Nov 282017
 

Regression is one word thrown around – in recent days – to describe the 2017-2018 Milan. Indeed the 200 million plus spent in the summer hasn’t improved the team. It is normal to blame the coach and in Montella’s case he did seem devoid of ideas and tactical know how. His number one fatal flaw is and will be best remembered as the coach unable to settle on a starting 11 or not using what seemed his best players all the time.

No one can be sure from the outside looking in but there legitimate questions to be asked. Why didn’t Andre Silva and Cutrone start more games, just to ask one. It is also normal to ask why the starting 11 changed so much and at the very least Montella didn’t find a working formation if not a constant starting one.

photo courtesy acmilan.com

The choices made in the transfer market, presumably in consultation with Montella, can be seen, with hindsight, as one source of the problem. Sending Carlos Bacca out, not even for money but only on loan, for Kalinic seems at best to be a sideways move. More generally why not build a team that keeps Suso’s, the star of the 2016-2107 team, spot on the team secure. Paying big money for Andre Silva, Calhanoglu, and Kalinic with the view of letting them be starters (surely when the three cost almost 90 million) limits the formations where Suso also fits. A lot had also been seen and said about Milan’s poor midfield. Was enough done to provide a good and steady stream of supply for the ever changing forwards. Conti’s long term injury has hurt the team but even in the era of offensive and crossing-mad full backs any offence shouldn’t be built on a full back or two (Rodriguez being the other of course).

The deed is done however and it is now almost December and in a move that sounds too much like the Berlusconi/Galliani modus operandi a former player has been given the reins. He of the primavera team after poor to average and sometimes turbulent spells at Palermo, Sion, Pisa and OFI Crete. Can Rino Gattuso, with little experience or success as a coach, relaunch the season? Expectation are low, but not based on his playing time or character. The optimist might say that Gattuso’s no nonsense ways might rub off on the players. Is that enough? That is doubtful without strong tactical ideas to go along with it. In his unveiling press conference he has indicated that he will play a three man defense and four man midfield but that the offence will be worked out, he doesn’t have much time to decide and will need to be flexible yet with ideas.

Milan meet Benevento next. Benevento have exactly zero wins and ties in 14 Serie A games. Gattuso’s time can not start with giving the Campania based team a point.

Nov 262017
 

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

The Europa League win, beating Austria Wien 5-1 for the second time this season, provided a lift but a cautious one. Are Austria Wien too weak or Milan too strong. The evidence on the pitch was not all that conclusive. Borini put on a strong, hard working performance, all from a wing back position. Cutrone and Silva each with two goals and Rodriguez with one came out of the game with enhanced standings but the rest weren’t outstanding. Bonucci’s almost comical attempt to prevent Wien’s goal put yet more spotlight on his recent struggles just to name one player. Biglia didn’t have a good game, neither did Calhanoglu.

All that may matter little because this week 14 game vs Torino will feature a changed line up, yet again. Montella seems intent on leaving Silva and Cutrone on the bench again. The coach indicated that this is ‘necessary’ win game but his rotation, if one can call it that, doesn’t bode well with Kalinic having provided little when starting. Montolivo may get a start  – in Biglia’s place – Suso and Bonaventura too. Kessie keeps his place despite being less than good midweek. The back three looks to feature Zapata with Bonucci and Romagnoli with Musacchio a victim of the coaches changes.

Mihajlovic’s team may be slowly gaining form and come to the San Siro with no losses in their last three games.

Nov 192017
 

by Stelios Karakasis

Welcome to another episode of ‘’In the Realms of the Unreal’’ with Vincenzo Montella. This time around we will be focusing on the positives of the defeat in San Paolo. A defeat that came as no surprise to anyone slightly following Italian football, a defeat in the hands of a much, much, much better team.

Losing to this Napoli side away by a one goal margin is not a disgrace, nor an illogical outcome. They are the undefeated leaders of Serie A, a team appreciated throughout Europe for their attractive strain of football, with a lethal front three of Insigne, Callejon and Mertens and Marek Hamsik behind them. So, one has to ask, what was Montella thinking on that Saturday night, playing a defensive line of three so high up the pitch? If that wasn’t his planning, it only makes it worse for him, and so does insisting on playing Fabio Borini as a right wing-back. It is clear by now that Borini lacks the requirements to play the specific role. Up front he tries to make things happen, he’s dedicated and hard-working but defensively he’s the equivalent of the Bay of Pigs, an experiment destined to fail. Yesterday, he was slaughtered by Lorenzo Insigne.

But that’s not Borini’s fault and in general it was another bad performance. Simply put, the notion that Milan should be pleased with the fact that they merely lost and didn’t get blown out of the San Paolo pitch, must surely trouble the whole organization. By the way, here’s what Milan have achieved so far in this season when faced with the teams that are placed above them on the table:

Lazio – Milan 4-1, Sampdoria – Milan 2-0, Milan – Roma 0-2, Inter – Milan 3-2, Milan – Juventus 0-2, Napoli – Milan 2-1. Lost all six games, scored four times, allowed fifteen goals, with a really good keeper protecting their goal.

Montella said after the game that patience is needed to reach even Inter’s level. That’s not a convincing defence, considering the nerazzurri finished below his team last season and Milan spent over two hundred million for players in the summer. It’s almost December, experimenting at will simply can’t pass as rotation, and if you are willing to get puzzled on this fine Sunday afternoon, revisit his substitutions in San Paolo.

Montella stated that there is visible improvement in the way the squad plays, they way it reacts, the way it fights. Well, either he’s really bad at reading what happens on the pitch, or he is not aware that the games are being broadcasted on television. He also feels optimistic. Says the worst part is over. Now, is it? We are about to find out. Come Christmas, Milan would have played against Torino, Benevento, Bologna, Hellas Verona and Atalanta, five games that are not unmanageable to win. Fail to gather at least twelve points from these fixtures and even qualification for European football next year might seem like a struggle. Not quite what was expected at the start of the season. Montella is in a difficult situation and, while not the only culprit, he has to take the blame for what his team is presenting on the pitch. Actions and words regarded, the man has taken off his jacket and painted himself a glowing target on the back.

There is a single moment in the match against Napoli, that pretty much sums up the sorry state of affairs Milan are in: It’s stoppage time and Alessio Romagnoli’s wonder strike has put the rossoneri on the scoreboard. 2-1. Moments later, and luckily enough, they win a free-kick not far from Pepe Reina’s goal. With the very last kick of the game, they have a chance to salvage two points, to unexpectedly avoid defeat with a spirited comeback out of nowhere. Even Gigi Donnarumma comes up. You need faith and decisiveness and a decent delivery in the box, so you can turn this thing over. It’s what mentally strong teams do. Is there hope? Well, evidently, not. Lucas Biglia kick is as bad and hopeless as it gets; it floats high and wide, it’s amateurish and bewildering and disheartening and all these bad, bad things and symbolic enough and it is game over, Napoli have won.

Lorenzo Insigne was right after the game, Napoli played with heart and grit. A stock phrase after a derby win, but totally true on this particular Saturday night. Milan, on the other hand, are still collectively searching for both of those much-needed traits among many other things, while Montella looks unable to motivate the players to even get off the team bus. Will things change for the better? Probably yes but it’s too early to say. Good sides are built according to plan, not bought in a single transfer window. It takes time, even if you are able to buy all the expensive materials at once. Does the future look bright? Again, it’s early to say. Just don’t bring your sunglasses with yet.

Nov 182017
 

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

The international took the focus off of Milan somewhat. The Azzurri’s failure to qualify for World Cup 2018 remains the big story around Italy and much of the world too.  That is not to say the international break has been ‘Milan free’. There have been more stories casting doubts on the Chinese ownership situation with Li Yonghong being mentioned and investigated as far as the New York Times.

Montella’s tactics and failure have also been on the lips of many fans. With the table topping Napoli the next game there is little optimism that the season can be put back on track this weekend.

News of the formation is likely to disappoint again. Indications are that Montella experimented with a few different line ups but that Suso will start behind Kalinic. This didn’t work earlier in the season and it is questionable that it will now. The midfield is missing Biglia, who is not fully recovered but available on the bench, but welcomes back Bonaventura. The aforementioned is likely to line up with Montolivo, Kessie, Borini and either one of Rodriguez or Locatelli in a crowded midfield hoping to stop the dynamic 4-3-3 of Maurizio Sarri’s team.

The back three should be the familiar Bonucci, Romagnoli and Musacchio but it is also possible that Zapata will start in place of the Argentinian, again.

Napoli have a big absentee in Faouzi Ghoulam but of course represent a very tough test hosting Milan.

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