It seems since the opening game of the 2017-18 season, perhaps even into the summer when Milan signing the plethora of players they ended up getting, there was a humming drone in the background. Montella Out. Many fans did not think Vincenzo Montella was the right man to lead the job.
AC Milan’s incoming players this summer (oh, and they kept Donnarumma too) pic.twitter.com/mFc5OmC5Su— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 16, 2017
How short the memory is, with us Milanisti, in particular. Last season Milan finished sixth place. While that is not what we strive on as team Milan, given who was on our team and where we had been for several years, this was a fantastic result. Many of the kudos, if not all, went to Montella. Yet, fans still were not all on board with the manager. There may not have been a more polarizing manager in the club's history, with half loving the former Fiorentina manager, while the other half despised him.
That humming drone I mentioned, would get louder each and every week. With each poor result the Rossoneri put out, more people would be on the #MontellaOut bandwagon. Both Frank Crivello and myself said on our Serie A Sitdown podcast that the Montella Out movement was ludicrous. Who would be able to come on board and produce instantly? Montella was going to have a growing curve with eleven new signings. How could he not? To think a team with that many new signings would mesh right away, is silly. Remember folks, this is not FIFA 18, this is actual real football. Teams take time to build chemistry and learn each other inside and out.
Many fans screamed, “bring back Ancelotti!” Carlo's legacy is cemented with Milan, and sorry to burst bubbles, but he ain't coming back folks. So I pose this question to you. Who would be able to come in and win right away? I'll save you the trouble, no one. Sure, they would have a Stefano Pioli effect, like he did with Internazionale last season. Please remember though, that did not last, and our bitter city rivals missed out on European competition all together.
We all know what we were facing with all these signings, the dreaded three letter acronym all big money teams fear, FFP. For those of you not in the know, FFP is Financial Fair Play. Milan would need to show they were capable of balancing the books, and given how much they spent this past off-season, Milan would need to qualify for Champions League this season, guaranteeing them a sizable income. This season also was a shift from Italy having three Champions League spots, to four, which favored our chances of qualifying. However, with each passing game not living up to our goals, Champions League grew further and further away. It just so happens this year, not only do we have Napoli and Juventus to worry about, but several teams are back. Roma, Inter and Lazio are all playing exceptionally well that no one saw coming. Yet while last year's darlings Atalanta are struggling mightily with Europa League and Serie A fixtures, there was another darling, or dark horse if you will. The talent laden Sampdoria squad were overachieving, being dubbed the “giant killers” well in contention of Champions League as well. So with arguably six other teams to worry about for the available four Champions League spots, it was imperative Milan play their best at all times. That was not happening and thus #MontellaOut grew.
️— World Football Index (@WorldFootballi) November 24, 2017
The @SerieASitdown team discuss Sampdoria v Juventus, Napoli v Milan, Roma v Lazio, Inter v Atalanta, & also talk Italians playing around Europe. With @R_Kharman @FTC_21 @SempreSSCNapoli
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Frank and I stood tough and resisted, though we both agree during the month of November, we began to wain. Then Black Monday rolled around. We Milanisiti wake up the morning of November 27, 2017 and apparently the #MontellaOut movement finally reached the all important lips of Yonghong Li and the Milan Luxembourg Consortium, including Massimo Mirabelli and Marco Fassone. Vincenzo Montella was indeed out, sacked if you will. So what now? Who replaces him? Well, naturally Gennaro Gattuso.
Wait, Rino Gattuso?!? Our loveable bad cop to Andrea Pirlo's good cop, Rino Gattuso? The same Gattuso who headbutted Joe Jordan of Tottenham in the Champions League in February 2011? Yup.
Montella is SACKED, Gattuso is IN & now we're asking for your thoughts on the situation...— ItalianFootballTV (@IFTVofficial) November 27, 2017
IFTV Fam, comment how you feel about the situation & they'll be included in our video we're about to film pic.twitter.com/uzf96lTbHn
What does Gattuso's coaching credentials entail? Well many will say he coached and failed at Sion of Swiss first division. Gattuso managed a whopping three games in that 2012/2013 season, where he lead an already doomed team to zero wins, one draw and two defeats. Couple that with Zamperini's doppleganger at the Swiss club, who has a pension for firing managers quickly. So he will get a pass from me there. His next stint would be at Palermo during 2013/2014 campaign and the trigger happy Zamperini would be his new boss. In Serie B Gattuso lead Palermo to a 2W, 1D, 3L record. If you account Coppa Italia, he won the second round match but would get eliminated in the third round to Hellas Verona. Again, working for Zamperini, i'm willing to give him a pass. Now we get into the thick of it.
Gattuso would head to Greece to manage OFI Crete to a record of 5W, 3D, 9L and his team only managed 11 goals, but gave up 24 goals. Not a good ratio, and thus after 17 games at the helm was let go. Let us not overlook Crete were in financial ruins before Gattuso went there, so with a lack of resources, that was never going to end well. AC Pisa was impressed though and hired Gattuso for the 2015/2016 season. Gattuso lead Pisa to an impressive 21W, 14D, 6L and a goal ratio of 54 goals-for and only 31 goals-against. Pisa did so well under Gattuso, that they won the Serie C Playoffs and gained promotion to Serie B. In those 41 games in charge, Gattuso showcased incredible flexibility using six different stylistic formations throughout the season. He clearly did not learn that from his mentor Carlo Ancelotti, who seemingly only used a 4-3-3 and 4-3-2-1 formation.
Serie B posed a bigger challenge for Gattuso and though he did use four different formation styles throughout the season, Gattuso mostly used a 4-3-3 system that was ineffective and his team would finish the season with a 6W, 21D, 16L record. The team leaked in goals to a poor -17 goal differential and ultimately would be relegated for his troubles.
After that season, Gattuso would join the Milan Primavera to start the 2017/2018 season. Gattuso would only manage 12 games for the Primavera before being called up to coach the first team. His Primavera squad currently sit in 3rd place , just three points out of first with a record of 8W, 1D, 3L. Those three loses have come to rivals Sassuolo, Juventus and a derby loss to Inter. Though his preferred formation is 4-3-3, Gattuso has used five different formations in the twelve games in charge, once again showing his flexibility.
As Gattuso is inexperienced, it is easy for us to brush him off as a bad hiring. Do not let that fool you, as Gattuso has done some good and tends to have good defensive teams. Tactically is where he seems to lack pedigree, but he never was a tactical genius as a player either. His X-factor will be his motivational skills and is the only one who can teach this team what it means to be a Milan player, truly.
Perhaps Gattuso won't be able to save Milan this season and get them to a Champions League spot, but at the least, he will earn their respect and teach this squad what it means to wear the red and black of the Rossoneri. We wish Rino nothing but good luck!