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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Here is how Stefano Pioli can avoid the sack at Milan

Stefano Pioli is the ninth new AC Milan manager in five years, only fierce rivals Inter has his win percentage risen narrowly above 50 and he's never been in charge of a team for more than two full seasons.

Beleaguered Rossoneri fans can surely be forgiven for their bleak outlook after the 53-year-old's appointment.
But the trigger-happy US hedge-fund ownership have decided Pioli is the man to lead Milan back to greatness from their slumber and he has an enormous job on his hands.
Here's what he has to do to beat the odds and prove everyone wrong.

Clean up dreadful indiscipline

This is the obvious place to start. Milan have shot themselves in the foot four times this season already by having to dig out a result with 10 men.
Pepe Reina, Mateo Musaccio and Davide Calabria (twice) have all been sent off and only three of seven Serie A games have they finished with their full complement of players.
Clearly this can't continue at the current rate and without beating themselves, they'll find the points begin to accrue.
Pioli pledged to bring 'ideas, intensity and bravery' to the club in his first interview and as long as that bravery buzzword doesn't spill into something overzealous, then AC Milan should clean up their act in this area.

Take a leaf out of Jurgen Klopp's book

Pioli often cuts a suave figure on the touchline and even used to kit himself out in a purple turtleneck under his suit during his tenure at Fiorentina.
If there are any sartorial shackles on the touchline in Milan, he needs to break them and convince the skeptical ultras he is absolutely committed to their cause.
He needs to bring energy and breathe life into the team as well as enlivening the fans from his technical area. Many of the supporters are waiting for him to fail and #Pioliout was trending in Italy after his appointment.
None of that is the manager's fault but his behaviour could go a long way to helping the naysayers to forget his previous allegiance to Inter and get behind him.
If his players feel they have a ready-made excuse to down tools with the fans against their manager, he needs to counteract that narrative as quickly as possible.

Get Rafael Leao and Krzysztof Piatek to gel

AC Milan splashed out £26million on Rafael Leao in the summer and the 20-year-old is rated among the top young prospects in Europe.
The skilful Portuguese forward opened his account against Fiorentina with a breathtaking individual effort, skinning three defenders before slotting home and Pioli has to find a way to get him into the side.
The trouble is, under Marco Giampaolo, the relationship with fellow forward Krzysztof Piatek was awkward and Milan have lost every game the strike partnership started together.
Piatek's qualities on paper should complement Leao, who is more of a free-moving threat and can create something out of nothing.
If Pioli can find a better way than Giampaolo to get the duo singing off the same hymn sheet, the goals will begin to flow again.

Begin with a bang

The manager is already under enormous pressure to deliver given the abject reception he's been given.
Understandably, many Milan fans believe the conveyor belt of bosses is going to keep rumbling and before long Pioli will be out the door.
Calls for his head have started without a ball being kicked so imagine what kind of scrutiny he'll be under with a poor start.
Newly-promoted Lecce visit the San Siro in his first game and this simply has to be three points in the bag.
In fact, Pioli needs to be targeting three wins from his first five games as a minimum, with games against SPAL and Lazio also at home in between tricky trips to Roma and Juventus on the road.
Milan are down in 13th but a Champions League place is only four points out of reach so the table could make for far better reading with a bit of 'new manager bounce'

Establish an identity and stick to it

What does a Pioli team really look like? It's difficult to say in truth as his average tenure in charge of the 13 clubs he's managed is 1.07 years.
It will be tricky for him to gather a firm idea of his best formation and selection so early in the job but the chopping and changing was part of Giampaolo's downfall.
The season started with a 4-3-1-2, then switched to a 4-3-2-1 and then reverted to an orthodox 4-3-3.
Players need time to build familiarity with the tactics they're being told to carry out - Pioli's message needs to be clear and simple. Perhaps then his key tenets of 'ideas, intensity and bravery' will be allowed to flourish.

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