Gennaro Gattuso, Milan have a perfect chance to redeem themselves vs. Roma
While it's never easy to go to Napoli and come away with a positive result, the fact that AC Milan squandered a two-goal lead and returned home empty-handed would have hurt Gennaro Gattuso and his players.
The Rossoneri ran countless risks in the opening 50 minutes or so with their strategy to play out from the back, and unsurprisingly it was eventually their downfall as a mistake led to Napoli's first goal and sparked their comeback.
Short of match sharpness after seeing their season opener postponed, Milan capitulated in the closing stages, leaving Gattuso and his squad exposed to criticism for their inability to hold out for even a share of the spoils.
The Italian tactician and his players could have done things differently. From changing tact and going direct to shoring things up and seeing out the game, it really was a missed opportunity.
Further question marks can be raised over the coach's decision to field certain individuals who continue to disappoint, while his obsession with the 4-3-3 system has become exhausting for some.
Nevertheless, it's a Napoli side which collected 91 points last season, have kept the core of the side together bar Jorginho and appointed Carlo Ancelotti as coach while also having the benefit of playing the weekend prior.
With that in mind, the criticism that Gattuso in particular faced in the aftermath of the loss was highly exaggerated when also considering that it was just the first game of the season.
Milan rode their luck with their possession-based approach, but for 50 minutes they had some sense of control over the game and were two goals to the good. If anything, Gattuso and the players should be commended for having the bravery to adopt that strategy in Naples and they showed plenty of positive signs.
The brand of football he is seemingly looking to implement will need time and patience. Perhaps with personnel changes and minor tweaks to the system it could yet improve further. As the season goes on, they'll improve from a physical perspective too which should in fact excite the Milan faithful as to what is potentially to come.
Of course there are flaws in this side, but against Roma at the San Siro on Friday night, Gattuso and his men have the ideal opportunity to convince the doubters and build confidence and belief in what they're looking to do.
Whether it's Gianluigi Donnarumma's uneasiness in possession or Lucas Biglia's frailties in midfield, it's countered by the fact that the likes of Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio are composed in possession. Add in creative talents such as Hakan Calhanoglu, Giacomo Bonaventura and Suso further up the field and this Milan side has the technical quality to play a passing game but must be smarter in executing it and adapting to the opposition and alternating when necessary.
In turn, if that is the approach Gattuso wants to adopt moving forward, hours on the training pitch, analytical work with the players and individual support will ensure that it can only improve.
Milan fans have craved an entertaining brand of football for years. Gattuso might just be trying to deliver it, but it will take time to perfect and for the players to find the requisite composure to cut out the mistakes.
Nevertheless, it will be another tough outing against Roma this time round as the Giallorossi showed against Atalanta for all their defensive vulnerabilities they remain a dangerous attacking side that can build momentum as quickly as Napoli did last weekend.
As a result, Milan must show that they've learned their lessons from the Napoli defeat and respond against one of the sides earmarked to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Gattuso has issues to address, not only with his squad but with his own decision-making, too. He will be fully aware of that. However, while he goes through the process of fixing those flaws, it's crucial that he and the players get the backing of the supporters and avoid being scrutinised after just one game.
This is the same coach that was appointed last November and led a charge up the table that convinced the club that he was the right man for the job going forward.
Despite a change in ownership and with familiar faces in Leonardo and Paolo Maldini returning, Gattuso remained. Last season, he looked like a coach with his hands tied in terms of experimentation given the pressure was on to achieve immediate results.
This year, he just might be stamping his mark on this Milan team and it could lead to some great football if he's given the time and patience to perfect it. Results are the priority though and one is needed against Roma.