Sunday January 19 2020
Milan back to basics

Football Italia Chief Correspondent Richard Hall looks at how Stefano Pioli has reinvigorated Milan by doing the simple things well.

Gheorghe Hagi once stated that the way to win was not all about having talent. He claimed that being organised and possessing the will to succeed was just as important as quality. Having a little bit of stardust on top of that obviously helps, but the basics done correctly are essential. Milan have been through a tumultuous time in recent years and tried many innovative ideas to get them out of it. Stefano Pioli has now come in to ‘steady the ship’ and after a stormy start, he perhaps can claim success by going back to the simplest of strategies.

Christmas must have been a dark place for fans of the Rossoneri. On December 22, a short journey to Bergamo had seen them demolished 5-0 by Atalanta. It was a defeat that saw the very worst of this recent Milanese project. Pioli, the man brought in to regain some order and discipline, looked in disarray, 2020 already looked like it would be another ‘annus horribilis’.

The season had looked like it may start with some promise. Ivan Gazidis has spoken in depth about the fact that Milan have a clear strategy. This was to use old heads like Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini to push the values of Milan into the players whilst helping in recruitment and direction. He was clear that the fans would have to manage their expectations, as the financial situation would mean they could not spend at the same rate as they had done in the late 1980s and 1990s.

They would recruit the best of Europe’s young players and infuse them with a mix of experience. The talents would not be sold off, but instead become huge assets and winners as they grew with the club. Marco Giampaolo would be key to this, as the ex-Sampdoria coach would help mould this new and exciting Milan team.

None of that went to plan. Giampaolo was fired and the January window almost seemed to make a mockery of the Rossoneri, as the hype around 38-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic was over the top. Whilst an asset, the Swede returned to a hero’s welcome that, in all honesty, would have been exaggerated if he was 25 years of age. What was the plan now? The new coach Pioli had just supervised over the disaster in Bergamo and the future looked grim.

It is to Pioli’s credit however, that as the end of January comes into light, the Rossoneri can see some green shoots. What Ibrahimovic did contribute was the chance to finally shake off the tactical shackles set by having Suso in the team.

A 2-0 away win against Cagliari and a 3-0 win against SPAL in the Coppa Italia have shown improvement. With Udinese and Brescia up next, the Rossoneri can perhaps look at the rest of the season and hope they can climb up potentially into the Europa League places and attack the Coppa. Pioli has reverted to 4-4-2, utilising the experienced Zlatan to reinvigorate the potential in Rafael Leao and Krzysztof Piatek.

Back to basics it may be, but it also gives Milan a sense of identity. Arrigo Sacchi will always be remembered for his aggressive 4-4-2 that gave the Rossoneri the best moments in their history. It was this team who changed the face of Italian football, never taking their foot off the gas even after going 2-0 up, always attacking and demolishing teams with the added element of Dutch flare. Milan are nowhere near this, but they do stand the chance of having a team who are at least operating as a unit.

There is much more Milan need to do to get back to be anywhere near what their fans expect them to be, but what Pioli is doing is positive. He is making the Rossoneri organised and this will make them harder to beat. Experienced players like Ibrahimovic will give them character and this will allow the young players to grow. Just observe how Zlatan is constantly guiding and advising Leao, passing on the secrets learned over a lifetime.

Hagi was correct, with the right determination and good organisation, a team can be built. Pioli seems to have recognised this, so perhaps Milan can finally start their season in earnest.

Have your say...
Don't worry guys, NOCERINO will unretire and comeback to score 15 goals and 10 assists in the second half of the season to take us to 4th...oh wait, that's a 10 year old meme from the days. I guess we'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out. All I know is that we are 4-1-0 in 2020. We should get another win tonight in the Coppa v. Torino and another at home against Hellas on Sunday. Then it's derby time and the real progress report.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 8:29pm
Romagnoli is a very good player imo, no way near a Nesta however. But he kinda feels like he would be better next to a great leader, rather than being that leader. Great leaders dont just come around however so i guess he either has to become one or we sign someone else to become one. I just dont really see him becoming that proper leader at the back, atleast not in the next 2 years. (I dont want to sell him)
on the 24th January, 2020 at 6:30am
Unpopular opinion: Romagnoli gives us very little, especially as a captain. Acerbi has had a brilliant season, look at Acerbi drive the ball, pass it forward both high and short, Acerbi starts so much for Lazio. Question for you all, is it just me or is Romagnoi a coward on the ball, gives us very little in a team that possesses very little. Is he a big reason why our possession is super stale? (not only him, but as our captain, he isnt leading as a great example?)
on the 24th January, 2020 at 6:27am
Loosing a player like Paqueta is disastrous. Losing Piatek too is silly imo. Little note on Bona vs Suso statistics - Bona was moved down to midfield from where he was sublime at wing. So that has taken a toll on hes numbers. Even tho he still scores. Take a minute to really disgust yourself with all the players at milan that did not arrive this year. Look how we filled the box with numbers the second ibra came, how come we never did this for piatek, kalinic, bacca. Selfish
on the 24th January, 2020 at 6:20am
Marcelo is 32 and will play first choice in any team in the world. As Sergio Santos (AS Journalist) said, in Madrid they asked Theo to play a game in which he participates in the build-up which was not suited to his game (speed and power).

Piatek is a good striker but he needs service or he's useless, Zlatan creates the service for himself and others though. Very different players and that's why Ibra has such an impact on this team. We don't have creative players to give service to strikers.
on the 21st January, 2020 at 3:00pm
I think selling Piatek is Ludacris. I can assure you will score bucket loads of goals to whatever team ge goes. Why can we not give it a go with Ibra and Piatek, I wouldn't say that they are that similar.
on the 21st January, 2020 at 8:09am
Another note - finally playing with 2 strikers now which is great. But wouldn’t Piatek and Leão together work as well? He seemed to do great at Genoa with Kouame as his strike partner who has similar characteristics to Leão mainly being pace and directness. But as has been mentioned countless times before Piatek will be added to the scrap heap and more unnecessary changes will occur once Ibra leaves. We will never have stability again. What is the point of investing €35m? And sitting out Europa?
on the 21st January, 2020 at 12:57am
games like in the derby. But it always comes back to the manager. It's the manager's job to get the best out of his players. If Suso is not playing well it's because of the manager. Same with every other player. If Suso was playing for Atalanta we'd probably thinks he's the greatest player ever. As mario milanista said Atalanta don't do anything special but they're effective. My posts are not intended to be overly negative. We should enjoy this moment for now. But we need a long term plan.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 11:26pm
3 seasons now. One bright-ish spot is Leao who has brought us that pace. And a switch to 442 might be what's needed. The problem is we only have 3 strikers so we don't have much cover. It also means there's probably no room for Paqueta. As for Suso, he is one of the few current Milan players to hit over 150 games and in those games he's contributed 24 goals and 31 assists. Meanwhile fan favourite/my favourite Bonaventura has scored 33 and assisted 15 in 166 games. Suso has also delivered in big
on the 20th January, 2020 at 11:23pm
@ Mirko I didn't mention his defensive issues but you're right. The random thing is that Rodriguez has always had goals in him UNTIL HE SIGNED FOR MILAN (those words can pretty be applied to anyone). However, my issue with Hernandez is not Hernandez. It's that if you take his goals out we'd be even in a worse position. Ibra has not added much except for much needed swagger. However the team was lacking pace so signing a slow 38 year old was never addressing the issue that's needed addressing for
on the 20th January, 2020 at 11:17pm
@Mirko well said total insanity at board level. I would be less harsh on hernandez he is only 22 and can only improve defensively surely though probably not at Milan. We have looked far better without Suso and Hakan lately and I would happily never see them in red and black ever again. Pity maldini didnt get some experience in club management prior to milan he unfortunately seems out of his dept.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 11:09pm
He was a Madrid reject deemed not good enough to take over from an ageing Marcelo. I’m not defending Rodriguez but last season we had a great defence, 3rd best in the league and we also had Piatek scoring a lot. Now we are relying on our LB to do that. It just makes no sense.

Watch us overpay for another striker in summer once Ibra decides not to hang around. It’s ridiculous. €70m spent exactly one year ago and doing well now both rotting on the bench and up for sale. This management is insane
on the 20th January, 2020 at 7:53pm

He's weak in defense, that's true, but to say he caused us to concede as much as he has scored "individually" must be a joke. Do you really believe we would have been in a better position if somebody else (like Rodriguez) started all our matches? He brought us so many points this season single-handedly.

Maldini's heir says he has never scored so many goals in his life before. The guy is 22, he has had one full season with Sociedad before Milan and he wonders why he never scored many.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 5:34pm

"he is shambolic defensively. I’m not convinced by him at all."

Its that a bit harsh? The fact that hes value has doubled over last 6 month says some of hes performances and I strongly doubt they are only judged by this offensive capabilities.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 4:31pm
Pioli or not, hes started hakan, suso i cannot like the coach, however, i do not care who coaches milan as long as they are not in the squad. Suso can put up numbers, he really can, hes just selfish and can work with a proper team. However Hakan is abysmal, and he is what disjoints EVERYTHING. He never has a flawless move. always something wrong with either first touch or the pass, its never perfect. Hakan lacks so much quality and any coach to start him deserves the sack. Keep him and Suso out.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 2:03pm
The new players untainted by long serving "leaders" up front for milan. selfish players who dont make others better, only play for themselves. It sickens me to see how Piatek has NOBODY running into the box to support him, yet Ibra has 4-5. Suso NEVER ventures into box, making defenders mark him. They only have to focus on Piatek. And this is all strikers, Bacca, Kalinic, anyone. imo Jack has been the only driving attacking force who has played for others, rest just play for themselves.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 2:00pm
Someone said this is all Ibra. And your not entirely wrong. What it looks like to me is its just players not poisoned by the milan mentality of the latest years. I made a msg on here last year or the year before about how atalanta arent doing something exceptionally difficult, they get the ball down the flanks and fill up the box with players. This is what we did vs SPAL and Udine. Very well done. However its not really on Pioli. its on Casti, Rebic, Ibra, Leao, Jack, Bennacer, Krunic part1
on the 20th January, 2020 at 1:57pm
@Maldinis Heir, in this post all of your opinions are bad. sorry, had to be said.
Suso has had some numbers for us in the past. But Suso is one of the reasons this team never progressed. Suso is the same as always. Hes been one of the "leading" players in our squad for several years, as you would say "best". However i see this as our greatest downfall. Suso has ALWAYS been selfish, never made others around him better, and never lead the team. Him and others attitudes have killed any teamspirit
on the 20th January, 2020 at 1:54pm
@Milan Fan

Sure Theo is doing a good job offensively but he has caused us to concede just as many goals as he has scored himself, be it own goals, penalties, and general poor defence. That is for me why I agree with Maldinis Heir. He does add excitement in a way that Rodriguez never did but he is shambolic defensively. I’m not convinced by him at all.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 11:21am
@Maldini's Heir

Well said
on the 20th January, 2020 at 8:38am
@Maldini's heir

Other than what you've been saying over and over again on every Milan article which consisted most of your recent comments, nothing you said actually made any sense, like zero. Not getting excited by the most in-form left back in Europe who happens to be in our team because he will probably lose this form next season must be the most stupid thing I've heard in a while.

Suso has been our best player for a couple of years and we wonder why we have turned into an average team!
on the 20th January, 2020 at 3:34am
figure out what direction the team is going. I'm sorry to sound all negative but it's very hard to get excited about a team that has been changed so many times. At the end of the day it's the players I support since they're the one's I watch and need to build a connection with. It's hard when they're so much chopping and changing.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 1:20am
purple patch that will fade. You can't build a team around a left back hitting a once in a lifetime scoring streak. I wouldn't be surprised if this time next season we're trying to figure out what happened to him. The team is a bit of mess now but at the end of the day Pioli is getting the team moving in the right direction. The directors should be mindful of changing the squad too much this transfer window if Pioli won't be sticking around next season. We need to bring in a top manager and then
on the 20th January, 2020 at 1:18am
Same with Paqueta, Piatek and even Bonaventura who was given a half. Sure Rebic came in and did what he's done for Croatia and Frankfurt, but that actually creates more problems than it solves. In fact I look around the team and just see problems everywhere. Problems that didn't exist last season. All we needed last season was a LW. We signed everyone else. Even Hernandez's form is not something I'm hugely excited about. He has never in his life scored this many goals so it's clearly just a
on the 20th January, 2020 at 1:15am
The Udinese game should've been an exciting match for me with countless chances and last minute winners but my overall feeling was a bit meh. Pioli has seemingly steadied the ship and is putting a run together but at the cost of so many players. I know Suso's everyone's most hated player, but he has actually been our best player over the past few seasons. He's now sidelined because Pioli failed to get the best out of him
on the 20th January, 2020 at 1:12am
if it is down to pioli the guy is a miracle worker it has been close to a decade that this milan side have been pathetic the last 3 season in particular. It is also helped that ibra has arrived, the club needed a strong character abbiati really was the last player who would have kicked suso up the butt for his attitude.
on the 19th January, 2020 at 8:33pm
Zlatan and 4-4-2 have been positive changes. We can actually create scoring opportunities now, as opposed to before. Defensivly though we're still terrible and it's not individual problwms, they can't defend as a unit. We need work there but I doubt Pioli can fix that.

Anyway, if we can sell Suso and Hakan to go for players like Olmo and Under it would be even better.
on the 19th January, 2020 at 7:27pm
Pioli ain't doing nothing this is all Ibra!
on the 19th January, 2020 at 5:39pm
Yeah, back to basics. Go and buy some players otherwise you will be relegated my god. Do some justifications on your selves. Get some league's stars. Starting with de paul......
on the 19th January, 2020 at 1:18pm
Go Udinese! Leapfrog.
on the 19th January, 2020 at 6:14am

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