As you may have heard if you’ve opened any websites, Twitter pages, or newspapers that discuss Serie A, AC Milan has fired former Fiorentina boss Vincenzo Montella. The Rossoneri sit in 7th place on 20 points along with Sampdoria, Bologna, and Chievo Verona, with the latter two behind on goal difference.
It’s a pretty low spot in the table for a team that shelled out over €200 million in transfers this past summer, bringing in a bunch of quality players like Leonardo Bonucci, Franck Kessié, Ricardo Rodríguez, Andrea Conti, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Lucas Biglia, Mateo Musacchio, André Silva, and Nikola Kalinić. In fairness, a new manager and a new starting XI rarely take a league by storm, as there’s usually a lengthy period of adjustment (see Stefano Pioli and Fiorentina), but it’s massively disappointing for investors who’ve now sunk nearly €1 billion into the team.
While the drab results weren’t entirely Montella’s fault, he didn’t do himself any favors with his tactics, team selections, or attitude off the pitch. Viola fans, of course, could have predicted his rapid fall from grace, as several of his behaviors on the red side of Milan are very similar to the ones we saw in Florence.
- He couldn’t beat the big teams. 4-1 at Lazio. 2-0 at Samp. 0-2 against AS Roma. 3-2 at Inter Milan. 0-2 against Juventus. 2-1 at Napoli. Milan lost to every team ahead of them in the table. That was generally his modus operandi with the Viola as well: in 2012/2013, he took 6 points in the 6 matches against teams that finished higher in the table; in 2013/2014, he did the same; in 2014/2015, it was 2 points in 6 matches against teams that finished higher. When you consider that 3 of those points in 2014/2015 were courtesy of a divinely-inspired Giuseppe Rossi more than anything Montella did, you get a picture of a manager who has trouble beating top opposition.
- The whole world knows his tactics. Look, I loved watching Fiorentina under Montella. Beautiful passing combinations through the middle, strikers dropping deep to get involved, a defense that wasn’t afraid to pass the ball out, quick movement all over the pitch, and everything else. But that’s his only trick, and he still hasn’t figured out how to beat a team that sits deep and counters quickly.
- He shoehorns players into the wrong positions. Got a midfield tank like Kessié? Order him to work as a regista rather than an object of pure destruction. A talented playmaker like Giacomo Bonaventura? Definitely a wingback. Why not try Rodríguez, who may be the best crossing leftback in the world, at sweeper against Napoli? Got a pacy, tricky winger? Lock him to the bench. Remind anyone of Matías Fernández at striker? Or Federico Bernardeschi at wingback? Marcos Alonso at centerback? Yeah, I could go all day with these.
- Too stubborn to change his formations. Someone should tell Cousin Vinny that he’s allowed to play a four-man defense, because the next time he goes with 2 centerbacks and 2 fullbacks will be just about the first this year. He’s vacillated between a 3-5-2 and a 3-4-2-1, and neither has really convinced. Meanwhile, he’s got some dynamite wingers stuck either at wingback or on the bench. If only there were a way to get them involved.
- That aloofness. Again, I sort of loved how Montella was too cool for everyone when he was in Florence. It was part of the hipster thing we had going back then. I was even willing to forgive his refusal to take the blame for any poor results, although his standard post-loss press conference was centered around a) we created more chances and deserved a better outcome, b) are improving every week, and if you can’t see the big picture, you’re just not smart enough to understand calcio, or c) controlled the match but were unlucky. Like any hipster thing when it goes mainstream, these excuses don’t play well 5 years later, especially when the man uttering them just doesn’t seem to care what anyone else thinks about him because he’s convinced that he’s right and everyone else is dumb.
So farewell, Montella. Those were three mostly magical years in Florence, but once we, and the rest of Serie A, figured you out, you never tried to change or improve, and you can’t coast like that in Italy, where every manager is smart and knows how to attack an opponent’s weakness. We wish you the best, and hope that you take some time to really consider how you run a football team.
As for Milan, they’ve certainly righted the ship with the steady hand of Gennaro Gattuso, and are in no way on the verge of a hilarious and deeply satisfying catastrophe.