In the first true test of the season, Milan were battered by a fine Lazio side 4-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, with white-hot Italian striker Ciro Immobile bagging an impressive 10-minute hat-trick, getting the better of Leonardo Bonucci and ultimately proving the Milanese side’s quest for a top four finish will not come without its share of tribulations.
Now, after having their short-lived two-match win streak snapped by Sampdoria at Marassi last Sunday, Milan are again facing a club from the Capital and a very familiar one to Vincenzo Montella. He represented Roma as first player, then Coach, and encounters his former roommate Eusebio Di Francesco on the other bench.
Tactically speaking, the former Fiorentina boss has recently shown committal to a three-man defence, overloaded with midfielders and two strikers tasked with aiding in the build-up. Yet, despite victories over Udinese and SPAL mixed in between two defeats under this framework, it has still left much to be desired. Aesthetically, the performances haven’t looked easy on the eye.
But what’s concerning most amongst Milan supporters is not only do they lack a fighter’s mentality at the moment, the squad also looks to have an identity crisis - and we witnessed that first-hand in the near-debacle 3-2 victory over Rijeka in the Europa League.
Theoretically, Milan’s €200m spending spree should allow them to play a persuasive style of football, but that just hasn’t been the case, even versus mid-table or provincial sides. Early in the season, when holding a lead, the approach is a complacent one, playing safe into passing lanes and with the possession advantage.
Considering sporting director and CEO Marco Fassone moved swiftly about the summer mercato to provide Montella with the luxury of time to forge an identity, and avoid this very situation, it’s no surprise talk has begun to spread of his potential dismissal.
Over six league matches this season, the Rossoneri have earned 12 points from a possible 18, a sum good for sixth place in the table. This is no ordinary campaign, though. The heavy investments have to be rewarded by a Champions League place and there’s no time to lose. Realistically, if Milan emerge with zero points from their next two games against Roma and Inter, there might be no turning back for this Coach.
The results alone, however, aren’t the only fuel for speculating on Montella’s time at the club. His questionable tactics, complacency when ahead and lax approach to killing off games have placed him in this difficult position as well.
If Montella does not iron out these issues and confront the problems head on, it could mean a repeat Roman wake-up call on Sunday, and maybe even close the curtains on his Milan stint.