As Franck Kessie casually placed the ball past Genoa goalkeeper Ionut Radu to give Milan the lead – and the win - last weekend, many believed this to be Marco Giampaolo’s saving grace. Judging from reports leading into the fixture, a defeat against Genoa would be Giampaolo’s last in charge of the Rossoneri.
But the Genoa victory has only seemingly given him a few more days of reprieve, with the latest news being that the club are trying to lure former Inter Coach Luciano Spalletti over to the red and black half of the city before swinging the hammer down on Giampaolo’s short-lived Milan career.
But should Milan be so hasty in getting rid of Giampaolo? Is Spalletti, now arguably light years away from his peak Roma days of the late ‘00s, really a better option? Other alternatives include Stefano Pioli, who seems a more realistic choice.
Giampaolo hasn’t been helped by the Milan hierarchy, with whispers that there is a difference of philosophy as to how to bring the club back to the upper echelons of the Italian game.
Elliot Management believe that investing in younger players, who can then be developed and later sold for high transfer fees, is the more financially sound route. While sporting directors Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban, in echoes of Alan Hansen’s infamous line in 1995, have gone on the record saying they’ve never seen a team of young players win the Champions League, or Serie A, before. Both Maldini and Boban believe in adding a sprinkling of experience to go alongside precocious talents.
This uncertainty hasn’t helped Giampaolo’s start to the season, yet it must also be said that the former Sampdoria Coach hasn’t helped himself either. Giampaolo, famed for his use of a 4-3-1-2 formation, doesn’t have the players to utilise the system. The Suso as a trequartista experiment was disastrous, as the Spanish player simply couldn’t interpret the role.
Giampaolo has been unsure of himself, following the dire opening day defeat to Udinese, he decided that the 4-3-1-2 wouldn’t work, and so reverted to Rino Gattuso’s 4-3-3 of last season. The decision to stick with the near immobile Lucas Biglia, light years away from the player he was at Lazio, in the central position of the midfield three, has done nothing for Milan except make them predictable and slow.
Undoubtedly however, his most head-scratching decisions have been to stick with Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu in the starting XI. Suso, especially, is fast running out of credit from his very good 2017-18 season, and it’s arguable that Calhanoglu has never had a single great performance since joining three summers ago. The pair, like Biglia, kill any dynamism in Milan’s play as they take an extra touch or five instead of moving the ball along.
Despite how truly awful Milan have been in the first month of the season, sacking Giampaolo isn’t the answer, at least not yet. Are the alternatives a genuinely better option? Giampaolo you feel is slowly understanding his best XI, and still needs more time.
In his first 10 games as Sampdoria Coach in 2016-17, they only won three games, and finished the season in 10th place. Whilst expectations for Milan are admittedly a lot higher, it shows that Giampaolo is a slow starter.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Giampaolo’s Milan.