Sunday’s 5-1 win was a much-needed boost for the spirits of AC Milan fans everywhere.
More importantly, it signified that the Rossoneri are headed in the right direction, and that Gennaro Gattuso is the right man to continue leading them there.
Despite allowing the opening goal in their match, there was little doubt from the opening whistle that Milan were the better side on the day. The hosts forced their opponents from Florence onto their back foot until the very end, and saw five of their efforts reach the back of the opposition’s net.
For a club that went a five-match stretch in April where they only scored twice, the offensive outburst was a promising sign. It also capped off an end of the Serie A campaign where Milan not took three wins and a draw from their last four matches, they clinched a return trip to the group stages of next year’s Europa League—barring any punishment from UEFA over their Financial Fair Play status.
That is no small feat for the former Milan midfielder and Milan Primavera manager, who took over the helm after a disappointing start under Vincenzo Montella. Leading the club to an unbeaten run of thirteen matches that stretched from late December through the end of February, Gattuso instilled a strong work ethic, increased confidence, and a fighting spirit that the Rossoneri have lacked for some time. More importantly, he had a gameplan to deploy players in positions where they could succeed—mainly, he put Suso back on the wing, where he could perform.
Franck Kessie: “Gattuso is making us work harder, especially on tactics. With Montella we did very little work in training, but it’s different with Gattuso and you can see the results on the pitch." pic.twitter.com/V5xSSuWauX— Indy Football (@IndyFootball) February 26, 2018
Players like Franck Kessie thrived under Gattuso’s leadership, in large part because he demanded more from the players than his predecessor. “He’s making us work harder,” Kessie said in an interview in February. “Things have changed now and you can see the results on the field.”
Gattuso led Pisa to promotion to Serie B two years ago with a commitment to strong, hard-nosed defense. That is a mentality to be expected of the man Milan fans affectionately nicknamed “Ringhio”, and who once put his hands on the neck of an opposing manager. He is a man who came from a very poor home in Calabria, and fought to make himself a successful player and coach.
Now, he has helped develop a team from what began as a collection of thrown-together players just nine months ago. Milan’s overhaul in the summer transfer window took a while to gel properly, but credit Gattuso for turning them into a group that fights for one another. He had faith in a young player from the Primavera, and Patrick Cutrone rewarded him with a terrific haul of seventeen goals across all competitions in his first full season.
He showed the same faith in Davide Calabria, who cemented his spot on the right side of the defensive line and was the third-highest rated player in Milan’s side this season, after Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu. The youngster’s play helped lessen the blow caused by the injuries to Andrea Conti, as he led the side in both tackles and interceptions averaged per match played.
With the likely punishments coming from UEFA, the Rossoneri need stability. Gattuso provides that. One of the blessings of Italy missing out on the World Cup is that he will have the ability to jump straight into training this summer with his captain, Leonardo Bonucci, on board, as well as keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. None of the Milan players, aside from Ricardo Rodriguez, will be making the trip to Russia this summer, which means the team will have an advantage on the big boys ahead of them in the table.
The players trust him, and they love playing for him. The fans love him, and are thrilled to have someone leading the club who knows what the history and tradition of AC Milan means. Rino Gattuso was the proper hire to restore a struggling club, and he is the right man to lead the black and red into the 2018-19 campaign.