The Azzurri snatched a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam in stoppages with Marco Verratti, but didn't get a shot on target before shelving the 4-3-3 for a 4-3-1-2.
"The tactics are two options we can use. We struggled to be aggressive when Holland had possession and that made it difficult for us," Montolivo told RAI Sport.
"I don't think that was so much a tactical issue as our approach, which was too passive. Obviously it's never going to be the same approach as a qualifier or an official game. That is the wrong approach, but we did improve towards the end and got the result back on track.
"We wanted to put in a great performance, but we were a bit passive in winning back the ball and would stop a metre and a half away rather than close down the spaces. We weren't aggressive enough as a unit."