Gennaro Gattuso was pleased with the win over SPAL, although in his eyes the 4-0 result doesn’t reflect how difficult the match was, and said that while Patrick Cutrone reminds of old legends, he still has room for improvement.
Milan are now unbeaten in their last 8 games in all competitions after defeating relegation-zone’s SPAL 4-0 at Stadio Paolo Mazza on Saturday afternoon.
Despite what the score-line may imply, it was not one of Milan’s best performances this season in terms of the quality of the play, but instead they were perhaps the most lethal they’ve been all season.
It took Patrick Cutrone 1 minute and 41 seconds to find the back of the net (Milan’s fastest Serie A goal since 6th October 2013 when Muntari scored against Juve).
SPAL did not recoil, however, and came close to equalizing the result. Milan held on, and then the 20-year-old Cutrone doubled the Diavolo lead in the 65′ minute. From then on it was a lot easier for the Rossoneri as Lucas Biglia (73′) and Fabio Borini (90′) scored goals of their own to make it 4-0. The only negative from the performance is that Franck Kessié was booked and will therefore miss next week’s match against Sampdoria at Stadio San Siro (Sunday, 20:45 CET / Italy time kickoff).
“We put in a good performance today,” Gattuso told Sky Italia. “The 4-0 result wasn’t unfair as such but didn’t reflect how much we suffered when only 1-0 up. The important thing is to persevere and not think all our problems have been resolved. I reminded the team of where we were two months ago, how many issues we had and pointed out this is the start, not the finish line.
“For 15-20 minutes after taking the lead, Manuel Lazzari was torturing us, and Hakan Çalhanoğlu was almost man-marking him. Lazzari caused us huge problems, a more mature team can avoid putting a player on someone [the 24-year-old midfielder has been at SPAL since 2013].
“My tactics? I want to see three or four men in the box whenever we put in a cross. When I arrived here, the team only worked through the right chain, I want Ricardo Rodriguez to give more width to the team. I want to see the chain reaction down the right and left flanks. We’re doing very well, we suffer a lot less and we’ve improved a lot, but there’s a long way to go.
“Cutrone? He has to grow, for his age he can also improve and play tidier, sometimes he loses the ball cheaply. We want to play with our striker and he needs to improve on this, because he already has the rest. I tell him to learn how to hold the ball up, control and wait a little.
“Cutrone must play tidier and give breathing time for the team. The Cutrone-Inzaghi comparison [Patrick’s two goals against SPAL were almost classic Inzaghi goals]? The ability to read where the ball is going to end up is something in his DNA, but the rest can improve with experience.
“His name is Patrick Cutrone, not SuperPippo Cutrone. They have similarities but are not the same player. He has humility and when he doesn’t play as a protagonist, you can tell his face is grumpy, but that’s normal for his age. Cutrone will be a big player in Serie A for many years to come.
“Biglia? He moves well and tactically he is fundamental. I want the team to always have the ball covered, Biglia allows us to be aggressive and look forward. I don’t like when my midfielders follow the insertions of the opponents, and Lucas is very good at this. It’s also his merit, he’s worked, and he wants to work every day, he reminds me of myself… he doesn’t listen, sometimes it’s better to rest.”
Speaking to Mediaset at the end of the encounter, coach Rino said: “After the 1-0 we suffered, then we went back to working better. We knew that we had to suffer and there could be problems with the speed of Lazzari. It was not an easy game, in the first half we suffered quite a bit.
“We are happy with the rest, but we have to look ahead. Right now, it’s not as if all our problems are gone, we must work. After 20 minutes we sacrificed Hakan to put him on Lazzari, with a more organized team you can do better and suffer less, and today we put a winger in the defensive phase.
“We know that we have to improve and see where will get. My idea of football? When the fashion of the players without experience on the bench [as coaches] started, everyone said that it was not enough to be good players but instead you needed experience.
“I’m happy with what I’ve done but many forget that two years ago I won a Scudetto with Pisa, last year I made 40 points in Serie B without having a President for 7 months, at Crete I did 25 points with no President for five months. With my skills as a fighter I had won a lot, but now I do another job.
“This is that fifth year that I’ve been coaching and if someone wants to say opposite things then I can’t say anything. The road is long for me, I have to improve a lot, but I do this job that I like. I can hardly listen to those close to me, let alone if I start listening to what everyone says…
“I’m finally able to only focus on football? My only merits are that I propose something and have a team that follows what I propose. I’m lucky to have guys who believe in everything we bring forward. The credit is of them, if there were players with a different attitude, we wouldn’t get these results.
“Cutrone? He is a young player who has the ‘venom’ and the desire to play a train. He needs to improve after committing mistakes of naivety and he must learn to play with the team and enable it to rise up. He was born with the venom in the last 16 meters and he will die with it.
“He resembles Inzaghi or Massaro, he lives for the goal but it’s not true when people say he plays with instinct and little quality. He must work and has large margins for improvements.”
In his interview with MilanTV, the 40-year-old said: “The score does not tell the whole story. After the 1-0 we went into trouble and the post hit by Viviani could have gone in and changed the match completely. Lazzari always put us in difficulty and Çalhanoğlu did well to contain him.
“It’s a lying result but we are happy for the 4-0 win and look to the Europa League. The psychological growth of the team? We still need to improve our tactical work and enhance our defensive coverage. In possession we are doing well and the two chains of the field work well. Then there’s the opponent and we must know how to suffer without panic. Today we saw it while against Udinese we suffered more in 10 men. Today we were brighter, and we need to continue this way.
“Çalhanoğlu as a mezz’ala [side-midfielder, to replace Kessié]? It could be a solution but let’s see… first we have to think about Thursday and then Sampdoria. Ludogorets have been in Europe for years and all the big ones struggled against them, Liverpool and Real Madrid included.
“Cutrone’s goals like Inzaghi’s [he is Milan’s top scorer this season]? It’s an innate feature of his, part of his DNA. He just needs to keep growing and he can become really strong.”
Gattuso also held a post-match press conference: “It was a match with a lying result, I put Çalhanoğlu to be man-on-man with Lazzari in the first half because we were a bit in trouble. We did well with our crossing, but it was very difficult. I know Leonardo Semplici very well, I’ve always had difficult matches against him. I’m pleased with the performance because today it wasn’t granted to win.
“Cutrone as a starter? The work done during the week dictates it. During the week, the wins are prepared, and it is what counts. He’s scored 12 goals and for his age he has the gift to be found at the right place. I expect that he will improve in supporting the team and play with more tranquility.
“The team’s changed attitude? It’s an athletically and mentally improved team. I think this was a team that was 80% just the right side and today we are a team that can play well on both chains. This team has changed the way it occupies spaces and knows how to play through both the right and left flanks.
“Biglia and Bonucci? When the results arrive, I think it’s easier to play the ball, without results the ball weights 120 kg. The results make the work better during the week. Biglia gives us tactical work, but also covers the field well. Biglia never had Pirlo’s characteristics, he is a player who gives balance.
“Sampdoria? One of Montolivo, Locatelli and Çalhanoğlu will be used as a side-midfielder due to Kessié’s absence, but we first think about Thursday’s match [against Ludogorets]. They are not a great name but have been playing in Europe in the last 4-5 years, so you have to prepare well. Their players have more European experience than ours, it’ll be a very dangerous game.
“Fourth place? The standings shouldn’t be our belief and our strength, we must think game by game. Without desire and a sense of belonging the results that have come lately wouldn’t have arrived. If the worst is behind us? I’d hope so, but I know that we will be playing every three days for so many games and we will have to suffer and not forget where we came from and what we’ve gone through.”
With Atalanta dropping points against Crotone today, Milan are back in 7th place. Should Samp fail to beat Hellas tomorrow then next week’s match will be for 6th place. But first, Ludogorets.