Milan succumbed to their own defensive flaws and lack of organisation yet again on Sunday, as Mauro Icardi destroyed them with a hat-trick. Captain Leonardo Bonucci continued to struggle and, collectively, it was a repeat of those same costly errors in the back over the past month that did them in over the weekend.
It’s obvious in the results and eye-test that Vincenzo Montella’s tactical switch to a 3-5-2 in order to suit Bonucci – which he denied after the loss - just isn’t working, like many expected it would.
Alarming as it may be to witness the once-astute Italian defender, like so many others in the squad, glaringly struggle for form, perhaps the biggest concern lies in the reality there is a distinct lack of an identity with this side midway through October.
One of the main reasons behind Massimiliano Mirabelli and Marco Fassone’s swift market dealings last summer was to hand Montella ample time to experiment, tinker, and ultimately craft himself a brand of football that can help accomplish the desired goal in the form of a top-four finish.
Along with Bonucci and Mateo Musacchio, bolstering with two strong wing-backs and two strikers led us to believe that Montella had the utmost confidence in the 3-5-2. Initially, this shape appeared to make the most sense. But, by not purchasing an impact winger as the final piece, Montella is now unable to revert out of the current formation and into a three-man attack, which is the adjustment most feel could help solve their issues at the moment.
As Montella pointed out after the defeat: “We can’t play with a 4-3-3, because we play every three days and only have Suso and Jack Bonaventura on the wings, so they can’t play all the time.”
Early on, a lighter schedule worked in Montella’s favour, in that he could make alterations to his XI, even if the product didn’t convince in the end. The Europa League and softer Serie A fixtures needed to be approached with intentions of winning, but more importantly, seizing the opportunity to solidify a winning DNA, as it would be paramount in the biggest matches of the year.
Through eight rounds, the red and black are suffering mightily, wandering about trying to establish a winning personality. While the former Fiorentina Coach does not have the depth out wide to switch things up, he can’t possibly keep going to the well with the same ideas - week in and week out - and expect different outcomes.
Solutions to the problems must come from experimentation. Otherwise, Montella and Milan will continue to feel the pressure with every imperfection.