With multiple injuries and upcoming fixtures becoming more important for European qualification, coach Vincenzo Montella has some serious decisions to make regarding Milan’s midfield.
When captain Riccardo Montolivo suffered a major injury requiring surgery back in October with the National team, 18-year-old Manuel Locatelli slotted in and took his spot in the “regista” role of the 4-3-3, which is the player that sits in front of the defence. After scoring not one, but TWO fantastic goals and flourishing in the role, Locatelli became a constant starter for Montella’s side. However, consistency has been an issue for the young midfielder, which is definitely expected at such a young age in a massive role.
The man who usually replaces Manuel in the spot is Argentine Jose Sosa, who was brought in from Beskitas in the summer. Struggling to find consistent form as well, he possesses the skills to control the ball and make the correct pass under pressure. In the Rossoneri’s recent 1-1 draw at the Olimpico versus Lazio, it’s no secret that Sosa was a major reason for salvaging a point. He was substituted in for Locatelli just after the 2nd half started, and dramatically changed the game. His calmness on the ball, pin-point passes and key tackles made a massive difference that we didn’t see from the latter. Sosa was awarded with an assist on Suso’s tying goal, as he made the tackle to win back possession key pass before the tally.
In saying all of this, it’s hard to pick who should be the starting regista. What about playing both at the same time? Personally, this is the most viable option right now. Since Montolivo’s injury, Locatelli has been deployed only in his role, but has never actually been tested in the “mezz’ala” or the “mediano” role. Why not try it? With the current options available, Jose Sosa playing as the holding midfielder with Manuel Locatelli supporting but also being able to push up in attack wouldn’t be a terrible idea. We’ve seen a few sparks where the now 19-year-old had taken on defenders with step-overs or an effective run. This change would give Sosa more responsibility on the ball, while Locatelli can develop a new element in his game as preferably a mezz’ala, as Juraj Kucka would act as the mediano.
So how would this change work in Milan’s formation? Let’s take a look. Going with the best formation Montella can deploy currently, this is what we should see against Fiorentina on the weekend. (Bar Romagnoli through injury)
As you can see, the midfield trio would be Locatelli-Sosa-Kucka, as Andrea Poli, Bertolacci and Mario Pasalic could be used as substitutes later in the match. Sosa would play as that deep-lying midfielder, with Locatelli filling in the middle when needed. Kucka, with the work rate he possesses, will be covering multiple parts of the park as the mediano. It’s hard to argue that Bertolacci, Pasalic, or Mati Fernandez deserve to be in the starting XI over these three, as I truly believe this midfield trident will give Milan more going forward and adds stability at the back.
Giacomo Bonaventura’s season-ending injury forces Vincenzo Montella to unfortunately shuffle the deck. With quantity in the midfield and lacking quality, he has to work with what he has. I’ve seen this possible change mentioned by several Milanisti via Twitter, and I cannot help but agree. The stakes of a match like this Sunday against Fiorentina is crucial for European qualification, as la Viola is a team that the Rossoneri will be battling for the spot. This option can not only bring more stability in front of the defence, but can also provide more service for the three forwards, as goals have been somewhat hard to come by for Milan, lately.
Will Mister Montella give this new look a try? Hopefully, as a strong midfield will be key to snatching all 3 points on Sunday at San Siro.