The reality of AC Milan is, while loads of money has been spent in strengthening the squad, the players were going to need time to get acclimated to one another (writes Frank Crivello).
Turns out that their manager, Vincenzo Montella, is also getting acclimated with his rebuilt team.
What’s good is the switch to the 3-5-2/3-4-2-1. The Rossoneri have shown more connection between the lines than what they had in their 4-3-3 setup., which was very evident in their wins over Austria Wien, Udinese and SPAL.
With the weekend’s trip to Sampdoria prefacing a journey to Rijeka in Europa League and a test at home to Roma, you would think the strongest squad possible would have lined up for the fixture at the Stadio Luigi Ferrari — rotate the squad for Rijeka, then go as strong as possible for the game against a direct rival.
Montella, in the Sampdoria game, trotted out a 3-4-2-1 that is just not their strongest team, and lost 2-0. His side put in a listless effort, which might be an insult to the word ‘listless’. Not a shot on goal, nor a meaningful attack in the front third. You would have thought Pippo Inzaghi was managing Milan again given the performance. The 3-5-2 is clearly how Milan will move forward – again sometimes a 3-4-2-1 – but Montella clearly needs help understanding the team he has been given. It’s not as if he’ll read this, but The Calcio Consultant is here to offer some advice.
- Christian Zapata is not good enough. He’s a rotational player at best, and should be used against the likes of Rijeka, not Sampdoria. His pitiful excuse of a clearance led to the first goal, and his usual off-positioning was a culprit for Ricky Alvarez’s goal in stoppage time. Zapata might be pacier than your normal center back, but he takes way too many risks and switches off on set pieces (see the goal conceded to Austria Wien). Solution: Mateo Musacchio. The Chinese owners didn’t stump up €18 million for him to sit out a game like this for Zapata to play. Musacchio should have been in this game and the Roma game at the weekend; let Zapata sort out his issues against Rijeka.
- Giacomo Bonaventura is not ready to start. This will really inconvenience many Milan fans: Jack is a cult hero at Milan, and has made over 100 appearances for the Rossoneri. However, he has shown in his first several games back that he is a bit off the pace. For the next several weeks, he can be a useful substitute, as he’s a player that does a multitude of things well. Solution: €40 million was spent on Andre Silva. Don’t give me this excuse about him needing to get used to Serie A. His hold up play would have been very helpful (and necessary) against a well-drilled Samp team. Partner him with Nikola Kalinic up front. If Montella still wants to be in a 3-4-2-1, then Hakan Calhanoglu should play from the start, not Bonaventura. Though, for the purposes of playing at Sampdoria, I would prefer the two aforementioned strikers in tandem.
- It’s okay to try some different things on the right. Losing Andrea Conti to an ACL injury stinks. The expectation, by default, is that Ignazio Abate will start, with Davide Calabria rotating in, but Abate was putrid on Sunday. Not once did he run at a defender, take the ball to the end line, and cross it in. He settled for passing off to Suso in hopes that the Spaniard would do something special. Let’s take some chances on this right side. Solution: This one is tough. Do we need a right wing back? How about a midfielder that can hold on that flank so Suso has more room to operate higher up, which in turn might make Suso more effective in this system? The Abate/ Calabria rotation will be the norm, but more ruthlessness (and invention) is needed if either are going to want to be part of the attack.
- Patrick Cutrone struggles against anyone with a pulse. He looked great against Craiova, Shkendija, and 10-man Crotone. He also popped up for a goal against Cagliari. However, at Lazio he was invisible, and in the cameo at Samp he never got going. Solution: Clearly Kalinic and Andre Silva should be a rotation in a 3-4-2-1, with Cutrone getting the occasional substitution appearance. In a 3-5-2, Kalinic and Andrea Silva play from the start, and with a lead one of them would be sacrificed for a midfielder at some point.
- Suso, brilliant in a 4-3-3, hasn’t quite figured it out in a 3-5-2. And they better figure this out, because Milan just extended the Spaniard’s contract through 2022. In a 4-3-3, Suso had a lot of freedom high on the right, could take defenders on, and create chances for himself and his In the 3-5-2, the right side gets a little crowded for him, with the wing back coming forward. Solution: I like my thought earlier with the right wing back being more in a holding role, picking his spots to go forward so Suso can have that freedom again. Can he play in behind two strikers? That’s another possibility. The clear issue though is that in this formation, Montella has to find a way to get Suso more space.
These are just a few ideas – tweaks, even – to get Montella’s Milan to be more effective, even in difficult away matches. With Roma, the Milan Derby and Juventus all on the calendar in October, something needs to get figured out to show that Milan are a contender.
One more thing — #MontellaOut trended among Milan fans on Twitter after the game. I’m not in this camp. Simple reason for this too: who do you think Milan would get mid-season? I also am a little more forgiving towards managers than most fans tend to be. I’m not ready to call for Montella’s head, and for that matter the Milan brass aren’t either. However, this needs to get cleaned up, or the Rossoneri will be looking for a new manager next season.
A few blurbs from the weekend:
- Memo to Serie A: VAR IS NOT WORKING. Latest evidence? Sunday night’s Fiorentina v Atalanta match. Gil Dias is through on goal and challenged by Atalanta goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, who clearly grabs Dias’s ankle and brings him down. No penalty given, not even a bother to go to VAR to review. Match ended 1-1. VAR is just too inconsistent from one officiating crew to the next. Either get everyone on the same page with this, or don’t use VAR at all. No shame in scrapping something during the season if it’s bringing more controversy than not.
- Just as he was coming back and getting his legs under him, Arkadiusz Milik of Napoli tears his other ACL. Such a bad break for such a promising young player. Napoli will be fine, of course; they’ve done well without him before, but you can’t be anything but gutted for Milik.
- Torino have made great strides in the early weeks of this season. Unfortunately, the Derby Della Mole battering they took at the hands of Juventus shows just how far they have to go. Daniele Baselli didn’t particularly help matters, getting sent off for his attempt at being a Kung Fu hero.
- To follow up on a blurb from last week — Sassuolo, I’m still waiting. Get on with it already.
- Cagliari conceded 76 goals last season, and yet, after 6 match weeks, three teams are on course to do worse this time round — Udinese (13 GA, on pace to concede 82), Verona (14 GA, on pace to concede 89), and Benevento (16 GA, on pace to concede 102). I think I need to start listening to those that claim Serie A should go down to 18 teams now; the three teams I mentioned are currently 17th, 19th and 20th
TEAM OF THE WEEK (4-3-3)
Stefano Sorrentino (Chievo); Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter), Federico Ceccherini (Crotone), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli); Rolando Mandragora (Crotone), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Miralem Pjanic (Juventus); Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Ciro Immobile (Lazio)