The inevitable was actioned earlier today as Vincenzo Montella was finally relieved of his duties as Milan’s head coach by the ownership of the club, with Gennaro Gattuso taking the job over until further notice.
While many predicted that Montella wouldn’t be the man to take Milan to the next level, he was recognised as a safe pair of hands capable of keeping Milan’s head above the rising tide of doubt, and debt. Even so, few could have predicted the stagnation after a summer splurge - and in Montella’s own words, he failed.
Where did this start? Well, the first premenitions of future failure could be found at the back end of last season. Milan started off in promising style and even added a bit of silverware via the Supercoppa, however results would dip and Milan’s title pace would fall away late into the season with some crushing losses, and some even heavier draws. Milan struggled late in the chase for European football and came close to missing out once more on Europa League qualification. Mismatches in formation, injuries and personnel issues ensured Montella had his work cut out.
That theme would continue this season, after a massive transfer spend not entirely directed by Vincenzo. This huge spend in a way, undermined Montella and his squad, with the seemingly random addition of players with clashing personalities, and differing playstyles. It’s clear that Montella not only struggled to deal with this - but also had major difficulty in actually building a winning lineup with the pieces he was given, preferring to play his choice of players over other options.
This was shown the most in his trust for Nikola Kalinic, the misfiring summer signing. Kalinic was a ‘Montella Man’, and despite a dire run of form in Serie A, was kept in the Milan lineup as a leading man despite the presence of Patrick Cutrone and Andre Silva. It has to be said that Montella has endured issues with his management of strikers before, with his management of Carlos Bacca seeming entirely suspect at points, but Kalinic went missing a lot more than the Colombian misfit and enjoyed a greater spell of trust in the team than Bacca did.
What’s more, the signing of Leo Bonucci proved to be questionable. Despite poor performances from Milan’s main man, he is arguably the most senior person within AC Milan, and the most respected due to his reputation and attitude. Bringing in a player that has more pull than the manager? It’s a bad move, despite his obvious talents. Gattuso is a different beast, and nowhere as laid-back as Montella, but that could prove to be even worse, as when two hotheaded men clash there is usually an enormous amount of collateral.
Montella’s style of play kept swinging in different directions and it looked like he was incapable of building something special at Milan, but there was hardly a stable platform provided for him. He was set up to fail in spectacular fashion, but he hardly helped himself. However, the Milan board need to be questioned; why back a man, only to sack him after a fairly decent performance? Montella’s team did quite well and made a lot of chances against Torino, only to blunder at the final hurdle - the game plan, for once, was not an issue. This is even harder to swallow due to the fact that half of Milan’s board wanted Montella to stay on, while the owners - Yonghong and David Li wanted him gone. That’s trouble.
Montella is a promising coach, but he must learn from his Milan experience, a time where little, if anything, actually went right for him. However, the Milan board must question their role in this - despite a huge spend, was the plan of the manager actually carried out?