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Milan 0, Sampdoria 1: Consequences


At the beginning of the season, I warned against some red flags that I saw with Montella as far as discipline, substitutions, and his preferred playing style. One month into the season, I wrote about them again. Then came the honeymoon period, when Montolivo was injured and everything started to click. Winning the Supercoppa made us feel like it would last forever, pumping optimism into fans at a rate that was impossible to sustain. And then came January. Early results were favorable, but the level of play was worrying. Oh yeah, and injuries. Now we just suffered our fourth defeat in a row, to the team who were in 13th place. And we get to play the new 13th place team midweek, ironically because of the Supercoppa and scheduling. All of that winning seems twice as far away now with every loss. It seems that we are finally reaping the consequences.

No matter how hard the players work, it seems futile

This match was particularly brutal for me to watch because it was at 3:30am my time, and I had a full day on either side of that. So besides losing my soul when I saw a MF-CB-CB-CB starting defensive lineup, I lost sleep. More than I should have. When coaches tell you that the play builds from the defense forward, they are not joking. And much of the offensive play builds from the fullbacks. Particularly in Montella’s system, both fullbacks push forward and attempt to create chances… often. Today, Kuco was on the right, and he did push forward, but didn’t always defend as well. Also, we missed Abate’s crosses. And longtime Milan fans know what I mean when I say that, it was so very painful. With Romagnoli on the left, we had solid defending, but little else. Oh, and Zapata not only had a rare start, but was our captain. Make of that what you will.

We are at the point in our season where we are finally maintaining possession, like the 67% today, but even Montella last week finally admitted that the stats mean nothing, it’s what we do that is important. The same could be said of our 20 shots, with six on target, which kept Viviano busy, but accomplished absolutely nothing for Milan. Suso was his usual amazing self, but it’s not like he can play 1 vs. 11. The other players were like pieces to different puzzles. Any efforts made were in vain because none of the cogs fit together. And not just on defense.


He was great at clearances, but not a lot of creativity or pushing forward in attack

Bacca may have saved us many times with a singular goal, but he certainly didn’t save us today. In fact, he got a yellow card in the 45th for dissent because he disagreed with an offside call (which was accurate.) And when he was finally subbed off in the 72nd, he wasn’t happy either. His poor attitude has been the heart of the discipline problem for Montella, who finally admitted in the prematch press conference that Bacca was going to be Bacca and the team needed to change its playing style around him.

What?! How is that good for the team? But flip-flopping is something that Montella has done pretty much across the board. At the beginning of the season, players could eat whatever they wanted. But once the team started playing poorly and the results followed, he seems to have given them a relatively strict diet. There was the possession thing, which he walked back, and now Bacca. Bacca can do whatever he wants. But what if he doesn’t score? Isn’t it more fair to enforce things across the board? Have everything be the same for all of the players? But see, this is the discipline thing I’ve been talking about the whole season, and discussed most recently on the last podcast, too.


Adding new players at such a delicate time hasn't been ideal, either

As for the rest of the game, there were seven yellow cards, including two yellows for Sosa in the space of six minutes, leaving us playing stoppage time on ten men. I didn't understand Montella dropping Locatelli. Locatelli on a bad day is still much better than Sosa on a good day. And even if Sosa played on the right, Bertolacci does not have anything close to €20m to offer as a regista. So in the 69th, Paletta had a choice to make: take Quagliarella out and get the penalty called, hoping Donnarumma can save the penalty, or leave him 1 v 1 again with the Sampdoria striker. And he made the right call, statistically. But in the 70th, Muriel ruined Donnarumma's perfect penalty save stat for the season, and it was 1-0 Sampdoria.

The goal seemed to remind Montella he had some subbing to do, and even if I see what he was trying to do, it was much too little much too late. Between discipline and mentality, we are our own worst enemy again. Will he be able to set this train back on the tracks? It's hard to know. The mentality we enjoyed so much was built upon his predecessors' work, too. And now he's got to save the team from himself. From the discipline issues he created, from his substitutions, and from the on-field discipline issues, too. I think we are already double the number of red cards as last year, and with injuries, those are really going to hurt us.


He's saved a lot, but he can't save them all
As if we didn't have enough going against us, there are also the obvious consequences of having two transfer windows in a row with desperate low or no-budget transfers. One of the most mindboggling for me was sending Niang out on loan. Yesterday, he started in his debut for Watford and got a yellow card, a goal, and an assist. His replacement, Ocampos got a ten minute runout that didn't really amount to much, even if it's too early to judge what he can offer. But I just feel like that is the Milan way... Galliani lets players leave who are of much higher value, more prepared to help their team, then brings in players of lesser quality who never end up flourishing. We literally have a team of lesser quality than we started January with, but paid more for the new players than we got for the old players to leave. And now we're already paying for that.

While it would seem obvious, it's probably less so the closer you get to Milan. The issues we are having now are a result of the lack of discipline created at the beginning of the season. Montella changing his ways and changing his words is actually contributing to the problem, even if it seems he's trying to make up for it now. But this tragic and unnecessary loss was more than just the injury crisis we have at fullback. It was also about consequences. The consequences of that "happy" environment Montella immediately created when he came last summer, with relaxed trainings. Consequences of teaching players to play with the ball, but not what to do with it after they maintained possession. Consequences of changing the rules. And for all of the reasons, both those Montella does and doesn't have control over, Milan are now reaping the consequences.


This post inspired by the music of NIN


Our next match is
Bologna vs. Milan
Wednesday, February 8 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)