Thursday August 24 2017
New Milan still taking shape

A bolstered and newly reconfigured Rossoneri are still developing under Vincenzo Montella, writes Matthew Santangelo.

Caught up in the hype surrounding Milan’s massive summer spending spree which has seen nearly a dozen fresh faces enter the fray, there was one question to be asked of Coach Vincenzo Montella with his expensive new squad: Could he manage it to expectations?

In early June, CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli confronted the difficult task of not only acquiring the proper personnel to contend for a Champions League spot, but do it quick enough so that Montella was given an ample amount of time to cohesively shape his starting XI for the upcoming season.

Throughout the pre-season, the former Fiorentina boss had structured his formations to build chemistry and ensure a fluent, attractive ‘calcio’ would yield positive results from the jump, and so far, it has.

After comfortably working their way past Craiova in the first wave of Europa League qualifying, and trouncing Macedonian club KF Shkendija 6-0 last week, a Group Stage berth is merely a formality.

Along with handling their opponents on the European front, Montella’s Rossoneri approached last weekend’s 2017-18 Serie A season opener on the road versus Crotone with conviction, playing ruthless attacking football to kill off the tie in the opening 30 minutes with a 3-0 lead.

Teenager Patrick Cutrone, who has turned heads with one impressive performance after another, shone in his first Serie A start, scoring a goal and assisting another. His movement in the build-up and tenacity in the final third exhibits a certain grade of confidence not commonly found in most his age, which is why Montella will refrain from sending him on loan.

Franck Kessie’s second half struggles last year post-Africa Cup of Nations without Roberto Gagliardini, nor the step up to a big stage in Milan, have affected the Ivorian in the slightest, as he already looks to be in mid-season form in late August. Hakan Calhanoglu has performed with poise as the Number 10, swinging in crosses with sharpness and making the transition over from Germany to Italy look rather simple.

Mateo Musacchio’s technical ability and swift manoeuvring in the back could not be understated in the absence of Alessio Romagnoli, and it’s likely due in part to the presence of big signing Leonardo Bonucci. As the new captain, the 30-year-old has slid right in as Milan’s fearless leader, rallying his men with pre-match speeches and barking out orders on the pitch. We can praise his astuteness and unrivalled ball-playing ability from the back all day long, but there is something about having an authority figure like Bonucci to take charge and assist Montella with an entirely new unit. It resonates in changing room and with the entire fan-base around the world.

With the second leg against Shkendija, Montella will test out a 3-5-2 system, which has been on the cards ever since Bonucci put pen to paper. It remains to be seen whether this will replace the 4-3-3 used so far or represent a valid alternative, but it certainly suits the former Atalanta players Kessie and Andrea Conti too. It might seem a little late in the day to be experimenting a whole new tactical structure, but with an entire XI of new signings, Montella is arguably ahead of schedule.

Players are still settling in, on the pitch and off, but initial rendering of the revamped Milan is quite encouraging. Steady progress is being made, and though we sit in phase one of the current campaign, it’s clear Montella’s already left a footprint on the Peninsula with his new-look red and black. 

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Have your say...
@Maldini's Heir... you're an idiot for making this comment: "and where Cutrone fits in I have no idea"
on the 29th August, 2017 at 1:56am
We have missed a good Milan.. and finally they are back! Today's game tells us alot about new Milan and I strongly believe will rock Serie A this season.
on the 27th August, 2017 at 9:04pm
Yes and Calhanoglu is already proving his worth/purpose to the team as Jack has already suffered an injury. Hakan is a quality cover and I think the minute he scores a freekick we'll all be smiling. Though, the two will be competing for the same spot which is what worries me. Bona deserves his spot in the XL (provided he keeps up form) but we signed Hakan for a decent fee so he'll be itching to prove himself and the pressure will be on Montella to play him.
on the 26th August, 2017 at 5:35am
It's just the start of season. Wait for few months till you see lots of injured players and then you will be happy with the squad and wish we had signed more. Not sure what is wrong with Milan that always has relatively so many injured players by the end of season. Hakan right now has the same level as Jack. I don't think Jack can improve furthermore, but Hakan definitely has the potential.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 8:48pm
Montella may not be world class but he's worked wonders for Suso, Locatelli, Cutrone and has continued where Miha left off with Donna, Romagnoli and Bonaventura. He's clearly improved our young individuals, and I assume he'll be great for the development of Kessie, Conti, and Silva as well.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 5:52pm
Keita Balde is a future African POTY winner. He's incredible, he's young, and available for cheap (30m compared to Dembele 140m). His value will only rise.
His attitude isn't perfect but welcome to modern football, where the majority players are millionaire teenagers who get whatever they want. Donnarumma isn't much different, nor was Conti, Kalinic, or Biglia who all forced moves.
Keita adds quality to the team, not confusion. Hakan was the confusing signing in my books because we have Jack.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 5:45pm
The Milan squad overhaul was necessary and was going to happen with or without Montella. First and foremost it was ownership's decision to overhaul the squad, and placing Montella solely responsible is ridiculous. The majority of the new signings are vast upgrades... Even Sarri would not be able to bring Poli, Paletta, Abate, Zapata, Niang, Mauri, Sosa, Kucka, Honda to a level required to perform in the CL. Milan has won five games without conceding to start the season n you still hate Montella
on the 25th August, 2017 at 5:34pm
Part of being a world class manager and getting the most out of players involves playing a formation that suits the players you have rather than the players you wish you had. We don't have the squad for 4-3-3 mainly because 3 of our best players are CBs and we need to accommodate the likes of Jack, Hakan and Suso who'll need to play behind a single striker in Silva (and where Cutrone fits in I have no idea). Keita would add another layer of confusion to an already quite confused squad.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 3:05pm
class manager makes players perform at a higher level. That's why truly world class managers don't demand whole new squads. Even a top manager like Guardiola has struggled with Man City because he's tried to buy instead of coach his way to success. With the squad at Montella's disposal he should be able to challenge for the title. If he's not because the team takes too long to gel then he shouldn't have demanded all those new players.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 3:00pm
@ PrimoCalcio Well we could've had a team playing together for 2 years now if we hadn't changed our whole squad around. Squad unity is one thing but I also believe it all comes down to the manager. Man Utd went from 1st to 7th after Ferguson retired with pretty much the same squad, Chelsea went from 1st to 10th to 1st again with basically the same squad and different managers between 14/15-16/17. When Sarri took over at Napoli they jumped from 5th to 2nd with pretty much the same squad. A world
on the 25th August, 2017 at 2:56pm
So, my BIG question is, WTF do we do with Keita if we get him
on the 25th August, 2017 at 9:33am
@Maldini Heir Also I believe its contradictory to your own beliefs to hold Montella to such a high standard. You know Juve and Napoli have squads who have been together for years, and it's no surprise one of the two will win the Scudetto. So why does Montella need to win Serie A with a new team in order to be good enough? Our squad is not superior to Juve's, so expecting a manager to win using an inferior squad with less chemistry and experience seems odd. IMO if Montella gets top 4, I'm satisfi
on the 25th August, 2017 at 2:01am
... in our squad after spending 200+ mil. We won't keep with Juve, Napoli, Roma, Inter if we have a glaring weakness in our starting XL, and we need to or Milan's future will be cast into doubt.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 1:25am
@Maldini's Heir I'm familiar with your position on building chemistry within the group of players we already have, and I agree, but this summer is the THE revolution, whether we like it or not. The management needs UCL funds now or Milan could go end up. Niang is leaving, we lack a legit LW and a player with pace. Keita > Niang seems obvious if doable. For example, our starting LW will be Borini or out of position Jack/Hakan. What if there is an injury? IMO we can't have a gaping hole...
on the 25th August, 2017 at 1:22am
@ PrimoCalcio I think you're right in that Montella will switch formations but personally I don't think it'll work. Games are decided on the tiniest of margins and a one second delay from a defender because last week he was in a back 3 or 4 could cost us a game. As much as I loath loans (because they rarely work out) I think Calabria could probably go on loan this season to a club like Atalanta or Sampdoria. Abate and Antonelli are good because they're experienced.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 4:07pm
@ dami and PrimoCalcio No more signings! I wish the window would shut already so we can end this bi-annual farce! There's been 680 new arrivals in Serie A alone this summer and 90% of those transfers won't work out. Keita has shown very questionable attitude and we could do without another interruption. We have 25 players, we don't need anyone else. Montella has to win the league with these players or else he's not good enough.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 4:03pm
What should Montella do about the Calabria situation? IMO he should above Abate, but I understand why he isn't. Abate is a senior member of the Milan squad and is important is the dressing room. I know we are going to be playing 50+ games this season so Calabria would get some game time, especially in the case of injury to Conti or Abate, but it might be best if he went on loan this season.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 2:40pm
Dream line up: 433
Conti, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez
Kessie, Biglia, Jack
Suso, Silva, KEITA*
OR 343
Musacchio, Bonucci, Romagnoli
Conti, Kessie, Biglia, Rodriquez
Suso, Silva, KEITA*

Regular rotation players: Cahanoglu, Kalinic, Cutrone, Locatelli, Borini, Antonelli

on the 24th August, 2017 at 2:34pm
The squad still needs a LW if we're to play a 443 or 343. Keita Balde. Keita, Keita, Keita. Push for him please, he is THE player we need. Kessie also needs cover (Kucka should have stayed).
I think Montella will alternate formations between 433 and 343 depending on injuries/availability. For example, if Kessie is out, we can not play 343, it leaves us to exposed in the middle. Or if Bonucci is out, we may use a 4 man backline instead of 3.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 2:25pm
It is virtually a new team i could see bonnaventura romagnoli and suso being amongst the starters but other than that there are no real reference points in the outfield from last season. I would have put money on a 352 formation after bonucci signing but it seems as if the management are simply trying to give montella options and tactical setups to choose between. I am curious to see if the like of locatelli cutrone and calabria can fit into this lineup at some point milan still needs it youth.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 2:05pm

on the 24th August, 2017 at 2:04pm
Also, the Kalinic deal is extremely underrated. He offers a Serie A experienced option which we no longer had after letting Bacca leave, he can also be a target man and involve himself in build up and at 20-25 mil it was a no brainer. If we had spent 100 on Belotti we may have not been able to get Bonucci, Biglia or Conti so it has given us a much more completed squad which is a much better option. With UCL next season we can drop big money on a ST and have the rest of the squad complete.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 1:00pm
@Maldini's Heir Finally a positive post from you, told you to just have patience, I agree about the squad size as it is really taking shape.

With Kalinic signed I feel we just now need 1 more signing in the LW/LF position so Borini is not a starter and Jack/Calha don't have to be constantly moved from the centre where they are most effective. Keita is the dream but Rafinha would do. We can now deploy 3421/343 and 433 with this side once Romag returns fully. Very excited for our season
on the 24th August, 2017 at 12:55pm
@ adamito He's more similar to Biglia. We don't have natural cover for Kessie. If we sign Rafinha then we may have 2 for 2 but I think Locatelli covering both would ensure they're all sharp.

@ Jad Gabriel is another victim of years of mismanaged. He's been loaned out so many times that his career went off the rails. I can't see a future for him at Milan now. Probably best to stick to the experience on the bench and hope Donna doesn't get injured. If he gets injured we could have a big problem.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 12:41pm
Why is Gabriel discarded like that? He's better than both Storari and Donna Sr. Also I agree with the 3-4-3 and limited rotation. Paletta, Sosa and Niang should leave while Calabria and Curtone on a loan.
Gk: 1.Donna Jr, 2. Gabrial, 3. Donna Sr
RWB: 1. Conti, 2. Abate
LWB: 1. Ricardo, 2. Antonelli
CB: 1. Bonnuci - Musachio, Romagnoli, 2. Zapata - Gomes
CM: 1. Kessie - Biglia, 2. Locatelli, 3. Montolivo - Mauri
AM: 1. Suso - Hakan, 2. Jack - (Andre), 3. Borini
St: 1. Kalinic, 2. Andre
23 Players
on the 24th August, 2017 at 11:09am
who would you say locatelli more closely resembles in his style of play: biglia or kessie?
on the 24th August, 2017 at 8:48am
plus games. Borini can offer something a little different as a fourth option. Upfront Silva has to be our starting striker with Kalinic rotating to give him a rest (occasionally). Cutrone can offer cover across the front 3 positions and will hopefully get sufficient games to grow. For me, barring injuries, that side could challenge for the title. If Montella tries to rotate then I can see us struggling to qualify for the CL. It's make or break for Montella now. I wish him well.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 7:56am
Zapata can offer cover across all 3 positions and we should keep Gomez and Paletta for cover (hopefully neither will play more than 5 games). For the two midfield positions I'd rotate Biglia, Kessie and Locatelli so that they all play 30+ games. Monty and Mauri can provide cover for injuries. At WB we can afford to rotate Abate and Conti/Rodrgiuez and Antonelli and Calabria probably needs to be loaned. In the holes Jack/Hakan/Suso could rotate for 2 positions which will mean all 3 getting 30
on the 24th August, 2017 at 7:53am
The squad is most certainly taking shaping. I've criticised the amount of changes we've made but we're at least arriving at a figure of about 25 players which is a manageable number. For Milan to win anything this year Montella will need to find a system and a starting 11 and stick to it. The squad suits 3-4-3. We have to play all 3 of Musacchio-Bonucci-Romagnoli rather than rotating them. These 3 should start over 40 games.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 7:48am

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