AC Milan 3-2 Rijeka
Q. So what did you make of Milan's performance today?
A. I thought it was a pretty poor performance. The defense was sloppy, they could have went down 1-0 early. The first 10 minutes were very poor, after the Andre Silva goal they settled down a bit but gave up another brilliant opportunity to Rijeka at around 25 minutes. The last 10 minutes were very bad and they paid the price by giving up two goals. I am not sure why they weren't playing with the purpose they showed in stoppage time to regain the lead for the whole match. They gave up way too many chances from defensive errors and their midfield was not able to control the game and string passes together. It was certainly not the performance we needed to see after the debacle against Sampdoria.
Q. What about your thoughts on the growing Cutrone? He obviously spared Milan's blushes today.
A. I don't think it was his best performance, but he did play well. Obviously, to bring out his best he needs good service which he didn't receive today. It was a brilliant goal created by his movement. It was also a very nice pass by Borini but Cutrone did very well to get to the ball and finish. He looks very mature for his age and has a knack for goal. Looks set to become a very good poacher which Milan hasn't had since Inzaghi.
Q. Silva scored again today. He has had a good record in the Europa League this season. Why aren't we seeing more of it in Serie A? General struggle for Milan or is he still adapting to the league?
A. He has a very good record in the Europa League and played well today, one of the very few bright spots. It was a terrific goal to get around the defender and fire it home. He was very active, helped to win the ball back, tried to hold up play. He could have used better service as well. At one point he had the ball and Cutrone was wide open, would have liked to see him pass there but that was his only negative moment.
As far as not seeing him in Serie A, I am not sure the reasoning. It is something I hope Montella is asked after tonight's match. It could be down to rotation, it could be down to him adapting to the league, however, when someone puts in a performance like he does on Thursday, they should really get an opportunity on Sunday in Serie A. He has a ton of talent and that could make the difference for Milan in a game where they struggle to control the ball and create chances.
Q. Is the Europa League Milan's best gateway in to the champions league?
A. It is very risky to put all of their eggs in that basket. The competition might not be the best but in a knockout round, anything can happen. If you get a red card in a match, or give up a penalty, it could determine the round. Also, you don't know who will enter into the competition from the Champions League later on. The focus has to be on Serie A as well. They spent a lot of money and they should be able to compete for fourth place. They are 4 points behind Inter in third place and one point behind Lazio in fourth. The problem is they have lost to Lazio and Sampdoria, which are teams that are direct rivals for those spots, and now they have two very important matches coming up against Roma and Inter.
Q. On that Sampdoria game Milan seemed out-of-sorts. What did you make of the performance?
A. To me that performance was even worse than the Lazio one. In the Lazio match they at least controlled the game for the first 15 minutes or so, gave up the four goals during a very bad period of the match, and then tried to get back into it. Against Sampdoria, they were never in the match at all from start to finish. They did not get one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes.
It was a shocking performance all around. Montella didn't seem to give them any direction or tactical plan that could work. He also waited way too long to make a change. Honestly, the way things were going he probably should have made a change at halftime, instead he waited until the mid-70s to make one. In addition to the manager the players were also very poor, headlined by Zapata who made two errors that led to the goals. Everyone was poor though, Kessie, Biglia etc...
Q. We spoke about Montella after Lazio and you said he wasn't under pressure. Taking into account Ancelotti's availability what are your thoughts on Montella?
A. I still don't believe he is under pressure as far as the club management. Before the game Mirabelli said they were going to hold onto him tightly and that they believe he is as good as Ancelotti. There will definitely be media speculation now that Ancelotti is free, but who knows if he even wants to come back to Milan. I don't think that is a given. As far as Montella, Milan is not in terrible shape as far as the standings. They are right there in the battle for top 4, with two matches against direct rivals ahead. The club believes in him and last year he had very little talent and was able to finish in the top 6. He definitely could be doing a better job as far as his rotations and implementing a style of play and identity, but a lot of the poor performances, particularly against Sampdoria and Rijeka, are also down to the individuals on the pitch. What can he really do from the sideline on individual defensive errors? He is safe for now, if they lose to Roma and Inter and fall well off the pace, things might change because the club is set on a top 4 finish.
Q. So do you believe the games against Roma and Inter will define his future?
A. Along with other factors, yes. Ultimately it depends on the distance between them and fourth place for me. If he loses both matches and they fall 6-9 points behind fourth place, he will be in big trouble. I don't necessarily think he needs to win both matches to keep his job, but he definitely needs to come away with points and good performances, especially because the Roma match is at the San Siro. His main priority has to be staying in, or close to the top 4.
Q. Do you think Ancelotti's availability has any bearing on his future?
A. If Carlo is interested in the position, certainly. He is one of the best managers in the world and had an excellent spell at Milan both as a player and manager. If you have someone like that ready to takeover, then it is easier to fire Montella after a run of poor results. Not sure he would want the position though, however he was close to coming back prior to his one season sabbatical.
Q. I see. Prediction from you on Montella's future?
A. I am more of a glass half full type of person. After the Cutrone goal I saw the whole squad celebrate together and with Montella. We saw the same thing after the match was over as well, so I think he still has the support of the squad which is very important. They will continue to play and respond to him and will not want to see him get sacked, so I expect strong lineups and good performances against Roma and Inter and he continues on.
Q. I see. And finally then how can Montella fix things? If you could give him 3 tips on how to turn it around what would they be?
A. Well 1. I would tell him to play the best players. Take advice from a Napoli or a Roma, their standout players play every match when they are in form. Same should happen for Milan. 2. He should change tactics depending on who is in the lineup. If Bonaventura and Suso are playing, he should go 3-4-3 with Bonaventura and Suso on the wings with Silva/Kalinic or Cutrone as the striker. Suso and Bonaventura played well as wingers last season and he should deploy them there instead of using Suso as a second striker. When Calhanoglu is in there it is best to play a 3-5-2 and use Andre Silva as the second striker with Cutrone/Kalinic as the main striker. He should alternate 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 depending on who they are facing and deploy the players that fit each formation. 3. Figure out how to shore up the team defensively. They have given up 8 goals in 6 matches, and a bunch due to defensive errors. They spent a lot of money on defense and should be playing much better. If you don't give up goals you will be in every match and while they work out the kinks offensively this would be a great way to keep them in the race for the top 4.