely satisfied because we are growing from game to game, finding mechanisms that allow us to control the match, to be dangerous and to suffer little. I was preparing for the substitution for the two yellow-carded players, but it’s because of how we suffered that I liked the team. There is satisfaction, there is a lot to do but we worked well.”

An assessment on the mercato…
“You [journalists] are good at giving ratings, but I am very satisfied with what the club did, which also followed my indications. It was the right time to change a few faces and we signed strong players. Jović was part of the list of strikers we were following, he is of quality and talent and I think he will be able to do well with us.”

Ruben Loftus-Cheek during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

Has there been an improvement in terms of character?
“If they had drawn then you wouldn’t have asked that… We want to match performance with results. We have many things to work on, but we have already shown that the summer work was positive. And I was already convinced of that.”

The defense has remained that of last season…
“I think the Club has built a team with many players with different characteristics and for me this is very important, but we need to have a clear concept of the game, which does not mean fixed positions, although I think consistency is important. We will also try something different.”

Stefano Pioli during Roma-Milan at Stadio Olimpico on September 1, 2023. (@acmilan.com)

A comment on the performance of Loftus-Cheek?
“Ruben is very strong. Roma is a very physical team, but he played an outstanding game. He has to continue like that, he can be a total midfielder.”

What was your reaction to the Champions League draw?
“We learned about it on the plane [from Milano to Rome]. I communicated it immediately to the players and I liked their reaction: I didn’t see fear, anxiety or apprehensions but instead I saw motivation and excitement. We are Milan, we want to fight.”

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2 weeks until shinter.
Usually the performance is shaky after international breaks, but hopefully we can pull together a thrashing for them.