Stefano Pioli has been busy settling in at Milanello this week as he has conducted his first training sessions after being named Milan boss.
It’s not an ideal scenario given a number of key figures are away on international duty, but ultimately he’ll use every hour he has to get his ideas across to the players at his disposal and prepare the group as best as possible ahead of facing Lecce on October 20.
With that encounter in mind, we face an intriguing wait to see what line up the 53-year-old puts out, as ultimately many will be hoping that he makes changes and is brave enough to drop players who have been underperforming for far too long now.
That said, it won’t be easy taking on this job and the former Lazio and Fiorentina boss may be tempted into sticking with the usual suspects and trying to find a way to ensure that they all produce.
Several coaches have now been and gone having failed to do so, and based on the touted line-ups from various outlets, it looks as though Pioli may be ready to take the same risks.
Good news for Piatek
One reassuring common factor is the expectation that the Milan coach will show faith in Krzysztof Piatek to lead the line and will focus on helping him rediscover his best form. As noted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, that could involve a switch back to a 4-3-3 system, with Piatek pushed up closer to the goal where he is at his most dangerous.
It will be up to the Polish international to respond and deliver in front of goal though, as if he continues to struggle in open play, Pioli may be forced into a difficult early decision.
Risks from Pioli, some promising signs
As mentioned above, the biggest question mark hanging over Pioli’s approach is whether or not he’ll start by looking to get the best out of players who have been largely underwhelming for far too long.
Suso, Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie are three specific names which come to mind, and on the basis of the possible line-ups provided below from Sky Sport Italia, it looks as though that trio will continue to play key roles.
Further, Lucas Biglia is expected to get the nod ahead of Ismael Bennacer, and so there are certainly some early concerns that Pioli could be going down a familiar path which doesn’t end well.
It would be a real shame to see Bennacer struggle to get into the XI as aside from lacking experience, there are arguably few departments in which Biglia offers more than him.
Suso, Calhanoglu and Kessie have consistently found a way to be inconsistent, and so perhaps Pioli needs to see that for himself before he reaches the same conclusion that many supporters have over recent months.
Particularly considering Giacomo Bonaventura, Rade Krunic, Ante Rebic and others could all be left sat on the bench, it’s not an ideal look and it risks doing little in helping Pioli win the fans over.
More important than that though is getting results, and with Lucas Paqueta and Rafael Leao being tipped to start in a 4-3-3, it should be thoroughly enjoyable to see them link up with Theo Hernandez down the left flank.
However, having only had a couple of training sessions thus far, it’s surely impossible to predict what line-up Pioli will go with, especially given he’s missing crucial players this week and won’t get a chance to take a closer look at them until they return to decide if they fit into his plans.
In turn, perhaps we should take the suggestions below with a pinch of salt, but there are perhaps more reasons for concern that we’ll be left frustrated and watching the same old story unfold if he decides to stick with the core group of players who have contributed to our struggles and failures over the past two years.
Maybe it was to be expected that a coach like Pioli wouldn’t look to change too much and make the most of what he has seen already from this group of Milan players. It’s hoped that he can find a winning formula immediately, but if he doesn’t, he needs to have the courage to drop those who risk letting him down.
— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) October 10, 2019