Stefano Pioli is the man AC Milan have turned to in a bid to arrest the slide that saw Marco Giampaolo’s time in charge end after just seven games in charge. The 53-year-old was handed a two-year deal as the Rossoneri look to recover from their poor start to the season.
Pioli arrives at San Siro with the club sitting thirteenth in Serie-A but only four points adrift of the Champions League places. The former Inter and Lazio boss will be setting his sights on those positions although steadying the ship will be his immediate duty. One of Pioli’s first tasks will be to rouse a Milan squad which has lost four of its opening seven league fixtures.
Man-management has been a strength of Pioli’s previously in his managerial career, exemplified in his previous job at Fiorentina. The manner in which he led the Florence club through the darkest of times in the aftermath of Davide Astori’s tragic death showed his leadership qualities and ability to galvanise a group of players.
The response of his Viola players, both on and off the park, spoke to the strength given to them by their manager in the most trying of circumstances. The ‘DA13’ which Pioli had tattooed on his left wrist in tribute to his late captain further endeared him to his players and the club’s fans alike.
That ability to bring a group together in a difficult time may serve the Parma-born boss well as he looks to turn around Milanese Serie-A fortunes. It would appear that he has work to do to convince the Milan faithful that he is thr right man to replace Giampaolo though.
The hashtag PioliOut was trending even before he was officially announced as Milan’s eighth permanent manager in the last five years. His detractors point to the fact that he has never won a major trophy in his sixteen-year managerial career, although he did lift the Serie-A title as a player with Juventus in 1986.
One sure-fire way of winning over the fans will be to win football matches and that task begins with a home fixture against newly-promoted Lecce on Sunday evening.
On the face of it, Pioli’s playing style should suit the personnel that he will have at his disposal at the 18-time Italian Champions. His favoured 4-3-3 formation would most likely see Rafael Leao and Suso playing either side of Krzysztof Piatek in attack.
They would certainly provide the youthful energy required to implement the new manager’s high-pressing style and young players have flourished under his tutelage in the past. Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone both thrived in Pioli’s side in Florence before a dramatic dip in the team’s form ultimately led to the manager’s departure.
The poor run of form towards the end of his time in the Tuscan capital is undeniable, as were the results which led to his departure. The ending in Florence will no doubt be used by those against his appointment as evidence that he isn’t up to the job at the Giuseppe Meazza. In the short term, with new signings not an option between transfer windows, Pioli will have to rely on the squad who have started the season poorly.
It would seem the new man in charge has already put some changes in place to improve the fortunes of his new charges. Reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that Pioli has rearranged the seating plan in the club dining room in order to bring his squad together.
He has also introduced the idea of the squad eating breakfast and lunch together in a bid to foster a closer bond between the players. It has also been reported that Lucas Biglia, who looked to be on his way out of Milan at one point, will be given a central role in Pioli’s Rossoneri-revolution.
The Argentine played under his new manager in Rome when he was a Lazio player and the target of the new boss will be to emulate that side’s league position. Lazio finished third under Pioli in 2015, his best Serie-A placing as manager, and if he were to lead his new side to that position between now and next May the #PioliOut brigade will be certainly be silenced.