Christopher Penn’s column
It was Thursday 13 December 2018. Milan were in Greece playing Olympiakos. The rule of the night was not to lose by two goals. When the full time whistle echoed Karaiskakis Stadium, Milan fans looked on in horror at the scoreboard which read 3-1 to the home side.
Embarrassment as Milan exited the Europa League group stages, with the promise that things would get better. They didn’t.
It truly has been a season that held so much promise, and now has become one to forget and regret. Summed up by that fateful night in Greece, we have unravelled at the times when the team needed strength.
Gonzalo Higuain was meant to be the missing powerforce up front when he joined us in the summer, but instead became an infuriating symbol of a cold December where we took only 9 points out of a possible 18. Draws against Torino, Bologna and Frosinone; and a home defeat to Fiorentina, took Gattuso to the brink of being fired.
But January saw naivety forget about December. Two new heralded sons of red and black – Lucas Paqueta and Krzysztof Piatek became showmen of the San Siro and hope soon became a feeling of destiny. Piatek continued his amazing debut season in Serie A with Paqueta being the creative spark that we have needed for over half a decade.
Talk was of catching Inter. Dreams were of catching Napoli in second. But our city rivals will take great joy knowing they were the ones to clip our wings.
Sunday 17 March, the Milan Derby. AC Milan at home. The devil was rising and Inter were crumbling. And yet oh how things went wrong. Anger amongst the faithful as Milan succumbed to a 3-2 defeat; but the damage has been greater. A tail spin of epic proportions – since then a victory against Lazio has been hidden amongst defeats to Sampdoria, Juventus and Torino; draws against Bologna and Parma. Not forgetting crashing out of the Coppa Italia to Lazio.
So what of Gattuso? I believe his AC Milan education is over. Mindless formation experimentation in key games, zero tactical awareness and a whimsical reliance on under-performing players has been painful to watch. Our Champions League hopes have almost diminished and now we risk no European football at all next season. So much for a new Milan – a harsh statement I know, but December gave us an opportunity to save face and be done with Gennaro but the management chose not to twist.
All that is for certain now is that we are approaching one of the biggest summers in the history of our club. A new manager and a renovation of our squad is massively needed whilst Financial Fair Play watch us like a hawk. I guess it’s time for Ivan Gazidis to earn his salary.
Even in the bad times, Forza Milan!