Ital­ian coach sacked af­ter Bay­ern’s lack­lus­tre start

De­feat at PSG was the fi­nal straw

World Soccer - - The World - Nick Bid­well

The day af­ter Bay­ern Mu­nich suf­fered their worst-ever Cham­pi­ons League de­feat, 3-0 away to Paris Saint-Ger­main, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked, dis­patched be­fore the end of Septem­ber by a club hi­er­ar­chy alarmed at the team’s be­low­par per­for­mances.

Ex-Bay­ern play­ers turned pun­dits had been hav­ing a field day sell­ing doom and gloom about Ancelotti’s team. Paul Bre­it­ner claimed the Bay­ern class of 2017-18 had taken a “back­wards step”. Lothar Matthaus be­lieved the Bavar­i­ans may not win a sin­gle piece of sil­ver­ware this sea­son. Mario Basler pre­dicted that Ancelotti would be pack­ing his bags for China in Jan­uary.

No one was sur­prised that the crit­ics were stalk­ing the Ger­man cham­pi­ons like a lion in pur­suit of a gazelle. Bay­ern have yet to move out of sec­ond-gear this sea­son, too of­ten lack­ing in co­he­sion, flu­id­ity and pre­ci­sion. Lack­lus­tre both with and with­out the ball.

Es­pe­cially wor­ry­ing for Ancelotti’s Bay­ern was their in­abil­ity to break down teams who de­fended deep and in num­bers. Through­out their re­cent 2-0 Bun­desliga de­feat at Hof­fen­heim they were in­ex­pli­ca­bly ret­i­cent to flood the op­po­si­tion box, and in the 3-0 home win over 10-man An­der­lecht in the Cham­pi­ons League they strug­gled to make their nu­mer­i­cal ad­van­tage count.

In par­tic­u­lar, a lot of flak was aimed at Ancelotti for his 4-3-3 start­ing line-up. No Franck Ribery, Ar­jen Robben, Mats Hum­mels or Jerome Boateng. In mid­field, Ar­turo Vi­dal, Corentin Tolisso and Thi­ago were over­whelmed, while out wide, James Ro­driguez and Thomas Muller showed they are not re­ally wingers.

Win­ning is not enough in the rar­i­fied air at Bay­ern. They also must do so with a cer­tain style.

Run­ning par­al­lel to these poor per­for­mances was the con­stant mur­mur­ings of dis­con­tent: at­tack­ing-third “space finder” Muller lament­ing that Ancelotti did not ap­pre­ci­ate him; ace striker Robert Le­wandowski de­scrib­ing the club’s re­cruit­ment pol­icy as not suf­fi­ciently bold; wide man Ribery fu­ri­ously throw­ing his shirt to the ground af­ter be­ing sub­sti­tuted against An­der­lecht; play­ers openly re­mon­strat­ing with one an­other on the pitch.

Too many per­sonal agen­das emerged as “Me, my­self and I” re­placed the fa­mous Bay­ern motto of “Mia san mia” (“we are who we are”).

Ancelotti was un­able to get any­thing right. He was pil­lo­ried for his ro­ta­tion pol­icy, his dis­ci­plinary short­com­ings and for fail­ing to stamp his mark on the side. He may have won the ti­tle in his first sea­son in charge, but some 14 months into his reign the team still did not have a recog­nis­able pat­tern of play.

As­sis­tant coach Willy Sag­nol as­sumed tem­po­rary con­trol of first-team af­fairs while ru­mours abound that Hof­fen­heim coach Ju­lian Nagels­mann will be at the Al­lianz-Arena con­trols next sea­son.

Usu­ally so af­fa­ble and zen-like, Ancelotti had be­come in­creas­ingly tetchy. At a press con­fer­ence prior to a 4-0 home win over Mainz, he sar­cas­ti­cally took on his de­trac­tors: “I’m not go­ing to in­di­vid­u­ally an­swer all those who have been crit­i­cis­ing our tac­tics and phi­los­o­phy. I just want to take this op­por­tu­nity to thank them for the sug­ges­tions and tips.

“At the end of the sea­son I’m go­ing to in­vite them all to a big party and there we can dis­cuss it all, in­clud­ing tac­tics.

“We’re nei­ther in tip-top shape or the low­est of the low. We’re not yet in ab­so­lute top form but we soon will be.”

Un­for­tu­nately for Ancelotti, the Bay­ern hi­er­ar­chy did not share his op­ti­mism.

“We’re nei­ther in tip-top shape or the low­est of the low. We’re not yet in ab­so­lute top form but we soon will be” Un­for­tu­nately for Ancelotti, he wasn’t given the time to make his pre­dic­tion come true

Stopped... Bay­ern’s Ar­turo Vi­dal (left) runs into PSG’s An­gel Di Maria

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