Speaking in a recent interview on Radio Rai show I Lunatici the former AC Milan and Italy head coach Arrigo Sacchi claimed “Milan do not have a distinct style.” Few are better placed to make this kind of observation having won back to back European Cups with the Rossoneri, achieved partly through a highly organised system under Sacchi.
Milan are hardly the only Serie A team to have their brand of football critiqued in this way, yet it has been a consistent issue for the club long before Gennaro Gattuso was appointed as head coach.
Some of the more vociferous of fans have pointed out the distinction between a club’s identity and their identity on the pitch. Milan, for all their success and the glorious history they cling on to so proudly, tend to dilute their viewing with aspects of grandeur and prestige made all the more prominent in the footballing cathedral that is the Stadio San Siro.
Mediocre performances and unimaginative football become a side note when taking in the religious fervour of the Curva Sud or the iconic red and black stripes.
While there are certainly aspects to feel positive about this season regarding league position and relative security of club ownership, the same on field issues perpetuated by avoidance continue to haunt Milan. Inconsistency, over-reliance on particular players and an absence of a recognisable system has seen Milan fall short in recent times.
Under both Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vincenzo Montella the team had a semblance of character on field but was mainly reflected in the tactical style of both coaches.
Periods of stagnation in front of goal are an all too familiar sight for Milan fans, with the focal point in attack seeming to change with each season that passes.
In Krzysztof Piatek there is definitely reason to feel hopeful of a long and fruitful spell with the club, but the fixation on getting quality players around the Pole rather than addressing potential tactical solutions is doing the striker an injustice. Creative options such as Giacomo Bonaventura and Lucas Paqueta, who have been missed this campaign, are shouldered with the responsibility.
While there is certainly some truth in members of the squad that aren’t performing to the standard expected at Milan, there needs to be questions raised regarding how exactly Gattuso is wanting his team to play.
Whether the game plan is as simple as shifting the ball out wide for Suso to bend a cross in for Piatek, or whether there is a far more elaborate game plan that is, at this point, rather allusive. Speculation continues to flood in regarding the immediate future of Gattuso, who after their Coppa Italia exit looks to be on his way out.
In recent years Serie A has welcomed fresh and exciting approaches to attacking football. The aforementioned Montella looked to have found a winning formula with Fiorentina, the brilliance of Maurizio Sarri at the helm of Napoli and now Atalanta under Gian Piero Gasperini stunning all before them. The latter is among those to have been linked with the Milan job, and with his captivating style of football it is easy to see why.
Milan, like many before them, are in search of an on field identity that can see them find consistency both in the league and in European competitions. After the millions that have gone into revamping the line up in recent years it is clear something needs to change in order to address deep-rooted issues at the club.
Whether or not Gattuso can find his own winning formula remains to be seen, but with the prospect of featuring in the Champions League next season he is unlikely to be afford much in the way of patience.