Gennaro Gattuso was very happy after the Napoli match despite only finishing it with a draw, explained why he didn’t end the match with two strikers, and couldn’t understand why people believe Pepe Reina’s summer arrival would mean the end for Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Milan have still not won a match since the last international break as after losing to Juventus and drawing Inter and Sassuolo, they played another goalless draw against Napoli at San Siro on Sunday afternoon.
The Rossoneri were without Leonardo Bonucci (suspended) and Alessio Romagnoli (injured), but still put a strong defensive performance against Maurizio Sarri’s side. The problems, as always, were in attack, as the Diavolo again missed the spark up front and struggled in front of goal.
Despite playing relatively well, Milan nearly lost the match as Arkadiusz Milik found himself in front of Gigio Donnarumma in the 92′ minute, but the goalkeeper, on his 100th Serie A match, produced a world-class save to rescue Milan and keep the Rossoneri two points above 7th-placed Fiorentina.
“We are happy,” coach Gattuso told Premium Sport. “We knew that Napoli would have chances and keep the ball, but we did well. The attitude was positive. We are on the right track, we have to improve in many aspects, but this performance can help raise the bar. I am very, very happy with the way we interpreted the game, we could’ve won or lost against an excellent opponent, but I’m happy.
“Donnarumma [the goalkeeper was perhaps the MOTM]? I like the way he played with great calm, playing out from the back and not just his late save. I thought his overall performance was excellent and he showed no fear under pressure. He played a great game on a technical level.
“The offensive phase? We have to improve. When you ask the striker to do the dirty work for his team, as we did Kalinić today, it’s going to take something away from our finishing. We made Napoli run a lot and I’m happy with this. I liked the defense, Zapata and Musacchio did very well even though thy had only played twice together this year. I really liked the performance of the boys.
“We played a good game and I’m happy. Europe? We’ll keep hoping as long as it’s mathematically possible, but to be honest, it’s very, very difficult at this stage. There are only six rounds to go, we’re quite far away and it’d be extremely tricky to achieve that. We’ll push hard, we are still a behind Juventus and Napoli, but we have shown that we can play with everyone. The road is the right one.
“The yellow given to Biglia? Milik had entered and we had to change some of our markings. The tension between Biglia and Sarri after the whistle? I was with the guys. I got into enough trouble as a player… I don’t want to get involved as a coach. I have to set a good example [smiles].
“Reina and Callejon are future Milan players? I talk only about the players in my squad. If and when new faces arrive, I’ll talk about them, but right now I consider my players the best in the world.”
Speaking to the microphones of Sky Italia after the final whistle of referee Luca Banti, Gattuso said: “We have to be satisfied with the interpretation of the game, what I liked the most is the personality. It’s a match that we need to raise the bar. We can do a lot better at the offensive level, but the players gave little to Napoli. There’s something to be proud about and it’s the merit of the guys.
“The save of Donnarumma? To become a great goalkeeper, he doesn’t have to think about the save, but about how he plays the role of the keeper. Today he had a great match with his feet, the save is one thing that he had. He gave great serenity to the defensive department, he didn’t do anything wrong, I’m happy because he played a great match also with his feet.
“I thought of playing with two strikers in the last few minutes, but they had two lines of four. When you play against big teams you have to understand what you can give them and sometimes you have to wait. With two attackers, too many passing lines would have opened up.
“The objectives? We have to continue our journey. We have young players, we started badly, we lost points on the road, but in the last four games apart from Sassuolo we played against Juventus, Inter and Napoli. We have wide margins for improvement. Getting to the Champions League is very difficult [Milan are 7 points away from fourth place], we think about fighting for the Europa League and then there’s the Coppa Italia final. We have to get there in the best possible way.
“Reina? When he arrives, and if he arrives, we will welcome it with open arms. Donnarumma has everything to become the strongest in the world, he has to interpret the role in a perfect, modern way. He has all the potential to do it. The future? We must have a basis of aerobics and physics to do well. Some players will come but the team will change a little [Marco Fassone said Milan will buy 2-3 players]. To play a certain kind of football you have to prepare and do things well.
In his interview with MilanTV, Gattuso said: “There is great satisfaction, we must congratulate the boys because we faced a great team with personality. We played the ball, we came out dribbling and Donnarumma had a great performance and with the save he put the icing on the cake.
“We almost never suffered against them, by playing with personality, we have to continue like this, we need everyone to move up the rankings and not lose. With extra organization, we can also increase the weight up front. When you face stronger teams, they must be respected and addressed.
“Musacchio and Zapata [who used to play together during their Villarreal days]? I had no doubts about them. I see them every day and I know how they work and how they train. Sometimes I see them with a sad face because nobody likes being outside, but I knew that I could count on them.
“The reason for Donnarumma’s great performance? There is no precise motivation. Gigio always had a phenomenal save in him and he will always have it, but he played like a modern keeper. Even when we were pressed he played the ball with serenity. He doesn’t miss anything to be the strongest.
“The physical level of Napoli? They ran a lot, we made them move a lot. They were doing an ultra-offensive pressing. The fans had fun, even those who thought we would take a 4-0 thrashing.”
Gattuso also had a post-match press conference: “The match? In the last four matches, we have faced Juventus and Napoli and we are still far from them. However, we stood up, played offensive football and took our risks against them, which is positive. Suso and Çalhanoğlu worked hard to close their spaces making it difficult for them to pass forward. So many times, we are asking the team to stay compact and coming up to the midfield line causes Suso to arrive exhausted to the last 20 meters.
“The save of Donnarumma? I don’t even remember the save of Dida in 2003/04. It was certainly an important save, but Gigio played the role well. The role of the goalkeeper has changed, he gave security to the department, he interpreted the role of the modern keeper in an exceptional way.
“Dribbling? We did well but we can develop in a better way. It’s my fault because I ask too much of my attackers in the transitions. The choice to wait for Napoli? At this moment if you play them and you face them openly you are a fool. We prepared to send them on the wings. The position of Callejon put is in difficulty around the 20′ minute as Çalhanoğlu didn’t close down the passing line.
“If other teams have respect for Milan? I lived in a different Milan. I think that we are on the right path, but the road is still long, we can still develop better and hurt our opponents. For the amount of work we do in developing lately, we still don’t hurt our opponents as we could. This was the 50th match Milan played this season, we changed the way we work 3-4 months ago.
“The draw against Sassuolo? I reviewed it, the performance was there, we dominated but the ball didn’t go in. But we can’t do anything about it. It’s not enough to do a good performance, but we must be able to put our opponents in difficulty. Napoli [who most likely lost their chances to win the Scudetto]? There is a bit of exhaustion but it’s an alive team and they know how they can hurt you.
“Zapata and Musacchio? They train with great professionalism, occasionally with a bit of a sad face, but it’s normal when you don’t play a lot. They have given me great availability, and this testifies to their way of dealing with work. If Donnarumma’s statements worry me? Only death worries me. I can’t understand where it is written that if Reina arrives than Donnarumma will go away [Pepe allegedly already had a medical with Milan]. Gigio has a contract with Milan, we want a good Gigio.
“How I’m doing compared to Filippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf and Cristian Brocchi? Ever since I became a player, I’ve lived with skepticism, there’s no problem. I know what I’m worth and what I do during the week, no one can say that someone has given me something.”
The next Milan match is this Wednesday against Torino away from home. The Rossoneri will have to get back to winning ways as they look to secure the Europa League for the 2018/19 season.