Gennaro Gattuso has stated ‘I just want to see 23 rabid dogs eager to prove themselves’ as Milan prepare to face Sampdoria after two straight defeats.
Milan lost to Inter 1-0 and to Real Betis 2-1 this week but tomorrow they have a chance to get back on track when they face Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria at Stadio San Siro (18:00 CET kickoff).
Gattuso knows that in case of anything but three points tomorrow, the pressure on him will grow even more, and he has asked his players to give everything to win on Sunday.
“Sampdoria have a good defense, if I am not mistaken they conceded only 4 goals, their defense plays well, they work well and we have to be good at putting them under pressure, we know they are well organized and have a great coach and tomorrow we will have to work hard to take home the three points. They play very well and work hard, this will be a tough game,” Gattuso said to journalists.
“Our last two matches [Milan are 6 points behind fourth and 2nd in the EL]? We are coming off two smacks in the face, but we’re not dead. I am not dead and buried, some of you still have to understand that. It hurts when there are defeats, but I know how much I can still give to these club colors. The other day, we didn’t manage any of the things we’d prepared and that’s the regret. I want to see a side with character and the desire to fight back, because it can do so much better.
“A wake-up call? I have to give calmness and serenity now. I have to analyze these performances and figure out why we’re playing with the handbrake on. We need to play freely and find those flashes that go beyond our tactics and formation. We need to find that extra spark at the individual level.
“If Milan will play with two strikers tomorrow? We’ll see… We tried out both a three-man defense and four, line-ups with two strikers, with the 4-3-3, with the 3-5-2. We’ll see tomorrow which direction we go in. What’s missing at the moment in the team? We’re underperforming, we need to enjoy our football, we did it for 2-3 months, we were having fun, but now we don’t do it anymore, we just suffer our opponents. We don’t have to play with a smile, but rather rediscover the will and enthusiasm.
“The reasons for the defeats? We’re all heading in the same direction. We had two bad performances against Inter and Real Betis. These guys have to understand that the club has given us trust and tranquility and has always supported us right from the first day. Also before the game [against Betis] I had talked to Gordon Singer [the son of Elliott owner Paul Singer] and yesterday Leonardo and Maldini came to Milanello, but they are always present, they come 2-3 times a week and are always with us and with the guys. We only have to work because what we’re doing is not enough, we cannot give up in October, and otherwise it’ll become even more difficult.
“No more alibis, we all have to take responsibility, I’m not defending anyone and we need everyone to do something extra. If we always find excuses, we’ll get nowhere. Making the team grow after these two blows? I don’t want to make comparisons with Inter, but don’t forget where they were on December 27 after the Coppa Italia defeat to us. After that loss, it took them months to get back on their feet, but look at them now [Inter are 3rd in Serie A and are back in the UCL]. You feel the blows and time is needed but we shouldn’t throw everything away. If we win tomorrow and win the rescheduled game with Genoa next Wednesday, then we’ll be in the Champions League places. We must continue to believe in what we’re doing, even if I already hear some jeering at San Siro.
“Betis? For how the defeat was going, at 0-1 thought it could end in a goalfest for them. Betis destroyed us in terms of quality and it was a huge disappointment to me. But I haven’t given up and I strongly believe in these guys. Perhaps I gave the wrong signal, so many times I can’t smile after the game. You comment my expressions the same way you see them reflected on me but in my soul I haven’t given up, instead, I’m fired up and I believe in my team.
“What I expect from tomorrow’s game? I want to see 23 lions with a sense of desire and belonging to this club. I don’t even care about the tactics. Even if I need to put aside everything I believe in tactically, there must be a Milan that is willing to do anything to win. I’m not interested in anything else, I just want to see 23 rabid dogs eager to prove themselves.
“If I feel completely in charge of this group of players? The players don’t have to play for me. I think there is too much talk about this situation, as if I’m the only coach in the world who is on the edge. It is part of the game, I have to get results and have the guys play well. The problem shouldn’t be me being in the spotlight of those who are at risk but instead to find the results again. I know these guys believe in me, we haven’t been brilliant and we’re making a big effort. But if I have to put my hand in the fire, I’d do it, and not just my hand but my whole body, even at the risk of being brunt completely.
“Who are the players with physical problems? If some don’t even go on the bench then it’s because they were already not well in the Europa League. Kessié was already in pain during the derby with his ankle and the collateral knee ligament, so we’ll see tomorrow. Çalhanoğlu got a bruise to his foot against Inter and now can’t even pull his boots on because he has a hematoma.
“If Caldara is ready to play? He’s coming back from an injury and when he’ll be fine then he will have minutes and give his contribution. I wanted to put him on the other night against Betis and I’m sorry that I didn’t do it but I would have been throwing him in a blender, it would have ended badly for him physically. When he’s well, he will have an opportunity to show his qualities.
“Higuain’s moment? When the team doesn’t work, as happened to us in the last two games, then it’s normal for the striker to suffer and performances like this come out of Higuain in games in which he receives no balls. He’s not in a very bright period, but the team must put him in a position to express himself to the fullest. I told him that he needs to be less irritable and should applaud his teammates rather than shout at them. He protested too much the penalty not given to Castillejo. There are errors made by the referee or his teammates and he shouldn’t lose energy over it. He’s a leader in the group, he makes everyone feel comfortable and he jokes with everyone. If his performances are not very good then the blame is on the collective, all of us at Milanello.
“If I’d like to have a team of Cutrone’s? Yes, when he comes on, Patrick brings vehemence, desire and also pressure on all opponents. I want to see everyone with that character, with that desire, but then you also need quality, because with desire alone you don’t go anywhere. If Patrick plays then we’ll have a chance to play more long balls, but Gonzalo likes to have the ball on his feet and play.
“Bakayoko against Sampdoria? Let’s see tomorrow. I think that against Betis he won back four or five good balls, but the problem is he then passed them straight back to the opposition. He is going through a lot of difficulties, we need to be patient and work out what his problems are. Against Betis everyone did wrong and not just him, we can hardly find a single player who did well with the exclusions of Patrick and Castillejo. We have to give sharpness and speed, at the moment we are too flat in adrenaline and atmosphere. We need to bring the fans back to our side, we must show desire.
“Playing Laxalt on the side of the midfield? At Genoa he was always the fifth man in midfield, but he can do everything because he has speed, sprint and the ability in one on one. Tomorrow we’ll see, he can play from the first minute or start from the bench. But are you [the journalists] sure that against Sampdoria we’ll play with two strikers? Maybe you have wrong information…
“If it’s frustrating not to know how Milan will approach the game? No, because when the performances like the last two come then there’s something on the mental and team level that broke down. Today we’ll train again, we’ll watch the videos and then we’ll go down to the field. The training can help me and give me a feeling and the overall thermometer of the situation.
“We must play a strong and masculine match. The tactical and mental behavior against Inter and Betis? Against Betis we were disastrous, but we weren’t playing for a draw against Inter. We played well, we gave them few chances but our side-midfielders never cut inside, we never found the third man, we were flat, but the game was interesting tactically, even though we did very little at a technical level. The few opportunities that arrived were random.
“I said before that, for this reason, I want to see less tactics and techniques, but more one on one’s, something different, just to win this game. We are also struggling because we are looking for too many things and too many schemes that we are not able to support at this moment.”
Gattuso will need his team to produce a performance of a higher quality than in the last two games in order to beat Sampdoria. In addition to three points, the search for a clean sheet will also continue.