Vincenzo Montella clinging to AC Milan job after Genoa stalemate

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 23 October 2017, 21:38

“I am clear-headed and motivated,” said under-fire Milan boss Vincenzo Montella before his side took on Genoa at San Siro this weekend. “I’d like to quote Churchill: ‘Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.’”

The choice of quote from Britain’s famous wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill showed just how much Montella’s back was against the wall after three league defeats in a row, and how heavy the weight of expectation really was. Milan had spent ¤230 million on signings this summer after a takeover from Chinese investors, and a fourth-consecutive defeat would’ve been the first time the Rossoneri had lost that many in a row since April 1986.

A scoreless draw against AEK Athens in the midweek Europa League round had hardly helped matters, with rumours circling that youth team boss Gennaro Gattuso would replace the current Coach should the team lose once again. A second 0-0 stalemate against the Grifone prevented that from happening immediately, but the voices predicting an imminent departure for Montella refused to go away.

The newly-implemented VAR system confirmed a sending off for Leonardo Bonucci after just 25 minutes, the former Juventus man caught on camera swinging a reckless elbow towards Genoa’s Alejandro Rosi. But rather than lambast the ¤40 million summer signing, his boss deflected attention away from how the captain had cost the side and instead blamed a “televisual decision rather than one on the field”.

He was subsequently called out on his comments by chief of referees Marcello Nicchi. “He still hasn’t understood that VAR sees everything, and there are those who still protest on the pitch,” the executive told Radio Rai. “I won’t reply to Montella in a wider sense, but I’ll just say that he must adapt to this new age of football.”

Comments such as these from the Coach smack of desperation at a time when Montella really should be asserting his authority if he wants to save his job. Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport have suggested that Gattuso or indeed former Fiorentina boss Paulo Sousa could be called in as an interim measure while Milan wait for the likes of Antonio Conte or Carlo Ancelotti should they decide to give the current man the boot.

Four defeats and one draw from the opening nine league fixtures certainly isn’t good enough, nor one that the Rossoneri can afford with their business plan banking on a Champions League finish this term. However to blame it all on Montella would be entirely unfair for a club that has been creating its own problems for a number of years.

Last year the Coach did superb work, winning the Supercoppa Italiana and securing a sixth-placed finish whilst a ridiculous number of delays in the takeover of the fallen giants meant they had next to nothing to spend. Montella had accepted this when he took the job on, and brought talented youngsters such as Manuel Locatelli and Davide Calabria into the side.

“This team is only at the beginning, so there is a big margin for improvement,” the Coach said in October last year. “If you have this many young players, the side is destined to get stronger over time.” Yet instead of allowing Montella to continue with his plan and buying a few key reinforcements over the summer, Milan’s new Chinese owners and club officials decided to make a big statement, buying new players in all areas of the pitch.

Those young players that had made such an impact last year were relegated back to the sidelines and Montella was under huge pressure to play those who the club had spent fortunes in signing. This has left the Coach backpedalling in trying to find a system that suits the new players and dealing with a lack of form from high-value acquisitions such as Bonucci and Nikola Kalinic.

Such a policy now leaves the likes of Franck Kessie - himself a promising young midfielder bought from Atalanta in the summer - having to fend for himself in an all-new team without the nurturing that he would have benefited from if Montella didn’t have a million-and-one other fires to fight.

Milan will probably go on to fire Montella as they need a quick-fire solution to their problems, but what they really need to do in order to stop the rot and to return the club to former glory is to take a long, hard look at themselves.

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Tony Pulis
Tony Pulis
(Middlesbrough)
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