Where's Montolivo?

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty ImagesMilan's Riccardo Montolivo can't continue to be passive on the pitch

Despite a poor performance to start the New Year, Milan secured a vital 2-1 win against Siena on Sunday afternoon at San Siro. With the sides above them dropping points, the Rossoneri closed the gap on their direct rivals for a Champions League spot, but were far from convincing. One player in particular was guilty of being disappointing more than most.

Perhaps it is unfair to single out players when the whole team fail to impress. However, given his significance to the side, Riccardo Montolivo can't afford to be so anonymous. The midfield schemer had started to show what he is capable of in the lead-up to Christmas, but has been far from his best both before and after the winter break.

With a distinct lack of creativity in the side, more is expected, and almost required of Montolivo given his ability and vision on the ball. But watching this game I almost began to miss Robinho. Montolivo's performance in the win against Juventus had many, including myself, believing he was ready to lead the side with his all-action display. Yet it seems now 'Monty' might have peaked and is now regressing.

In his defence, being placed in a midfield with Antonio Nocerino and Massimo Ambrosini perhaps unfairly places more importance and inevitable pressure on his shoulders to produce. Both are more comfortable without the ball at their feet, instead winning back possession and then looking for Monty to make that defence-splitting diagonal pass.

However - as with Nigel De Jong before the Dutchman was injured - at times Montolivo frustratingly seems to be a distant figure. Is there confusion with manager Massimiliano Allegri over his role? Possibly. More often than not, the former Fiorentina man seems out of position in the sense of being unable to dictate play, with no room to manuver he is content with short passes to his creatively inferior teammates instead of grasping the game by the neck.

Should Montolivo be placed back in a deeper-lying role? Instead of Massimino Ambrosini picking the ball up from the central defensive pairing, Montolivo would see more of the ball and start attacking moves. Considering his range of passing, this may suit him, with Sunday’s goal-scoring substitute Bojan Krkic receiving the mantle of creating in a more advanced position.

It is no coincidence that when Milan play well, Montolivo influences the game. While it is a solid start to the second half of the campaign to secure the three points without him being on top form, there will come a time when the Rossoneri will need him to deliver. Far from being a total disappointment, Monty needs to rediscover his best form and start to lead Milan.

How important do you think Montolivo is to Milan? Are you happy with his contribution since his arrival?

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