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The Case Against Montella


As soon as Bonucci was purchased from Juve, Montella’s free Milan ticket expired. No longer was he a pretty decent coach who did really well with no reinforcements. Now the questions started flying: Can he manage these players? Can he coach them to top four? Will he take this team to the Champions League and take Milan far into that competition? The fact is, the more a team spends in the mercato, the more pressure there is on the coach. And while people say that we should be patient and let the team gel, at the first sign of trouble, they are screaming for him to be sacked. But is there actual cause to sack him? Today I wanted to look at some of the reasons people are calling for his head, also known as the case against Montella.

The case against him is growing

Substitutions
One of the most maddening habits of Montella are his late substitutions, not using all of his substitutions, and substitutions which make no sense or have no impact on the game. Or all of the above in a single match, like we saw in the Roma game on Sunday. We’ve seen this before, particularly with Allegri, but it seems like Montella started poorly and is getting worse. Nothing that happens in the game – subs for the other team, conceding a goal, or even one of our players injured – seems to warrant a sub from Montella. And when he does sub, late in the game, sometimes his subs are so incredibly mindboggling, it’s ridiculous. Whether he takes the best player off for no apparent reason, or maybe someone who was actually struggling, you can bet that at least 80% of the time, he’ll replace them with someone much less effective, even with fresh legs. It’s embarrassing.

Lineups
In the summer, it was a good time for him to try out different players and different combinations of players. But as fans, we wanted to see him find his starting 11, we wanted to see the best players play. While I see both arguments, it was really strange when he didn’t try his strongest 11 ahead of Serie A. Especially with such poor performances and some lucky results. Even more strange that he spoke repeatedly of his great love affair with the 3-5-2, and even tried it a couple of times, but not with the best players, so then switched back to a 4-3-3. Each time lineups were released, it was like he was undermining the players, the team, and his own ideas. And that is one of the only concepts that seems to be consistent with him.

Displaced anger
Rotations
With three competitions, we all knew there would be some squad rotation. All good coaches do it. And at first, I commended him for rotating so much, as he seemed to be working hard to prevent injuries and fatigue. But soon it became obvious that he was not rotating players like Bonucci and Kessie at all, and would play certain players a lot, yet other players hardly at all. Andre Silva is a good example here, as he has given fantastic performances in every game, yet was barely used in Serie A. Never mind that he was one of our most expensive players, the guy has earned his starting berth repeatedly, and yet still has only started twice in Serie A. Meanwhile a player like Borini, a striker who shoots like a blind man in the dark, has four starts in Serie A. If these mad rotations are tactical, then why don’t we see any tactics from them? They make no sense and are not producing good football, while still producing injuries.

How Montella sees the results

The 3-5-2
From day one, the very idea of the 3-5-2 drove me crazy. Maybe we had 11 players who could pull it off… maybe. But it was questionable even with that 11, and we certainly didn’t have any depth if, say, Conti ruptured his ACL and was out for six months. Which did happen. But did Montella change? No. In fact, he started Borini at that spot on Sunday. Borini. The player we bought on the cheap from the relegated Sunderland. You know, the guy who Montella loves because he “makes runs?” On Sunday everyone raved about him because he had two assists, but the truth is, like Poli before him, he mostly just runs. Give anyone enough playing time, and they’ll find their way on the stat sheet one way or the other.

But I digress. In addition to having zero depth for the 3-5-2, it only looked good against smaller teams in the Europa League. In Serie A, it was a disaster. And speaking of disasters, Montella switched to the 3-5-2 in reaction to the disaster of losing to Lazio so badly. Not because it was a better formation, but because I think he honestly had no idea what else to do. Which is the same problem for our defense in this formation. This is the same defense that was looking pretty solid in a back four, mind you, and yet in the 3-5-2, they are all struggling, individually and collectively. Including Bonucci, who is one of the best center backs in the world right now, and has played in both three and four man defenses his whole career. And the worst of it is, less than two weeks before, when he tried the 3-5-2, he had said it was wrong to play the 3-5-2 and that it would be a while before they’d play it again, because it was such a disaster. Apparently less than two weeks and a massive loss was “a while.” And his psychotic compulsion to play this formation has brought us to where we are today, regardless of how poor they play in it or how many losses we have.

Marra and Montella in the good old days
Firing the Fitness Coach
The big turning point for me was when he fired his longtime friend. Via social media. They had worked together for eight years, and while both sides publicly say it was an amicable divorce, Montella just couldn’t wait for the club to announce it. Now keep in mind, Montella is a guy who has tweeted only 15 times in just over a year. A few tweets to announce his account and promote last summer’s US Tour, a few RT’s from his son’s account, etc. And he tweets twice, once in Italian and once in English to tell the world that he and his boyhood friend are splitting up. Like any other celebrity divorce. And now, ten days later, there is still no new fitness coach in place. The original candidate apparently turned him down, and now there are rumors he will just pull someone from within. All of this is very strange, and for me, shows cracks in character as well as some level of panic on his part.

Not the classiest move
Accountability
That brings me to the next part: accountability. When there is a poor result, he doesn’t take any responsibility for it. Lose to Sampdoria? Fire the fitness coach. And while he keeps saying that they weren’t related, in his own tweet said it was “where improvements can be made.” Not where he can make improvements, there are never any discussions about that. He’ll hang his defense out to dry in a poorly-manned 3-5-2, and instead of saying “maybe this is not the formation for us,” he continuously points out their individual errors in a formation they struggle with. When a player he usually benches plays well, he is sure to criticize them in the press conference afterward. I don’t know if he is truly not seeing what everyone else is, or if he has become too egotistical, having been given this team and the faith and money that back them. I mean a coach needs a healthy sized ego. But when the ego undermines the team and the objectives, it is very dangerous.

What goes up must come down

We all asked if Montella could do this job. And seven league games in, we are four wins and three losses toward our goal, and facing both Inter and Juventus in the next three weeks. The club continue to put faith in him, despite these results, but at some point it becomes an issue of money. They have invested so much, they need to get a certain return on their investments. Perhaps it is just a matter of finding the right replacement, but with all of these things stacked against him, Montella is walking a fine line at Milan. As with all coaches, he is going to have to produce results sooner rather than later. Can he do it? That remains to be seen. But there certainly is quite the case against Montella.


This post was inspired by the music of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”
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