After the disgrace against Inter, the Devil tries to get back up in the trophy that he feels is most his. Pioli retouches the team. Ibra inspired her. The former Tonali player leads the English at San Siro
In December 2019, once his move to Napoli had faded, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was in Los Angeles, asked Mino Raiola: “Is there any team in crisis?” The friend-agent replied: “Milan just lost 5-0 against Atalanta.” Ibra decided: “Then I’ll go back to Milan and bring him up.” He kept his word: he brought the Devil back to the Champions League after 7 years and to the Scudetto after 11. He was decisive as an educator, no less than as a centre-forward. By example and scolding, in harmony with Pioli, he imposed a new work culture on Milanello and taught the Milan spirit to those who ignored it. His friend Ibra returned to Milanello yesterday after another painful Nerazzurri top five in the derby. A reminder of the ancient Siberian education and an appeal to the true AC Milan spirit, imperceptible on Saturday, were needed on the eve of the first turning point of the season: the debut in the Champions League group stage. Stumbling at home to Newcastle, with the prospect of then having to travel to the home of Borussia Dortmund and PSG, would be dangerous. After the poor performance in the derby, there are two key words: get up, turn around.
conspiracy of guilt
Pioli was much worse after Atalanta’s 5 goals, when he seemed to have been sacrificed on the altar of Rangnick, but even now he hasn’t had an easy time, the first lightning rod of popular anger. Yesterday he admitted it: “I am indebted to the fans.” But no excuses were needed, just as there was no need, in his time, to listen to the homily of an ultra below the curve. Pioli spent Sunday closed in Milanello watching matches. A coach must only apologize if he does not offer the utmost professionalism. Pioli has always offered it. Then, in the derby, he made mistakes, of course. Not very prudent? Perhaps, without forgetting that he won the championship by developing a dominant game that made everyone grow in self-esteem. Wrong moves, like Calabria midfielder? Perhaps, without forgetting that with the centralized runs of the full-backs he beat Atalanta twice in the year of the Scudetto and Napoli in the Champions League. Pioli’s errors must be integrated with those of the market. The algorithms did not reveal Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders’ difficulties running backwards and breaking transitions. Tonali took away a ban that was never replaced. He returns to San Siro with Botman, a young but already trained defender of international standing, who was a priority for Maldini and should have been for his successors. Just as vice-Giroud should have been, who should have resembled Thuram more than Okafor or Jovic.
But the market is gone. What can Pioli do to get up and turn around? First of all, sending Milan onto the field with Ibra’s battle mask. Inter’s first play in the derby was a hard tackle by Barella on Theo. A business card. The soul between the teeth. Milan, on the other hand, entered on tiptoe. Tonight it can’t happen against a Newcastle team that is even more physical than Inter and knows how to restart en masse in the same way. The center forward Isak, Ibra’s compatriot, has a long and technical run. And then a ferocious concentration. The model must be the round of 16 against Tottenham last season: two defensively impeccable matches, zero goals conceded, and the revelation of Thiaw, terrible in the derby. Even then, Milan was coming off a lost derby and a home defeat against Sassuolo. In the emergency, Pioli had fallen back on a 3-man defence. Tonight he won’t do so, but with the more protective Pobega and a more cautious attitude compared to the derby he can contain the English and then strike with more patience.
wake up, Rafa
To hit them, you will need totems at the height of their super-powers. Critics hammered the new ones, which were rejected en masse, but Pioli was more disappointed by the old stars. Hernandez was supposed to be the expert guide and instead he went wild at the end. Against Tottenham, the Frenchman, wearing the armband, was the best, creating Diaz’s decisive goal at San Siro. We need that Theo over there. And he absolutely serves Maradona’s Leao, not the one hidden in the folds of the derby. Ibra explained: “Leao was the only one whose keys I couldn’t find to communicate with. Then he decided to wake up on his own.” Well, tonight Rafa must wake up on his own and become decisive again. Ibra certainly said a couple of words to him. Newcastle are strong, but not like Inter. He doesn’t have the tactical maturity to interpret the seasons of the match, to slow down and speed up, like the Nerazzurri do. The Magpies have lost 3 out of 5 Premier League matches. They attacked Brighton and then conceded 3 goals. Milan will not have to be ashamed of waiting and starting again. Newcastle have more money than international experience, returning to the Champions League after 20 years. Milan are wallowing in the Champions League. He proved it by eliminating Napoli and reaching the semi-finals. If she doesn’t get up and turn here, into his garden, where? But it will have to be the real Milan, with the heart of Ibra.
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