We often hear from pundits and supporters alike that football is a results based business. On that basis, Milan’s form under Stefano Pioli is a major concern.
The 54-year-old has overseen five games since being appointed as Marco Giampaolo’s successor, and in that time he’s managed one win, one draw and three defeats.
Those three losses have been made worse by the fact that they’ve all come against sides in the top six, with the Rossoneri finding themselves down in 14th place and 11 points adrift of the last Champions League qualification spot.
Under Pioli, Milan have scored five goals and conceded seven. In turn, looking at the facts and figures, it doesn’t paint a particularly positive picture.
However, that assessment would ignore the intangibles over the past few weeks, as there are arguably three stand-out positives that we’ve seen since Pioli took charge.
Improved performances, identity to our play
Under Giampaolo, Milan often looked devoid of confidence, belief and conviction in what they were doing on the pitch, and those lack of ideas led to the poor form that we suffered with in the opening weeks of the campaign.
The argument can still be made that he perhaps needed more time, but ultimately there were few positives to be taken from our performances while results weren’t acceptable.
Pioli must still turn our form around and put together a winning streak to get us climbing up the table as soon as possible. However, since he arrived, the Rossoneri have played with more intensity, urgency and at a higher tempo both on and off the ball.
There is direction and an identity to our play. Admittedly, we’re still leaking poor goals and need to start scoring consistently. However, there has certainly been a step forward in the performances to the extent that we’ve been enjoyable to watch for the most part in recent weeks and the players look more comfortable and effective in their respective roles.
Summer signings playing bigger roles
From Leo Duarte stepping in to replace the injured Mateo Musacchio to Theo Hernandez flourishing down the left flank and Ismael Bennacer starting to establish himself in the heart of the midfield.
Add to that mix Rade Krunic getting the nod ahead of Franck Kessie in the last two games and Rafael Leao getting picked ahead of Krzysztof Piatek to give him opportunities to impress, Pioli has used our summer signings who have generally responded and offered something different in the XI.
The wait goes on for Ante Rebic to follow suit, but after Giampaolo often snubbed the new arrivals, it’s good to see Pioli handing them more prominent roles as they are capable of adding quality to the team.
Getting responses from key players
There is a lot of quality in this current squad, and there is surely enough there to be better off than sitting in 14th place after 12 games.
Pioli has had to get the best out of certain individuals and force reactions from them, with Hakan Calhanoglu being a perfect example of that as he appears to have found a different gear since the Lecce game.
Naturally, there is always room for improvement and for him to be more decisive, but he has been one of several players who have responded positively to the coaching change.
Elsewhere, Suso reacted to being dropped from the starting line-up by scoring the winner against SPAL, albeit he has done little else, Lucas Paqueta is growing into his role in the side and is showing signs he’s capable of being a key figure for us if he can discover his goalscoring touch while Andrea Conti finally produced a performance against Juventus which suggested he can put his injury nightmare behind him and rediscover his Atalanta form.
While that’s all positive, Pioli’s last crucial piece of the puzzle will be to get Piatek firing to re-emerge as our much-needed prolific presence up top to score the goals needed to drag us up the Serie A table in the coming weeks.
There is no doubt that there is still plenty of work to be done. However, there is arguably reason to be positive under Pioli, as he just needs to start putting together some results and there is still hope that we can salvage something from this season.