This Was Not The AC Milan Fans Were Promised Over The Summer Months8 min read
After bringing in 10 sparkling new signings from all across Europe, AC Milan’s new owners were sending out a strong statement of intent: they were willing to spend what means necessary to return back to the top of Italian football.
Milan fans were rightfully excited for what the new season had in store and the San Siro was filled to the rafters with season ticket holders and spectators. However, after 11 games, Milan sit eighth, 15 points from league leaders Napoli and in a sense of disillusionment of how the season has started.
A lot of the Rossoneri fans were expecting Milan to be challenging for a Champions League place – not battling the likes of Torino and Atalanta for the ‘best of the rest’ title. Vincenzo Montella’s team are closer to the relegation zone than they are to a qualification place in Europe’s top-tier competition.
So where did it go so wrong for Milan in such a short period of time?
There is always a risk of bringing in an overhaul of a squad, no matter how much money you have to spend or who you sign.
Look at how Tottenham spent their ‘Gareth Bale money’ as well as how Everton spent the £90m they initially received for Romelu Lukaku. It is very difficult for a squad to gel in the time needed when signing a vast amount of players.
However, Milan were still erratic in the transfer window. The signing of Juventus stalwart Leonardo Bonucci was too good to be true and they lost track of what was important. The Italian defender had been immense for the Bianconeri, but there was a reason Juventus were willing to let him go for a measly €35m.
Bonucci does not look the same player as he did when leading Juventus to two Champions League finals in three years – especially when he is not surrounded by his former teammates, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini. To add insult to injury, the Milan captain was sent off against Genoa for reckless play.
By signing Bonucci, Milan’s hierarchy lost their way in the mercato. They signed a centre back who was not a priority and those funds needed for an exceptional centre forward vanished soon after.
Instead of potentially signing Diego Costa or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Milan settled for Nikola Kalinić from Fiorentina. A hugely disappointing signing that has been ever so lacklustre on the pitch.
Milan did not have a clear-cut strategy in the transfer window. It appeared like they just signed ‘names’ and went for players who became available. Some, like André Silva and Hakan Calhanoglu, are seldom used from the beginning and are already out of favour with Montella.
It seems an obvious question, but why invest so much money into a team if you are not going to sign players that suit a manager’s philosophy?
Style of play
With the signings that came in, Montella has had to reshuffle the pack and start afresh with his strategy of breaking teams down.
Yet we are in November and there still does not seem to be any coherence nor game plan in what Montella is actually setting out to achieve with the Rossoneri.
Everything is so erratic and off-the-cuff that it simply is not sustainable looking into the future. It is also why Milan’s Serie A record reads won five, lost four, drawn one. The only thing consistent about Milan is their inconsistency.
Montella started the season using a 4-3-3 system, which quickly became a 3-5-2 and has now sunk even deeper with a 3-1-4-2. As you can tell, Montella is testing out all sorts of different formations on a weekly basis, but nothing is sticking.
It says a lot about the way a team is playing when Fabio Borini, signed from relegated Sunderland, is moved around three times in different positions in just one game. There is pure chaos on the pitch under Montella’s reign and a whole lot of confusion in the way the players are trying to dictate the game.
When there is constant chopping and changing and alternating between different players for positions, it is never going to be a smooth transition. Montella has made it increasingly difficult for himself after sidelining €40m striker Silva.
It is an odd stance to take, given the centre forward starts regularly for Portugal and has been superb in the Europa League. Granted Kalinić also has to play as well as Patrick Cutrone, but if you sign someone for that amount of money, you would expect them to be spearheading Milan’s attack.
Stick or twist
This is the big predicament for Milan’s owners.
After giving Montella a new contract in May of this year, which enables him to stay at the club until 2019, it would be look a huge PR blunder for them to sack him and find a replacement.
There has been premature talk of Carlo Ancelotti returning to the San Siro, which would be emphatic beyond belief, but the Italian coach has already dismissed such rumours and wants to take a sabbatical until at least next summer.
If the Milan Board were to dismiss Montella of his duties, they would need someone lined up ready to take the hot seat in a fiery pit of hell. It is not going to be an easy job walking in with the current mess surrounding them.
It is reported that Milan’s owners have given Montella two more fixtures to salvage a pretty dismal start to this season. Those games come against Sassuolo and Napoli, the leaders of Serie A. These are both not easy games to negotiate past, and Montella will have a huge obstacle to overcome against the all-firing, all-conquering Napoli.
Most Milan fans want Montella out and it is easy to understand why. The football is stale, there is mass confusion of the identity of the football being played and the Italian manager is simply not using all of his resources available to him. For some, the road has already come to an end.