Gennaro Gattuso is happy to see his design for an effective AC Milan side taking shape but he admits there are still “holes to patch” before he can unleash the finished article.
The former Rossoneri midfielder oversaw an inconsistent start to the Serie A season in his current role as head coach but he has been afforded patience by the board and, ahead of Sunday’s derby meeting with Inter Milan, his team are third in the table after winning five games in a row.
Unbeaten in 10, Milan are keen to tie down a Champions League spot and victory in the Derby della Madonnina would propel them four points clear of their fourth-placed city rivals Inter.
Winning the Scudetto this term is not a viable option for Gattuso’s men, with leaders Juventus boasting a 24-point advantage heading into the weekend. Napoli, meanwhile, are six points away.
But the former Rangers player accepts that returning the club to a position from which they can challenge for a first title since 2011 remains a work in progress, despite all the praise coming his way.
“Are you asking if I’m a tailor?” he said at his pre-match press conference. “Maybe I am, but one who hasn’t finished sewing his clothes, I still have some holes to patch. We are improving but I am not a perfect tailor yet.
“We need to focus on securing a Champions League place, our final position in the league table does not matter to me. We should keep our heads down and keep working.”
Milan have not won the derby in five attempts and came unstuck last October when Mauro Icardi plundered a late Inter winner at the death in the reverse fixture.
However, due to an ugly contract dispute played out mostly through the media, the Argentinian is now out of favour and has not featured for the Nerazzurri since early February.
Gattuso said of the Barcelona academy graduate: “The way I see it, even the best player in the world should respect his team-mates.
“Respect for players and for those who represent them is essential – the locker room is sacred. I appreciate it when my players speak their minds to me in person.”
Milan are only missing long-term injury absentee Giacomo Bonaventura while Inter head into the derby without Sime Vrsaljko, Radja Nainggolan and, of course, Icardi.
Joao Mario and Roberto Gagliardini will be assessed by boss Luciano Spalletti, who said on the eve of the match: “Can we finish ahead of Milan? They’re a strong team, which they’re proving right now, but our aim remains finishing in the top four.
“You can’t predict the Milan derby. What matters is how you play and the result will depend on that.”