Sunday afternoon’s draw with last place Pescara brought out the worst in many AC Milan supporters as they laid heavy criticism on manager Vincenzo Montella for the disappointing result.
Considered a must-win, the Rossoneri put themselves in quite the predicament early on at the Adriatico. Under pressure, defender Gabriel Paletta delivered a choppy back-pass towards Gianluigi Donnarumma, who failed to control the ball as it trickled into his own net for an own goal. Erasing the deficit, the Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic equalized moments before the break, yet it was all they could muster up as Pescara held them in check to secure a draw in Abruzzo. It was a much needed point for the Zdenek Zeman-lead Delfini as they hope to somehow avoid relegation. As for Milan however, it was nothing short of a setback in the chase for Europe.
Shortly after the final whistle, faithful Milan supporters – up in arms – flooded Twitter, taking their frustration out on manager Vincenzo Montella who wore the blame for the group’s lack of preparation. One of a manager’s many responsibilities is to ensure his squad is physically and mentally prepared come kick-off. He selects the players fit to carry out his tactics and ultimately, obtain the desired outcome. That wasn’t the case over the weekend.
Europe is the objective, and if you consider yourselves legitimate contenders, handling Pescara – Serie A’s worst club – should be no problem. But, let’s be fair. Montella deserves much better from his supporters, and here’s why.
There is no telling what Montella’s career at Milan will look like come June. Reports claim both Yonghong Li and acting president Silvio Berlusconi back Montella, but as we all know, that could easily change with a few poor results. In spite of all the postponements, Montella has remained diplomatic, shying away from commenting on the matter and focusing only on what he has control over. That is managing his squad, which he’s done a standup job of doing thus far, all things considered.
Currently, Milan sit seventh in the table on 54 points, four off fifth place Atalanta, and still hold out some hope for a Europa League birth. It’s quite impressive how Montella manages to compete each week. Entering the season, Montella held a very limited amount of talent, and never once has he used it as an excuse for lacklustre results. Because of this mentality, he has gained the trust of several fringe players. Suso, arguably the biggest beneficiary of the Italian’s coaching, Manuel Locatelli and Mario Pasalic all have emerged as key men. Everton loanee Gerard Deulofeu, in very short time, has enjoyed a similar revival to that of his countryman, cultivating otherwise untapped potential. Obviously we’ve taken great delight in their rise, but you can’t help but wonder where the Rossoneri would be positioned at full strength.
You can’t ignore the quality Milan’s starting XI lacks without key men Giacomo Bonaventura, Ignazio Abate and captain Riccardo Montolivo. All three started on match-day 1 and have been sidelined indefinitely or will be out for the remainder of the season. This, however, hasn’t fazed Montella who continues to utilize his entire roster, clawing out positive results and staying afloat when many expected a collapse.
Until we have a clear understanding of who will be in charge of the club, supporters will continue with their tantrums – not from hate, but rather frustration. Should we question Montella, his tactics and selections? Sure, but when it’s fair and warranted; being critical is part of game. But at the same time, Montella should be praised for what he’s been able to achieve given the hand he’s been dealt: the first trophy in six years (Italian SuperCup triumph over Juventus), fluent football, a plan and perhaps the most important of them all, hope for renewed glory. Cut “L’Aeroplanino” some slack, will ya?
You can follow my football ramblings and various workings on Twitter @Matt_Santangelo.