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Montella 2.0


The extension of Montella came to fruition on Monday, with him signing a contract until 2019. There were some who doubted if he would stay, and I suppose there were some who doubted that he would be invited to stay, despite him having been chosen last year with the approval of Yonghong Li. Fassone and Mirabelli had also expressed their faith in him even before the sale was complete. But the extension made it official, and now we can look forward to Montella 2.0.

All for one and one for all?

There was a lot of doubt about how Montella would do this year. With so many coaches in recent years, so many players in and out, and so much uncertainty, it was going to be a tough job for anyone to take on. Montella was able to build on the mental work of his predecessors, despite being the recipient of a squad that was not reinforced properly in the previous two markets. A daunting task for even the most experienced manager.

Montella was able to rebuild the mentality of the squad very successfully, particularly for the first half of the season. He also was able to miraculously shield the players from all of the questions and media surrounding the sale of the club and changing of ownership. No matter how many times the deal failed to go through, it never impacted the results on the pitch. There were certainly discipline issues that will need to be addressed going forward, but he showed a willingness to change throughout the season even if his initial position was not working. For example, he came in telling the players they could eat anything, then switched to a more rigid diet during the season. And most importantly, was able to maintain the respect of the squad while doing this.

Ummm... guys... that's not why he was known as L'aeroplanino

His tactics were nothing revolutionary, and yet they were largely successful. Despite talking all about possession for the first four or five months, it was his 4-3-3 standby, using the fullbacks and the wingers to create plays and wisely circumventing our very weak midfield that really transformed what was largely the same team as the previous season, and produced much better results. Specifically by achieving the goal of Europa League qualification. His main variance was the use of a 3-5-2 formation when all of our fullbacks were injured. Not entirely sure if it was the tactics, missing players, or mentality, but it was not as successful. Personally, when I saw him line up Kucka as a winger the first time he used that formation, I was pinning it all on him, that was ridiculous. But the concept was actually largely the same, just less effective. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion as to which reason(s.)

Montella also peaked at the right time to give him his first trophy as a coach. After miraculously defeating Juventus in November, the team was primed to defeat them again in December to win the Supercoppa. I honestly cannot find anyone to credit for that more than him, as he was a psychological wizard in preparing the squad and instilling a sense of belief that they could win a match they had no business winning on paper.

They say you never forget your first

However, his magic spells weakened after the first of the year. Well, that, and there were some big injuries. And oddly enough, when the closing finally came, it was like the team just completely ran out of gas. So despite working mental sorcery, he struggled to keep the mentality when it should have been highest. Now he faces what should be a comparatively new squad, with any number of players in and out this summer. That will be an all new challenge, but should be helped greatly by adding a lot more quality to the squad.

While a competitive squad is what everyone wants, between FFP, availability of funds vs. overpriced players, and such a weak existing bench, Montella will likely be faced with competing on three fronts with a team that even if greatly improved in the starting lineup, could still be very weak as far as depth is concerned. And if injuries hit like they did this year, they may actually hurt more when our starting eleven is so much better, but we have even more games to play. He will need to repeat his mentality magic even more successfully if we are to succeed in all three competitions and ideally make Champions League qualification the following season. That task will be made more difficult still by the other teams who finished above us this year being further along in their building and more cohesive, too.

Keeping the dream alive

Montella absolutely deserved a renewal. His work this year to bring calmness and stability when not even Berlusconi knew if and when the sale of the club was going through was nothing short of miraculous. Maybe it was “only” the Supercoppa, but winning a trophy after so long was massive for the players and the fans, too. Maybe he is not the tactician to guide us to another Champions League trophy, but maybe he has simply been limited by the players we have. His joy at being renewed was palpable, and I for one love that he is a lifelong Milanista. His second year is likely to be even more challenging than his first, even if for completely different reasons. But it’s hard not to have high expectations and a lot of excitement for Montella 2.0.


This post inspired by the music of Cake’s “The Distance”

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