Another new Milan era begins today with Gennaro Gattuso replacing Vincenzo Montella. Big decisions must be made and one of them is giving Andre Silva more of a role in Serie A.
There’s no doubt Milan haven’t had the start they had hoped for in the 2017-18 campaign after splurging north of €200m on nearly a dozen new names this past summer. Currently, the Rossoneri find themselves in seventh place on 20 points, trailing Roma by 14 for the fourth and final Champions League spot they sought to obtain under new ownership.
Early on, the shaky defensive displays by Leonardo Bonucci and the restructured backline collectively garnered most of the scrutiny, but for the most part, these issues seem to have been sorting themselves out.
Aside from Montella’s failure to get the most from his squad before being given the sack, the attention and criticism for the team’s struggles has shifted heavily onto the palpable lack of production up front.
Croatian Nikola Kalinic moved over from Fiorentina after names like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Andrea Belotti proved beyond reach, but has failed to deliver anything worthy of applause, contributing three goals in 12 league matches and looking wasteful regularly as the starter.
To date, Milan have scored just 19 goals in total, a sum not fit for a side with lofty ambitions of Europe. After last Sunday’s scoreless draw with Torino at San Siro, Milan have not found the net in four straight home games, only the third time in their history with such a negative streak.
New boss Gattuso would be wise to make a switch and play someone who can provide a spark up front in the form of not only goals, but also on-the-ball skills like Andre Silva.
The Portuguese international played a pivotal role throughout 2018 World Cup qualifying and has already tallied 11 goals in 18 senior appearances. His fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo gave the former Porto starlet his blessing ahead of his big €35m move to Italy last summer, citing the Milanese giants’ rich history and success as a tremendous platform for him to take on.
After agent Jorge Mendes and Milan’s front office wrapped up the deal quickly, it was understood that Silva would play a large role in what the red and black set out to accomplish this year in the league, but that certainly hasn’t been the case.
Silva’s been limited to 457 minutes over eight Serie A appearances, most of which have come from the bench later in matches and without the luxury of time to settle in and make an impact. However, in the games he has featured in, the gifted forward has proven to be quite the talent, albeit still raw in certain aspects of his game.
Unlike Kalinic, who is heavily reliant on service from the midfield and wide areas, Silva can make things happen through his array of qualities – physically, technically and mentally. His workhorse mentality, constant movement to get involved and technique on the ball loom large in the build-up phase when ideas are few and far between.
Look no further than his 45 minutes off the bench versus Napoli a few weeks ago, where he instantly provided a spark in the attacking department after Suso left with an injury. Space opened up for Milan to attack in a more respectable manner and that’s what is required if they are to turn their season around.
Andre Silva is still looking for his first Serie A goal, but notched up eight in just nine Europa League games, including the preliminary rounds. Why he is on the bench with Patrick Cutrone while Kalinic starts is something of a mystery.
Unsurprisingly, the San Siro crowd saw off Kalinic last weekend to an onslaught of jeers. The Croat’s been given more than enough time to win over the Milan faithful, but has left much to be desired. Change up front is needed, and Silva’s all-around ability can no longer be under-used as it was under Montella’s watch.
For whatever reason, the skilled striker was praised often by the recently sacked boss, yet wasn’t shown that confidence through the team-sheet. This is where Gattuso must call on the promising Portuguese attacker to put a halt to this slump, and let his talent shine through so that he may finally begin making good on the transfer fee indicative of a world class signing.