Serie A

‘Realistic’ Stefano Pioli accepts AC Milan have not been good enough

Stefano Pioli has called on his AC Milan players to “prove themselves” against SPAL after making a poor start to the Serie A season.

AC Milan have to be realistic about their league position and accept they have not been good enough this season, boss Stefano Pioli has admitted.

The Rossoneri have won three of their opening nine Serie A matches and are just three points above the relegation zone ahead of Thursday’s home clash with SPAL.

Pioli was brought in to replace Marco Giampaolo earlier this month but has collected only one point from a possible six.

Milan followed up a 2-2 draw with Lecce in Pioli’s first match with a 2-1 loss to Roma on Sunday and the head coach has acknowledged his players have to start giving more on the pitch.

“We have to be realistic and admit this is not a positive moment for us, but we are better than what we showed on Sunday,” he said at Wednesday’s pre-match news conference.

“There’s time to improve our standings and I want people who are fired up, motivated and want to prove themselves. If we are in this position, it means we’ve made mistakes. I need to see players who won’t hold back.

“It’s important to take it one game at a time, with the right battling spirit. We want to be the best when it comes to spirit and determination.

“If anyone has fears, it’s time to put them to one side. There is much to be done, but if we believe in ourselves, then anything is possible.”

Suso has been ever-present for Milan this term and has recently been criticised for a string of below-par displays, but Pioli has again defended the under-fire winger.

“I have no doubts on Suso’s quality. It’s wrong to blame all of Milan’s difficulties on just one player. Everyone must give more,” he said.

“We want to build out from the back, but the problem against Roma was the lack of movement, which meant we had few passing options open for team-mates. We need to be more concentrated and make the right choice at the right time.

“The fans are not stupid – they can tell when a team is playing with the right spirit and effort. It’s up to us to get the fans on our side. Playing good football represents an advantage, but if there’s a characteristic we need in these next few games, it’s spirit.”

Rafael Leao has started both matches under Pioli but Krzysztof Piatek, a second-half substitute against Lecce and Roma, could return to the fold.

Hinting at a change from the 4-3-3 system he has used so far, Pioli said: “I chose Rafael against Roma and frankly expected more from him in that game. They could play together. I have to make the right choices at this moment for the team.

“I’ve never been wedded to a single tactical system in my career, so anything is possible. It’s all about understanding the main characteristics of the squad and putting the strongest players in their best positions.”


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