AC Milan falling apart under Gennaro Gattuso
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It's official. Gennaro Gattuso has plunged AC Milan into crisis. The maverick Italian admitted as much following another episode in a series of disjointed displays. Saturday's defeat to Fiorentina leaves the Rossoneri winless in six Serie A matches. They've slipped out of the Champions League places into fifth.
“ We can now talk about a crisis at Milan as we are unable to worry opponents. The numbers are those of a crisis, we have to find a sense of calm, and not go looking for people to blame, everyone has to take responsibility.”
AC Milan caused an uproar with its extravagant, heedless spending spree last season in a bid to restore lost glory. Milan's red half attracted tourist footballers. Eleven moved to Lombardy for around £210 million. The missing piece was a reputable manager with a pedigree in harmonizing component parts into a single unit.
With Vincenzo Montella unable to fine-tune the squad, unheralded Gattuso stepped in and, initially, did a decent job. The manager rescued the club from collapse to finish in a respectable sixth. Even so, concerns over his long-term methods and ability take the Rossoneri to the next level persist.
Barely midway into this campaign, Milan must find answers to those questions. The Screwdrivers can't seem to find the perfect bolt. They’ve already crashed out of the Europa League from a supposedly soft group including Real Betis, Olympiacos and F91 Dudelange. Although fifth, they are closer to Udinese in 17th than Juventus in first.
Gattuso's negative tactics
Gattuso brought positive vibes to San Siro but the same can't be said for his football. Milan isn't pleasant to watch, especially with the 40-year-old still holding firm to his combative approach. These days, the San Siro mob are famous for aggression, anger and grit rather than the flair of old.
The young manager hasn't quite figured out the perfect system for his team. Last season, he often deployed the 4-3-3. He’s been forced to adopt a 4-4-2. At first, it seemed dynamic. Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone played well together. In hindsight, it was a terrible choice that rendered the team incoherent.
Milan has gone three games without hitting the target. They struck just three times in December, one from the penalty spot. It's no coincidence Higuain hasn't netted in his last seven games in all competitions, a spell stretching back to the match against Sampdoria on Oct. 28.
The Rossoneri parted with nearly £18 million to rent clinical boots that converted 55 goals in 105 appearances during two seasons at Juventus. Five Serie A strikes in 13 matches is short shrift.
Deprived of the sort of service he enjoyed in Turin, the 31-year-old casts a frustrated figure. When not arguing with referees, the Argentine is remonstrating with his younger teammates, frustrated with his isolation.
Fortune hasn't been nice to Milan. Injuries plague the midfield. Giacomo Bonaventura underwent knee surgery. He won't be available for the season's remainder. Lucas Biglia and Mattia Caldara are ruled out till February.
Franckie Kessie and Tiemoue Bakayoko formed unlikely partnership over the past month or so. The pair has done well to guide Milan through an injury-plagued period but has fallen short in the creative department. Too few goals mean too few victories.
For Milan to move forward, Gattuso must go. The Frosinone and SPAL games should convince Milan's new ownership. Arsene Wenger loiters by the phone.