When Stefano Pioli was appointed Milan boss after an abysmal run of games under Marco Giampaolo, the aim was to bring back good fortunes back to the Rossoneri or at least a more positive run of results to say the least. The job in itself was destined to be a humongous one, considering the circumstances the club found themselves prior to Pioli’s arrival, the 54-year-old Italian would also have been well aware no manager’s job is ever “safe” at Milan.
Coming into a team that barely had any real good performance this season, Pioli had a lot of work to do if he was to change the style of play on the pitch as well as translate those efforts into better results. It’s further an impossible task to implement your ideas early on when you have a “difficult” period ahead of you. Maybe Pioli just had to take the call or someone else would have but he’ll have hoped he was appointed with a much “friendly” run of fixtures ahead for his Milan side.
Pioli started his Milan reign with a fixture against a side in the bottom half of the table in Leece and when it all looked set for a fairy-tale start, Marco Calderoni had other ideas and his 92nd-minute equalizer meant both teams could only settle for a draw. Despite the result, the players looked sharper and played with more intensity so it looked like Pioli was in line for a positive start ahead. I did say in my previous article that Pioli had a difficult run ahead of him and to judge him based on his first few games would be total injustice considering the mental and tactical changes that will ideally need a bit to improve.
After the game against Leece, Milan faced 6th place Roma (at the time) and while there was much optimism prior to the game, it was pretty clear Milan still had a lot of work to do as the game proceeded and they lost the game by a 2-1 scoreline in what was a generally lack-lustre performance. Milan had only four shots on target the whole game (via Whoscored).
Just as I predicted as well in my article, I did mention that the fixture against Spal was very important from a mental point of view and a win was needed. Spal were 18th prior to the kick-off and regardless of the uncertainty around the Milan side, anyone would still expect them to sweep off a side with only seven points to their name so far. It wasn’t exactly an easy task as it should have been. Milan were generally poor in the first half and created no real chance up until the second period. There was much to talk about off the pitch as well. After much criticism in recent weeks, Suso was finally dropped to the bench by Pioli but he spared Milan’s blushes in the end as he came off the bench to emphatically answer his critics with a stunning free-kick to seal all three points.
The win was all the way important considering Milan’s next run of games. After playing Lazio on Sunday (3rd November), the Rossoneri face table-toppers Juventus next (10th November) which will then be followed by the international break.
Just when you think Milan would be aiming to get back to winning ways after a difficult clash in Juventus, the reward is yet another heavyweight clash with Napoli. Despite Juventus not being in the best of form as well, It is yet another crucial clash as the Bianconeri should most likely (speculation) win the previous game and the Napoli fixture would be the game to bounce back. However, Napoli are no ride over as well and it could even be two losses on the bounce if proper caution isn’t taken.
It would mean out of Pioli’s first six games in charge of the club, four out of those fixtures are against clubs in the top six. That alone is proper work for any side in good form let alone a club in transition under a new manager. It might most likely be overlooked but Pioli still needs more time to implement his ideas across and if anything, the next fixtures should not be ultimately used to put him on the pressure spot. Milan face a Lazio side who are in good form (three wins and two draws in their last five games via Skysports) and any club in the league should not lose sleep for failing to win or even take points from a Juventus side.
Pioli still has a lot to do to get Milan back to the best they can be but the fixture list hasn’t helped him as well and he’s simply just unlucky to have come in at this period. Time will tell if the start of another Giampaolo fortune will be on the cards for Pioli.