The tension was tangible before the game, and Ancelotti’s unexpected starting formation added fodder to the discussions.
3 things we noticed:
1. Ancelotti risks more
Pragmatic Carlo Ancelotti, of all people, surprised everyone ahead of the away game in Paris with his formation. He started his team without Hummels, Boateng, Robben, and Ribéry – a brave decision that seemed like a terrible idea by half-time at the latest, even though not all the criticism is deserved.
Last season, the main complaint was that Ancelotti didn’t rotate his team enough and didn’t give young players enough chances to play. On top of all that, it wasn’t clear how he was preparing the team for the departure of Robbéry. Against Paris, he did both these things. He trusted in Tolisso, Kimmich, and Süle, and his team played with emphasis on the half-spaces, rather than breadth and speed. It was also good to see that he subbed on Coman, rather than Robben oder Ribéry – it was an idea that, if executed right, can make a lot of sense.
He had probably planned to catch Paris unaware in their spaces between the lines and then find the way via half-spaces into the penalty box – to Lewandowski, whose qualities are well-known. It was a courageous and tactically understandable decision, and yet Ancelotti will be criticised for it after the game. That criticism, however, should be aimed more at the execution of the idea, rather than the idea itself.
2. Structure vs chaos
After all, the execution was much different from what might have been expected from the starting formation. Müller and James occupied the spaces around Lewandowski, but weren’t persistent enough. Vidal, Thiago, and Tolisso, too, didn’t know how to stand up to Paris’ strong midfield. Especially because Thiago lacked strong footballing support – if there is one personnel decision to be critiqued, it’s that Rudy only came on at half-time.
The lack of control in midfield led to Bayern simply ignoring midfield and going straight forward – sometimes even successfully. Afterwards, however, nobody moved up the pitch to support the attack, leading to Bayern’s by now typical game of crosses and more crosses. These are issues that have been persistent throughout the season. Sometimes the squad’s individual class makes it look as if there were a tactical improvement, but clearly that doesn’t exist.
It’s a chaotic system with occasional good positioning, only to completely forget connections between players only seconds later. And it was in those moments that Paris hit Bayern; they won the ball and used Bayern’s basically non-existent defense with huge gaps in counter-pressing, again something we’ve seen a lot of this season.
That was the difference between the two teams: on the one hand a good team that was convincing in a couple of situations, but lacked a good overall idea. A plan of how to overcome a well-organised defense. Automated plays, well-practiced runs, and a decisive final move in the attacking third. In the end, Bayern had accumulated 53 crosses. Fifty-three! There could hardly be a better symbol for Bayern’s lack of creativity.
On the other hand, Paris Saint-German; a team with a clear structure and runs that were obviously practiced. Attackers crossing, wings that got overloaded only to open up the other side, and constantly changing rhythm within the game were part of Paris’ arsenal that night.
What was truly annoying about the game was that Bayern looked as if they might play along on the same level – but they weren’t. While Paris managed to create clear-cut chances for themselves (and to make the most of them), Bayern had little to offer. There were plenty of half-chances, but hardly anything to hold on to. And so, in the end, the Germans had more possession, more corners, more half-dangerous shots, but no control over the game.
3. What to expect when you’re expecting (too much)
FC Bayern suffered a heavy loss in Paris – a loss that showcased, yet again, that the club’s current route is taking them away from Europe’s top clubs, rather than back to winning the title again. It’s a development that didn’t have to happen. Mistakes were made months ago and could have been avoided to try and not fall into this hole the team currently finds itself in. They weren’t avoided, however, and now everyone at the club as well as the fans have to come to the right conclusions.
Understanding the importance of this game is part of that process. For no matter how painful the result, and how obvious the difference in class: Bayern were neither very good nor very bad. There’s still an enormous quality in the squad that can still make this a good season. But expectations might have to be adjusted a little bit.
There will have to be a lot of helpful circumstances to enable this team to compete on the same level as Barcelona or Madrid. Munich now needs a new process; one that puts an emphasis on young players and helps them develop, while at the same time slowly replacing battle-worn, aging superstars. So if there’s anything positive to take away from this game, it might just be that Coman, Süle, Rudy, Kimmich, and Tolisso all learned some valuable lessons.
Ideally, they will learn from it. But even so, it shows, yet again, that Carlo Ancelotti doen’t seem to be capable to get the best possible performance out of this team despite his (understandable) decisions about personnel. FC Bayern is back to being one team amongst many in Europe, and the task ahead has only become clearer after this match: many things need to change. And not just on the pitch.
|Paris Saint-Germain – FC Bayern München 3-0 (2-0)|
|Paris Saint-Germain||Areola – Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Kurzawa – Verratti (89′ Draxler), Motta (86′ Lo Celso), Rabiot – Mbappé (79′ Di Maria), Cavani, Neymar|
|Bench||Trapp, Kimpembe, Moura, Meunier|
|FC Bayern||Ulreich – Kimmich, Süle, Martínez, Alaba – Vidal, Tolisso (46′ Rudy), Thiago – Müller (69′ Robben), James (46′ Coman) – Lewandowski|
|Bench||Früchtl, Hummels, Ribéry, Rafinha|
|Goals||1-0 Dani Alves (2′); 2-0 Cavani (31′); 3-0 Neymar (63′)|
|Yellow Cards||Verratti / Kimmich, Vidal, Thiago, Rudy|
|Referee||Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain)|
|Attendance||46.252 (sold out)|