Since talk of Vincenzo Montella’s sacking came about just a few months into the current campaign, there was plenty of discussion about a “what if” scenario the Milan ownership were likely to face should change be necessary.
Upon being sent to the exit by Bayern Munich in late September after a poor run, Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti became the most coveted candidate for the Rossoneri bench - for obvious reasons linked to his successful history with the red and black. Yet, a reuniting of both club and Coach seemed improbable, for Ancelotti would likely wish to take time off for himself, and avoid stepping into a situation mid-season without the luxury of time to work with his hand-picked personnel.
Then there was talk of a possible pursuit of Antonio Conte, who also appeared to be on the hot-seat just months after winning the Premier League title in his first season in England. After those two high-profile managers were pipe dream appointments, there was a massive drop off in quality, which is what perhaps halted Milan owners from pulling the plug on Montella earlier in the season.
When Montella was sent packing after a scoreless draw with Torino, in stepped Gennaro Gattuso to bring new life, ideas and the passion to salvage something from this season which promised so much early on.
Gattuso had previously coached at Sion, Crete, Palermo and Pisa before taking up the Milan Primavera position, a seat once occupied by two former members of the 2006-07 Champions League winning side - Pippo Inzaghi and Cristian Brocchi. Rino is the latest to Coach the club, except, unlike the two before him, faces a lot more pressure to make something of this very expensive squad.
Last Sunday, Gattuso managed his first ever match with the senior side away to bottom of the table Benevento who, entering the tie, had not a single point to their name. Of course, with Milan clinging to a narrow 2-1 lead, goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli broke the internet when he headed home in the 94th minute against a 10-man Rossoneri to steal a point. Certainly, Gattuso shouldn’t be taking on the blame for the collapse, simply due to the fact the men just did not show enough quality and killer instinct to kill off the ‘Witches.’
This past Thursday, Gattuso made wholesale changes to his starting XI in his first European match in charge versus Rijeka. For all intents and purposes, it was a meaningless fixture for the club, since they’d already won their Europa League group. However, an abysmal performance in a 2-0 loss away, on the surface, does not give the team, or Gattuso, a good look heading into this weekend’s Serie A match with an underrated Bologna side level with the Milanese giants on 21 points.
Unlike Montella, who always seemed to avoid being heavily critical of his results in the post-match Press conferences, Gattuso has already shown that he will not accept such mediocrity and expects more from his men - an attitude which supporters have taken to since his appointment.
Because Milan were under pressure to replace Montella and bring something different to the bench in the form of ‘grinta’ and motivation, Gattuso does seem to have the backing of all with a stake in this project. This looms large going forward if they are to climb out of the hole they are in and crawl back into the hunt for Europe.
Barring an utter disaster from Gattuso over the next month or two, it’s likely Milan will ride with the tenacious Calabrese manager until the very end of the season. The Bologna match should see Gattuso take the necessary tactical steps to unlock this current squad’s true potential, with the ultimate goal of administering a respectable playing style to bring about positive results consistently.
It looks as if he is already taking the first step and that’s scrapping the three-man defence in favour of a 4-3-3 formation.