Written by Joshua O’Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Vincenzo Montella was hired by Milan in the summer and his appointment was well received by fans and media. Montella seemed to be the smart choice for Milan after three years of chopping and changing managers without success. Many felt that Montella was finally the right man to take Milan forward and bring the Rossoneri back into European competition. However, after the first three games of the season the pressure was already on Montella with Milan only picking up three points from a possible nine. Three games and seven points later things are looking a lot different and it seems that Montella's Milan is beginning to look like a real contender for the European spots.
Montella began his Milan career with a 3-2 win at home to Torino in which Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero saving a last minute Bellotti penalty. Milan's next two matches away to Napoli and at home to Udinese both ended in defeat. The Rossoneri fans must have began to resign themselves to another season of disappointment with the defense leaking goals for fun in the opening three matches. Montella was already under pressure and fans who were already angry about a poor transfer campaign were starting to lose patience with the club. Montella however remained calm and convinced that the results would start to come and he was right.
In Milan's next three games they picked up seven points leaving them currently one point off a Champions League place. The players are starting to understand Montella's methods hence the performances and results are improving. Milan haven't had easy games either a hard fought 1-0 victory away to Sampdoria and a 2-0 victory over Lazio were both credible results as was a 0-0 draw away to Fiorentina given Milan's poor recent record away to La Viola. What's been most impressive about the recent form of Milan has been the defensive solidity with the Rossoneri being the only team in Europe to keep three consecutive clean sheets in the last three matches.
Montella seems to have put a stop to the defensive issues that Milan has been known for in recent times. Davide Calabria and Mattia De Sciglio have been brought in as the full backs and the central defensive partnership of Gabriel Paletta and Alessio Romangnoli is working wonders for Milan. Montella's 4-3-3, which changes to a 4-5-1 while defending, is also providing a more solid formation for Milan while keeping an attacking style of play. For the first time in three years Milan seem to have a clear game plan and style of play. Montella deploys Suso and M’Baye Niang on the wings and most of the attacking revolves around them with the full backs overlapping to create space so that Suso and Niang can go inside or outside. Montella has also put confidence in their ability to keep the ball and use it effectively. While Milan have usually seen less possession than their opponent this season their use of the ball has been much better and they are creating much more chances under Montella. A clear game plan has been long needed at Milan and Montella seems to have provided one.
Il Diavolo host Sassuolo at the San Siro this Sunday and three points are vital as Inter play Roma and Milan would be guaranteed to gain on a direct rival. Montella has Milan looking like a real threat going forward and looking solid defensively. A win for Montella on Sunday would be great for Milan's European ambitions and perhaps if they keep winning matches and keeping clean sheets then the Champions League may not be out of reach. For Milanisti it seems that Montella's Milan is one that is starting to take shape nicely...