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The Debate is Real


While some people are debating about little issues like foreign policy and world domination and such, there are much, much bigger issues that need to be discussed. Like why Montolivo is still in the starting lineup based on his overall performances this season. Or why Montella’s subs are so late and have such little impact on the match. Or whether anything will ever be done about our players relentlessly hounding the ref for every call that doesn’t go our way. Let the candidates running for election attack each other and sling mud, Milan fans have more important concerns. The debate is real.

"There is no debate. I always talk about how great the team is playing in my press conferences."

Montolivo
Fans of the center defensive midfielder are incredibly difficult to find anymore. Certainly, online criticism may have intensified the criticism of his captaincy and performances, but sometimes when someone yells fire, there really is a fire. So why is Montella still starting him? Well for one, he wants to keep his job. Every time the press reports he is thinking of starting Sosa or Locatelli instead, Galliani goes to Milanello and then Montolivo starts again. No matter how slow he is, how much he walks around the pitch while everyone else runs, how many almost opposition assists he attempts, how many dangerous back passes or lateral passes he makes or how many goals we concede directly due to his errors. Is it any wonder that our best team performances are the ones where the ball is not played through him? Ventura was not visited by Galliani when Montolivo was called up for Italy, and Montolivo only played 45 minutes of a potential 180, with Italy looking better and playing better for the time he wasn’t on the pitch. So why is he still starting every match for Milan? Why is he so rarely subbed off, no matter how poor his performance? If it’s not whatever blackmail or black magic has been happening for the past four years to keep him in the starting eleven, then the only other possible reason is that the names MONT-ella and MONT-olivo start the same. What else could it be?

The longest Montolivo has ever kept the ball

Discipline
I’ve written about and talked about this subject on the podcasts, but Montella came in with a no-discipline approach that was like giving sugar to children who’d never tasted it after last season. And while it was hoped that the players saying they were enjoying training was a good sign, then came three red cards in two games, equaling the season total from last year. And then came the “confrontation” after the loss to Udinese and the “confrontation” with Bacca that was downgraded to a squad rotation after he scored the winning goal coming off the bench, playing his way. Not to mention the players swarming the refs after every call that goes the opposition’s way like angry hornets, it’s just embarrassing at this point. Montella said he would not tolerate that, but those same players keep starting every match, and it keeps happening. All of these issues beg the question: Has Montella lost the dressing room? Is his inconsistency in discipline going to cost us more suspensions or other disciplinary issues? Or are his friendly, low-profile ways going to pay off in the end?

Sure, there's no problem when he wins the game and proves you wrong

Substitutions
Not since Allegri have we consistently seen such late and impotent subs. Ewww, that was a painful memory. The singular exception, apart from subs forced by injury, being bringing on Bacca in the 64th vs. Sampdoria, which was both early for Montella, and very impactful. And that, ironically was his singular disciplinary move this season, having benched him after Bacca asked for more service rather than moving more off the ball as requested. Late subs are hard enough to swallow, as tired legs scream for mercy and make mistakes, and injuries are more likely every minute that tired legs play. But when Montella does make subs, they are complete headscratchers and typically make little to no impact on the game. To be fair, we have one of the weakest benches in Serie A, especially in contrast to our starting eleven. And we have had more than our fair share of injuries, too. But that may be impacted by the low squad rotation and late subs, it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. Will he change his ways and sub earlier, using all three subs every match? Will he find a way to bring on players who will actually impact the match, despite his meager choices? Or will fans become increasingly frustrated as both results and injuries are impacted? We’ve been there, done that, and I for one would like to see the changes.

"Did you miss me and my late subs?"

Possession-based Football
Montella’s catch phrase, mantra, playing style, football philosophy, and hair style has yet to come good. Six games into the season, we’re averaging under 50% possession, with only one match at 64% possession. And that match was a humiliating loss to Udinese. It’s not actually about the numbers, but rather what the team does with possession. Most of the time, if they do have the ball, they are making pointless back and side passes just to hold the ball, rather than move the ball forward and create chances. And Montella’s obsession with possession led to a lot more training with the ball, too, which meant less running, which has made it harder for all of the players to have 90 minutes in them, too. So they’re not actually dominating possession, when they do have possession it is wasteful and unproductive, and training to play possession-based football has left them with less stamina. I’m still trying to figure out the advantages of this playing style. I am still hoping to see more later, as everyone always says a new playing style takes time to put into action. I just hope that comes sooner rather than later. The concept is exciting, I am just not sure it is the right style for the players we have. And it also begs the question: Will the players be able to learn the system before the results send Montella packing?

"I didn't even see those problems... better update my CV"

The season is probably better than many of us hoped so far, with a lot of luck and some improvement along the way. But the issues above highlight not only problems that have already impacted the season, but problems that could easily lead to bigger and more problems. So the debate is on: how do you rate Montella so far? Do you see the same issues? If so, do you think they will hamper results or affect the length of his tenure at Milan? Are we so blinded by past failures that anything he does well is blown out of proportion? Or is the opposite, true, that every negative thing seems bigger than it is? Will his ideas and style of discipline help heal Milan and bring success? Or will they cost us our season and ultimately cost him his job? The debate is real.

Please feel free to share your ideas on Montella and the above issues in the comment section.


This post inspired by the music of Johnny Marr


Our next match is
Milan vs. Sassuolo
Sunday, October 2 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)