Italian coach sacked after Bayern’s lacklustre start
Defeat at PSG was the final straw
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