After weeks of rumblings, back and forth negotiations, and knee-jerk social media postings, AC Milan and Everton finally came to an agreement over winger Gerard Deulofeu on Monday.
Prior to the change in calendar year, the links between the Rossoneri and Deulofeu were born. Everton manager Ronald Koeman continued to openly express their interest in alternatives to the Spaniard, directing efforts towards the lower leagues of English football. The New Year came and to the expectations of many, the Toffees had inked a deal to acquire League One youngster Ademola Lookman from Charlton.
As if it wasn’t overtly obvious in the way he was frozen from the pitch, the arrival of Lookman further proved Koeman no longer intended to use Deulofeu. Once Lookman landed in Merseyside, Deulofeu’s road to San Siro had been paved in red and black.
Everton and AC Milan — for the second time in three days — officially announced the six-month loan for the 22-year old Monday afternoon. The medicals, the kit showcasing and the first steps at Milanello. All behind us. Let’s talk football. What does the acquisition of Gerard Deulofeu mean for Vincenzo Montella’s Milan?
A word synonymous with the Rossoneri over the past few seasons, and for all the wrong reasons, depth has posed a major problem for Milan in 2016-17. Top to bottom, Montella has a pretty solid skeleton at his disposal, but not enough muscle.
In the back, Gabriel Paletta and Alessio Romagnoli have synergy; a balanced blend of experience and youth. However, the fallback options do not exactly boast the same quality and stability —although Gustavo Gomez is improving with every match. The midfield, while stockpiled with able bodies, has three
four reliable starters in Juraj Kucka, Manuel Locatelli and Giacomo Bonaventura — when not deployed on the left wing of course. Last, but certainly not least (debatable), you have the attack which, prior to the move for the Spaniard, had quite literally no depth out wide. And yes, I have not forgotten about Keisuke Honda.
M’Baye Niang and Suso seem to be more than enough, even with Bonaventura as a occasional versatile luxury. However, due to the Frenchman’s ongoing struggles since October, Montella has been handcuffed, sacrificing mezzala Bonaventura in order to aid a uninventive attack. When Adriano Galliani publicly admitted that he would not be exploring the market for any position other than a winger, he conceded that a major problem did in fact exist. By adding the youthful exuberance of Deulofeu, albeit arguably in his poorest form, Montella finally has an adequate option capable of making an impact from either the opening whistle or the bench.
Montella’s tactical flexibility lauded him as a top coaching option for Milan last summer.
The former Fiorentina boss benefits from being versatile in his shape. While in Florence, Montella utilized anything from a 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3, but of course, believes in continuity — his 4-3-3. This alignment flows freely and carries results, but that should not “pigeonhole” Montella as a flexible manager into one specific setup.
Below is considered to be the ideal starting XI with the addition of Deulofeu. Bonaventura can fall back into his midfield role, while the Spanish wingers’ quickness causes disturbance marauding up the pitch. But, while it’s clear the 4-3-3 suits Montella’s current personnel best, a little something can be provided in an altered formation.
— Matthew Santangelo (@Matt_Santangelo) 23 January 2017
A 4-1-3-2, or 4-4-2, would be an improvisation of sorts yet exciting. An in-game adjustment Montella could easily transition to should the flow of the match call for it. It’s fair to concede that by dropping Kucka, your midfield loses most of his grit and muscle. However, Locatelli is no stranger to breaking up play with the occasional challenge. Bonaventura did not fare all that well as a trequartista last season under Siniša Mihajlović, yet his repertoire translates well over a 15-20 minute spell. Interchangeability now becomes available with either Deulofeu or Suso — two individuals who thrive off inward movements. And then there is the insertion of Gianluca Lapadula who compliments Carlos Bacca with his quality link play as a seconda punta.
Familiarity in the front three
Chemistry is vital to success in football. You can only get so far by throwing eleven names onto the pitch with little semblance of mutual understanding. All eleven must play according to tactics, personal strengths and intelligence.
Gerard Deulofeu’s familiarity with Carlos Bacca (2014-15 with Sevilla) and Suso (Spain U-19 side at the 2012 Euro in Estonia) provides a sense of assurance if you are a Milan supporter. Montella arrived to Milan last summer, strapped for finances and options. He immediately showed confidence in Suso who you can make a strong case for as the clubs’ top performer this year. Bravery going at opposing defenders and the confidence in his lethal left foot are well pronounced.
Montella has tapped into his potential. By having familiar faces around the Milanello ground to help Deulofeu adapt to Italian culture and calcio, the astute tactician aims to make him feel at ease. And, in return, unlock the former Catalan youth’s arsenal of raw talents.
Deulofeu has the blessings of exceptionally quick feet and the ability to outfox defenders with sudden directional changes. If there is a burning desire inside, and Deulofeu puts in the effort on the training ground, the former Spain U-21 skipper could become the latest beneficiary of L’Aeroplanino’s inner workings.
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