AC Milan fell to defeat to Fiorentina at San Siro on Saturday which potentially sets up a decisive week for Gennaro Gattuso after Christmas.
The Rossoneri have now gone three consecutive Serie A games without scoring, the first time that has happened since 2001.
3 – AC Milan haven’t found the net in three consecutive Serie A games for the first time since November 2001. Lack. #MilanFiorentina
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 22, 2018
In turn, that torrid run of form has seen them drop out of the top four, while question marks continue to be raised over Gattuso moving forward given his inability to get results.
We now end 2018 with a trip to Frosinone before hosting SPAL, and it’s feared that unless we pick up six points, it could raise serious concern over Gattuso’s tenure.
Unless he learns from these setbacks and makes the necessary adjustments, something that we simply haven’t done in the last three games, then perhaps it is the right decision to make a change.
Firing blanks against well-organised opponents
Milan have been incapable of breaking down well-organised sides in the last few weeks. Looking further back, last-minute winners from Alessio Romagnoli spared our blushes against Genoa and Udinese.
We’ve managed to score just 24 goals in our 17 league outings so far this season, giving us the lowest tally of the top 10 sides.
It’s one thing having a bad day and key players not performing, but when it lasts this long, there is something fundamentally wrong and issues are deep-rooted.
To break these sides down, it’s obvious Milan must move the ball quickly, with every player making runs and moving off the ball to continuously shift the opposition around and not let them settle into a solid shape. We haven’t done that, and unless we attack with more urgency, directness and intensity, it won’t change.
Instead, we fall into the same old trap of relying on Suso to produce something special, and that simply isn’t a tactic that is going to get us anywhere in the short or long term.
Milan must stick with 4-3-3
The minute that Gattuso opted to change personnel and system in the second half, we looked doomed. On one hand, he could be commended for his desire to be positive and go out to win the game with two strikers, but when our midfield is in the state it’s in currently, you just can’t risk it.
Goal Fiorentina…two minutes later. Just ridiculous. It’s a great strike but so obvious… https://t.co/jPDZGI5AVH
— Milan Talk (@MilanTalk1) December 22, 2018
Jose Mauri, albeit looking tired, was playing a key role in front of the defence, while Davide Calabria had cover and Hakan Calhanoglu was looking a threat on the left of the midfield three, even if he was wasteful in the final third.
Going back to a 4-4-2 allowed Chiesa to find space inside, and to his credit, he produced a great finish.
Fiorentina recorded their first away win of the season with a 1-0 win against Milan at the San Siro. Federico Chiesa scored the match winner. #MilanFiorentina #SerieATIM #SerieA pic.twitter.com/PoJV8Vhrfx
— CALCIO SQUARE (@calcio_square) December 22, 2018
Up until that point, we looked solid and decent in our attacking play in our 4-3-3 system, with Suso looking dangerous and Calhanoglu more comfortable inside. Unfortunately for Gattuso, this tactical error wasn’t his only one in recent times and it’s beginning to force his most ardent of backers to question him.
Higuain is not untouchable
The counter argument will remain that Higuain isn’t getting the service from a midfield devoid of quality. It’s difficult to disagree with that.
Whether it’s the Argentine himself or Gattuso, it’s painfully obvious in that case that adjustments must be made to somehow rectify the problem. Instead, we’ve seen the continuation of our issues for three straight Serie A games now with Alban Lafont having more touches of the ball (33), than our No.9 (32) on Saturday.
Higuain is a great goalscorer, one of the best in recent times. Unfortunately, he’s being exposed for being only that with Milan, and unless he can offer more, (with Gattuso tweaking tactics to help him), he shouldn’t be in the starting XI week in and week out on his name alone.
It could be argued that we’ve seen a need for a lead striker who can create magic and moments of quality for others for years. From Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Mario Balotelli, we relied on them on countless occasions during their stints at the club to bail us out of trouble, but Higuain can’t do that same role for us and so something has to give until we bring in reinforcements.
The only way he will get quality service is in a 4-3-3, with Calhanoglu alongside Tiemoue Bakayoko and Franck Kessie in midfield and Suso out wide as a right winger.
Gattuso needs to send his troops out with a ruthless and relentless mindset against Frosinone and SPAL, from showing quality to bullying them and ultimately overrunning them across the pitch to show our superiority. He needs to be brave and instil that confidence in his players to not just play it safe and at a comfortable tempo.
It could be said they need to play with the fire that he played with during his days on the pitch. Somewhere along the line, this team seems to have lost that. Now they must all respond next week or we could face a serious problem, regardless of whether or not we’re still firmly in the mix for fourth place.