Milan sack Montella and hire Gattuso: initial reaction
Earlier today, AC Milan announced that they sacked their manager, Vincenzo Montella, and replaced him with primavera manager Gennaro Gattuso. Montella could not survive a 0-0 draw to Torino, which was a lost opportunity for Milan as both Roma and Lazio dropped points. While Gattuso holds a special place in the hearts of Milan fans, was it the right move?
Firstly, let's discuss the sacking of Montella. Last season, with very few signings made, Montella was able to finish in sixth place with Milan and reach the Europa League. He got off to a great start, as through 14 rounds last season Milan had 29 points and were in 3rd place, which is 9 points and four places better than where they are today. So what was the problem for Montella this season? It seems he was not able to handle the depth of the squad and rotation. The team played with no identity, largely because Montella used a different lineup in every match this season, and often played players out of position. Two great examples of this are Suso and Bonaventura. Last season, the pair led Milan to a top three place at the winter break because they both played in familiar positions on the wings. This season, in the 3-5-2 formation they have been moved around constantly, and while Suso has been better, neither of them have been able to find their top form. Additionally, Milan had a new squad with many new faces which takes a period of integration. That integration starts in preseason, but Montella played a 4-3-3 formation before the season started and scrapped it when Milan lost 4-1 to Lazio. They went to a 3-5-2 after this and essentially started over.
The decision to sack Montella is the right one. The timing of it is a bit weird, though. Milan find themselves in 7th place, 11 points behind fourth place Roma who also have a game in hand. If management was thinking about sacking Montella this season, why did they wait so long? Except for the derby against Inter, Milan hasn't been competitive against the top sides in the table, and have barely gotten by against the weaker sides except for their 4-1 victory against Chievo. It seems at this point, unless the top clubs slow down and Milan begins an incredible run, fourth place is already unreachable.
Moving onto Gattuso. His history as a player needs no introduction, as he was at the heart of Milan's success during the 2000s. He is a player known for his grinta, something this Milan team lacks at the moment. There is no doubt he will bring intensity to the squad and they will run through walls for the jersey, which reminds me a little bit of Antonio Conte's first season at Juventus. At the primavera level, he played a 4-3-3 which sometimes switched to a 3-4-3 during matches. This is probably why management decided to go with Gattuso, as he brings the intensity but also his formation will put Bonaventura and Suso back on the wings.
His record as a manager has been poor. Gattuso was sacked by Swiss club Sion, sacked by Palermo, resigned from Greek club Crete and then left Pisa after two seasons in which he gained promotion to Serie B but then subsequently was relegated. In his defense, Gattuso was not managing the type of talent he has at his disposal now at Milan, so that could have affected his results as well. Milan, however, have been down this road before with Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi and Christian Brocchi, so it is a bit of a risky move. One thing is for sure, under Gattuso Milan will play hard and not make excuses. He will likely have competition for places, and play those that are in the best form, regardless of their price tag. At the very least, the players needed a change. Now, they will no longer be able to use the manager as an alibi, if they fail under Gattuso, everyone will start looking at them.