The change of tactics has well and truly paid off, because this was the Rossoneri’s fourth consecutive victory in all competition, each of them keeping a clean sheet, which this club had not managed since 2018.
Theo Hernandez saw his stunning volley from over 20 metres out thump the upright and ricochet in off the back of Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso to break the deadlock.
Rafael Leao, Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias wasted chances before the Brazilian’s delicate dinked finish on a Leao assist.
“We had won the other three games 1-0, but can’t always hope to keep a clean sheet, so we should’ve finished it earlier,” Pioli told DAZN.
“It was a great performance and finally we played with the energy I recognise from my players. That is the most important aspect. We needed to have a sense of consistency, as we had never won four in a row this season, and we know the difficulties of facing a side like Atalanta.
“We worked as a team, played with intensity, sacrificed ourselves and kept the ball well too. I saw only positives today, but it’s a long season still and we need more points to secure a top four spot.”
It is a total transformation from the side that looked drained in January, crashing out of the Coppa Italia, losing the Supercoppa Italiana to Inter and crumbling in Serie A.
“Unfortunately, nothing happened, in that we had no doubts or problems on the unity of the side. Otherwise it would’ve been easy to have a meeting and talk it out. The fact is, some defeats sapped us of confidence and enthusiasm, but now we have regained all those elements. Positive results help everything go better, it’s that simple.
“We will never be unbeatable, but we are back to playing with our characteristics and our attitude, so with a better chance of winning games.”
It was put to Pioli that there has also been an improvement in the fitness levels of his players, but he insisted that was not true.
“The statistics have remained the same and so has our approach, the players recognise and appreciate our methods. I will always believe the mind commands the legs and our heads were heavy, something we were not accustomed to in recent years, when we had few negative periods.
“We raised the expectations around ourselves and perhaps we paid for that when things started to go wrong.”
It is no coincidence also that the two goals were scored by in theory the two wing-backs, who both cut inside to take their shots.
“We knew that if we could drag the opposition wing-back in, we could create some spaces. Theo also really loves that movement and shot, so it worked well.”
To make matters even better for Milan, today saw the return of Mike Maignan after five months of a calf injury nightmare and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first appearance since undergoing knee surgery in May 2022.
“Mike and Zlatan are not just great players, but also leaders with so much experience, so naturally having them here with us makes a big difference. We must remember that the performance depends on us and if we put in the right performance, we rarely get the result wrong.”
However, Rafael Leao and Rade Krunic will be suspended for the next Serie A match against Fiorentina after picking up yellow cards this evening.