AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli is at risk of being sacked if the Rossoneri fail to qualify for the Champions League. What once seemed like a sure thing is now an uphill battle. The team can certainly do it, especially if healthy, but are competing with other top squads such as Juventus, Atalanta, and Napoli.
Stefano Pioli Risks Getting Sacked
Milan Managerial Options Opening Up
According to Calcio Mercato, Pioli will have to qualify for the Champions League to keep his spot as manager. Last season, he kept the job due to Milan’s unbeaten streak to end the season. Things look a tad bleaker this time around.
The reports mention that Massimiliano Allegri and Ivan Juric are potential options for the Rossoneri.
Allegri is, without a doubt, the best option. He was at the helm the last time Milan qualified for Champions League in 2013. Although he was sacked from the club, hindsight shows that that was a detrimental mistake and Milan’s issues ran far deeper than the manager role. Allegri went on to dominate Italy with Juventus, and even take them to a Champions League final. He isn’t managing any team currently, and surely many top squads will chase his signature.
Juric is an interesting option, but one with little appeal. He’s currently the manager of Hellas Verona, who sit tenth in Serie A. They’re enjoying a solid season for their standards, but Milan need a manager of top quality and experience. Before Verona, Juric was part of a revolving door of managers at Genoa for a few seasons. He’s too risky of an option for a team that cannot afford to continue missing out on the Champions League.
The Successes and Failures of Stefano Pioli
The highs of Pioli’s current stint are very high, but the lows are also very low. Milan looked like one of the top squads in all of Europe during the first half of the season but collapsed in the second. Injuries did play a large role in this, which Pioli cannot be faulted for, but his decisions during that time remained questionable.
Pioli’s preferred formation is the 4-2-3-1, which works splendidly when Milan is healthy. When their options are slim, Pioli fails to use a formation that better complements the available players. For example, Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads the line in a 4-2-3-1, but Rafael Leão is not effective as a striker in that formation. With the Swede out, Pioli rarely adjusted his formation to suit Leão.
Ismael Bennacer, a staple in the midfield double pivot, also missed a lot of time. Pioli often used Soualiho Meïté over Sandro Tonali, which didn’t fit well with Franck Kessie. Tonali’s energy and creativity should have been utilised more.
Lastly, Pioli’s substitute decisions are not often ideal. A clear example is his preference of Samu Castillejo when the team needs an injection of attack. Castillejo is largely ineffective and is more of a net-negative on the pitch. An option such as Jens Petter Hauge should always be preferred, as he has a decent record of high energy and goal-scoring.
A lack of star-studded quality is not Pioli’s fault, but the failure to use the best available options is.
Remaining Schedule for AC Milan
Milan’s next match is against Benevento. This is the most winnable match of the upcoming stretch. Milan need a victory by a couple of goals to boost morale.
After that is Juventus. Pioli’s managerial decisions will truly be put to the test as The Old Lady will also be competing with everything on the line. Perhaps a draw is the most realistic best option.
Afterwards, Milan play Torino and Cagliari. The two teams have quality but are struggling. There’s no reason for Milan not to walk away with six points.
The last match of the season comes versus Atalanta. This, of course, is a fixture against the best attack in all of Italy. Their defence is also better than Milan’s, allowing two fewer goals. Lastly, they hold a two-point advantage over Milan in the table. Unless they’ve locked up a Champions League spot, this will be a very tough match for Milan.
Pioli has five games left to save the season. He’s a solid manager by all means, but this is the time to show that he’s truly what Milan needs. If not, he’s likely out of a job. That also leaves Milan out of the Champions League and searching for a new manager, a common off-season theme.