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Sunday November 19 2017
Unimaginative Milan

Vincenzo Montella’s adjusted midfield shape failed to threaten Napoli’s goal at the San Paolo, explains Matthew Santangelo.

In the build-up to Napoli-Milan, multiple reports out of Italy suggested Coach Vincenzo Montella was leaning towards not only fielding a few different faces, but also running out a different shape. Naturally, opinions were mixed on the many projected changes, but once official line-ups were announced, the Rossoneri’s formation and placement of certain personnel resulted in plenty of head-scratching.

Giacomo Bonaventura returned from his injury spell deployed as a left wing-back. Considering his work rate and comfort out wide, in theory, this made some sense; the squad lacks creative players and he is one of the best they have in that regard.

The problem you have here is this role demands a heavy defensive assignment, and throwing Bonaventura into this position after weeks on the shelf was bound to provide little to nothing in terms of quality chances. Meanwhile, Franck Kessie continued to struggle for form after a strong pre-season and dominant spell early on. He was playing alongside Riccardo Montolivo who, although he turned in a respectable performance, simply cannot be the main source of opportunity for those up front.

Manuel Locatelli was pushed more into a more advanced position in hopes that the recurring void between midfield and the attack could be plugged. While the teenager showed glimpses of settling into an unfamiliar role, this wasn’t the match to test Locatelli further away from goal, and hand him this creative responsibility. Montella didn’t make it easy on himself and his future by experimenting to these extremes in as difficult a tie as any in Italy.

Adding to the problem, Suso, the lone man in the side who possesses the ability to change a match with one touch of the ball, pulled up lame late in the half, resulting in his early exit and Andre Silva’s entrance. To no surprise, the former Porto man’s entry changed the game in the second interval.

Time and time again, we’ve seen it this year. When the service is non-existent from the midfield, the strikers seem isolated and ultimately disappear from the match. This was yet another example of that with Nikola Kalinic. The brunt of his damage will arrive in the box on crosses and aerial battles, though he’s made a meal of the chances he has been supplied with in recent weeks. This is exactly why supporters have been begging to see more of Silva.

Internationally, Silva has shown he holds the quality to strike the back of the net with regularity, enjoying 11 goals in 18 caps for Portugal. Additionally, the 21-year-old’s workhorse mentality, movement and on-the-ball technique loom large in the build-up when ideas are few and far between. For a side so desperately lacking ideas, it only seems logical to start Silva over Kalinic, especially when €35m was spent on his services last summer. But, for some reason, Montella doesn’t seem convinced it’s the solution to their problems to score goals from open play.

For all the tinkering Montella did in a defeat to Napoli, you could argue he failed to make the one move that would have at least won him some support from the fans.

There is no shame in losing to a first-place Napoli at the San Paolo, especially with such contrasting form. Sarri’s attacking three carried out their trademark high-press early and often, and really prevented the Rossoneri backline from finding a rhythm. Criticizing Montella is right and just in this one situation, but you also have to credit the Partenopei who, though they looked a bit worn out in the second half, defended well in open space and kept Pepe Reina relatively undisturbed.

Milan experienced not a single touch in the opposing box in the first 45 minutes, a stat undoubtedly attributed both to Milan’s attacking deficiencies and Napoli’s execution of their game-plan. In the end, it was Napoli who played the better match overall, enjoyed more frequent looks at goal, and ultimately had little to worry about from Milan’s unimaginative midfield.

Have your say...
I'm sorry but i sense a lot of personal sentiments and emotions in this article rather than an objective analytical piece.

I have read better from you Matt
on the 21st November, 2017 at 11:04am
@Maldini's Heir equally i could argue montella achieved top 4 with fiorentina consistently and won a super copa with milan achieving a top 6 spot.

In any case of the ownership of the club is rotten what difference is it really going to make changing managers. Shouldn't shy away from asking the questions it would just prolong a potential detrimental ownership situation.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 9:42am
Bottom line; Silva needs to play. He is a future superstar but he will never get better with the paltry minutes that Montella is giving him. He needs to get over his man-crush on Kalinic and Borini and get Silva in there on a regular basis. Montella is a horrible fit for this team, he needs to go.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 8:49am
Not sure how Montella is still there.There is more chance of seeing Santa at Christmas then to see Montella on Milans bench at Christmas.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 8:27am
@ glass houses Ferguson had incredible success with Aberdeen including winning the European Cup Winners' Cup. He also won the treble with a squad half the size and cost of Montella's. Montella remains my number one concern. There's not much I can do about the owner. If the stories are true then Milan are finished. A change of manager is slightly easier to get my head around.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 2:37am
@maldini heir if you are to use that analogy it is also relevant to remember that ferguson in his earliest days at utd was struggling and on the verge of being fired kinda of similar to montella.

Honestly milan fans have bigger concerns the new owners are seriously looking suspect at the moment. I find it highly suspicious that they are refinancing their loan with the elliot group. In addition reports of empty offices and a non existent list of the current owners adds to my concerns.
on the 20th November, 2017 at 8:38am
A manager is the single biggest determining factor at a football club. Man Utd would not have had the same success without Ferguson, Juve would not have turned themselves around without Conte (they went from two 7th placed finishes in 09/10 and 10/11 to an unbeaten 1st in 11/12). It's the single biggest reason why Milan have struggled since we lost Allegri. We need a top manager to compete with top teams. Enough of this mediocrity.
on the 20th November, 2017 at 6:22am
@ Mentegg Sure Montella has done some good things and fans should be grateful especially that he gave us Locatelli, Cutrone and a revived Suso. It's true that the players also seem to support him. However, he's simply not a good enough manager to compete with the 6 managers above us. And that means we will not finish above those teams which will be pretty dire for our financial viability. The manager makes all of the difference. Chelsea went from 1st to 10th to 1st again with different managers.
on the 20th November, 2017 at 6:18am
Brand new squad, the team needs time to gel, you can't expect 11 new guys to be thrown together and take a CL spot... it is not the coaches fault, patience is a virtue.

After the break we will see more points, Cl spot is near impossible however, as much we need it.

Napoli's pressing was superb last night and pinned us back the majority of the match. Our players have not played together enough to work their way out of that intense pressure. The difference was in the movements of the two teams
on the 20th November, 2017 at 4:01am
@MaldiniHeir I would bet on Montella being sacked if we lose to Torino. I am indifferent because while the team looks awful, there's nobody better than Allegri, Sarri, Spaletti, Inzaghi, or Di Francesco on the market. Ancelotti doesn't want to risk his reputation on this stuttering project. I like Giampaolo but he is under contract at Sampdoria. ...not to mention both Miha and Montella came from Samp.
on the 20th November, 2017 at 4:00am
@MaldiniHeir I would bet on Montella being sacked if we lose to Torino. I am indifferent because while the team looks awful, there's nobody better than Allegri, Sarri, Spaletti, Inzaghi, or Di Francesco on the market. Ancelotti doesn't want to risk his reputation on this stuttering project. I like Giampaolo but he is under contract at Sampdoria. ...not to mention both Miha and Montella came from Samp.
on the 20th November, 2017 at 4:00am
@MaldiniHeir I would bet on Montella being sacked if we lose to Torino. I am indifferent because while the team looks awful, there's nobody better than Allegri, Sarri, Spaletti, Inzaghi, or Di Francesco on the market. Ancelotti doesn't want to risk his reputation on this stuttering project. I like Giampaolo but he is under contract at Sampdoria. ...not to mention both Miha and Montella came from Samp.
on the 20th November, 2017 at 4:00am
@maldiniheir I agree with you but things I'll give montella is that somehow although his tactics aren't great he always has the team behind him and they never give up in 90 mins. That and he has introduced many young Italian players. And winning the super cup I guess. Other than that Ya his tactics aren't great. But the next 9 games milan should win 8 so if he can't do that he needs to be sacked
on the 20th November, 2017 at 12:40am
a different manager. That manager has to be better than the managers of the 6 teams above us. To qualify for the Champions League Milan need to produce league winning form. They need at least 5 or 6 back to back wins. I just don't see Montella being capable of producing a string of results like that. He doesn't have the discipline to actually stick with a starting line up that is needed to produce a consistent set of results.Nor does he have the faith in the players required to raise their games
on the 19th November, 2017 at 10:26pm
So presumably Montella will be gone if we don't get 3 points v Torino? Surely that's his last chance? We can't really judge anything while he's the manager because he's simply not good enough. It doesn't matter what formation we play or who we play. The manager makes all of the difference. All 6 teams above us have better managers. He's lost to every single one of them. Convincingly. And each of those games there were tactical failings. The only way we'll break into the top 4-6 is with
on the 19th November, 2017 at 10:23pm
People need to be patient with milan, this project need 2 years, this year squad will get to know each other. Alot o new players that dont speak the same languge.
Next year will show the rela milan.

But i cant understand why silva isnt on the pitch, remove bonneventura and put him on the left or at the bench and put silva on the left wing.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 8:11pm
You can also add a "Unimaginative Juventus" also to this blog. We were awful, and haven't played a real convincing game in weeks.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 8:08pm
Too bad useless pass backs to the keeper aren't worth the same as a goal. If so Milan would have won the game 65-2. Absolutely awful. I had to stop watching at 1-0 as I couldn't take anymore of the stupidity of so many back passes to Donnarumma.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 4:45pm
SILVA HAS TO PLAY.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 2:41pm
Suso didn't 'pull up lame late in the half'. He was kneed in the bottom of his back from behind by Mario Rui. An awful challenge that went unpunished, like quite a few by Napoli players during the 94 minutes. He tried to walk it off, but evidently he couldn't.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 2:30pm
Montella lacks an idea of how best this team can be made to play. He was bettee off when expectations are low but when the stakes has increased, then he is not worth it. I lost hope in him when replaced borini with abate and montolivo with Bigla. I was wondering if we were d one winning or loosing. We have players like silve, crutone and kalinic yet they cant recieve services. The blame is on d coach
on the 19th November, 2017 at 2:27pm
I refuse to watch another AC Milan game with a back 3.We dont have enough quality to make up for the extra man we lose up the pitch,not to mention that no one has impressed as a wing back.Formation change wont fix everything but it's no coincidence that most players struggled on an individual level since formation switch.The truth is we performed better in Europa qualifiers & the first two Serie A games with a 433.It was 1 freak loss against Lazio where key players didnt play.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 12:36pm
It was an awful game. Napoli barely got out of first gear & were sloppy. If they played against a better team last night, they would have got punished (& almost did). Milan were just terrible. No intensity with or without the ball, slow & ponderous, & not a hint of creativity. They look worse than what they did last season & that is shocking when you take into account how much they spent over the summer.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 9:53am
Remind me Inter last year, but it can only get better from here surely, on the pitch at least.
on the 19th November, 2017 at 8:50am

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