After defeat to Udinese at home on Matchday 3, Milan fans were quick to criticize their new manager Vincenzo Montella for the performance. The last month has seen a lot of progress made and a sense of optimism is brewing around the club.
It looked like the same Milan performance we had seen in recent years.
A team they were expected to beat at home but in the end, a shocking performance by the players; Montella’s selections were all wrong for the match.
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The Rossoneri were written off already for the rest of the season, and the debate had already begun. How long would Montella last in the job?
The club had sacked their last five managers since the departure of Max Allegri back in 2014, so nothing was quite guaranteed.
Five days later, a trip to an in-form Sampdoria side followed, a tricky tie because the opposition manager Marco Giampaolo had been linked with the Rossoneri job all summer and at one point, the favourite to land the job ahead of Vincenzo Montella.
A third defeat in four games would have been a major blow to Montella’s side and based on both team’s form it looked likely that Milan would been in for a difficult game away from home at the Ferraris.
Carlos Bacca was dropped to the bench, a controversial decision it seemed but the Colombian striker would come on to score the winning goal and give Milan the all important win.
One month later, the Rossoneri sit third and in a Champions League position two points ahead of their nearest rivals Torino and Napoli. Four games later — and ten points out of twelve — have been picked up with wins over Lazio, Sassuolo and Chievo.
Montella has fixed the minor issues that plagued the side in the opening rounds, and the defensive issues which saw new signing Gustavo Gomez dropped from the side after the defeat to Napoli have been solved by Gabriel Paletta. An all Italian backline has been formed which has seen the Rossoneri keep three clean sheets in five games.
The midfield has been solidified with the permanent trio of captain Riccardo Montolivo, Juraj Kucka and Giacomo Bonaventura. Consistency has been key among the three with Kucka and Bonaventura putting in tireless performances week in week out. The injury to Montolivo, while unfortunate, could be observed as a blessing in disguise with the emergence of Manuel Locatelli.
M’Baye Niang and Suso’s emergence under Montella has been a delight to see, with the attacking duo linking up with Carlos Bacca to devastating effect at times so far this season.
The reluctance to promote youth in recent years has angered many fans, with the Primavera enjoying large success.
Gianluigi Donnarumma was promoted at the age of 16 years old last season and his performances week in and week out show that he’s a world class goalkeeper in the making.
Montella has placed a lot of faith in the youngsters which he deserves a lot of credit for going forward. When the results weren’t going his way he opted for change with the likes of Locatelli, Mattia De Sciglio and Paletta coming into the side; a mixture of youth and experience amongst those three players.
De Sciglio, coming off a great tournament at Euro 2016, was surprisingly dropped from the starting line-up in place of Luca Antonelli. However, an injury to the former Genoa player saw De Sciglio reclaim his place in the starting eleven, and has kept it ever since.
The Azzurri fullback has been part of the Milan squad for over five years now. At 23 years old he is still considered a young player but with the experience of the highs and lows with Milan, he has seen it all.
Huge credit must go to Montella. The work he has done with the full-back on the training ground, in regards to positioning on the pitch as he adapts to the role, has paid dividends. Once labelled the next Maldini, De Sciglio seems determined as ever to prove the doubters wrong and take his game to the next level.
For years, the once promised youth movement looked like a hoax. Now, with Montella at the post, he has begun carrying the torch Mihajlovic set a flame last season. A combination of youngsters and crafty veterans. Montella is onto something special in Milan.