Paolo Maldini believes expectations have become too high around Milan after their surprise Scudetto, insisting ‘it is not a total disaster and our current position is within this team’s parameters,’ while Nicolò Zaniolo must fit in with their transfer strategy.
The Rossoneri are evidently in crisis, as over the last couple of weeks they have scraped just two points from three Serie A games, crashed out of the Coppa Italia to 10-man Torino and lost the Supercoppa Italiana 3-0 to Inter.
In 2022, a last-gasp win away to Lazio was the moment Milan knew they were going for the Scudetto, so what does tonight’s 4-0 defeat say?
“Last season we knew that we were fighting for the Scudetto a long time before the win here, not quite from the very start, but only a few games in,” director Maldini told DAZN.
“Clearly, this is a different moment. We were eliminated from the Coppa Italia, lost the Supercoppa badly to Inter, so two objectives have gone already. We conceded 11 goals in the last three games, so clearly it is a delicate moment.
“It might seem banal to say that we won with our spirit last season, but that is what we need to rediscover without pressure.
“We also have to remember this is not a total disaster, because with all due respect for this delicate moment, we are alone in second place. Last season we were in the Champions League for the first time in seven years and won the Scudetto after a decade, so our current position is within this team’s parameters.”
Stefano Pioli said the team had to go back to Milanello and work hard in training, though Maldini recognises from his playing days that mentality makes a big difference.
“We never lacked for hard work, that was not an issue. At times, and it happened to my Milan too, you can lose your confidence, your shape and certainties. But we know how to get back there.
“With regards to comparisons with the past, we are not the Milan of the 90s that signed fully-formed champions. We had the necessity – the necessity – to build a strategy that allowed us to balance the books and be protagonists. We certainly will not shift from that position.”
It all seemed to go wrong for Milan in the 2-2 draw with Roma, where they were 2-0 up and comfortable at San Siro before conceding two last-gasp goals.
“Those are two points dropped in a game that we had truly dominated, as Roma were never dangerous. That’s where it all started, as we had done very well in Salerno. You accept it, as Roma are above all dangerous in those situations, it all helps you gain experience,” confirmed Maldini.
“Now we have a lot of players coming back from injury, we kept almost everyone from last season. We know full well that we are not at the level of the biggest clubs in Europe, but compared to last season, we did qualify for the Champions League knockouts and that is another important step forward.”
Maldini seems to believe that expectations have been raised too high after Milan won a Scudetto that was largely a surprise in 2022, especially with fans pushing for bigger signings.
“Franck Kessie left because he had demands we could not match, that happened with a few players. As I said, we must try to create players, because we cannot simply buy them fully-formed.”
The defence is struggling perhaps more than any other area of the team, especially as they were so solid on the path towards the title.
“If the first press doesn’t work, the opposition becomes dangerous. I think we struggle to move together as a unit, and this is a team sport, you need to have the areas covered, not feel alone with nobody looking behind your shoulders. This is something that we can change, because we did it so well not that long ago.
“Too often, the psychological aspect can affect your confidence and the choices made, which then lead to errors that allow the opponent to score.”
Mike Maignan has been sorely missed in goal too, as Ciprian Tatarusanu repeatedly refused to come off his line against Lazio.
“The most recent tests went well, we hope to have him back in February.”
New signings Divock Origi and Charles De Ketelaere have made practically no impact, while Sergino Dest used today as a make-shift left-back again struggled.
“Origi has a four-year contract, De Ketelaere five, so we cannot judge them on the first five months, especially as Origi arrived injured. It is much easier to settle into a team that is working like clockwork than one that is struggling, and that is the issue for Charles. It is honestly just a matter of time.”
After Milan director Frederic Massara told DAZN earlier this evening that it would be ‘difficult’ to sign Zaniolo from Roma in January, Maldini agreed.
“As for Zaniolo, Ricky Massara said everything. We evaluate possibilities, but we also cannot ignore reality. We will not move from our vision or from our possibilities.”