The Ancelotti Bayern – analysing the errors
It’s always important to look at the bigger picture and look at it from a perspective that isn’t monocausal or would only look at the losses in April.
Just like the provisional praise for Ancelotti that was too much, the criticism from the media about the manager has been too one-sided and even highlighted wrongly. How can a man that was celebrated for his excellent workload management and form in February and March suddenly become a fool?
The jumps around the person Ancelotti are huge and in many places there is only black and white. Our blog has always been critical, but at the same time also differentiated about the manager.
Now, only four Bundesliga games are remaining and it’s time for a résumé. Why will the record champion finish the season with a bad feeling despite possibly winning the championship?
At the end of the season FC Bayern will bid goodbye to Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso. Two players who have experienced everything in their career.
Furthermore, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry the next key players are standing in line to waive goodbye. It’s not easy for any club in the world to replace players, that have reached such a high level and accomplished their achievements.
For the club’s management it was clear that after three years in a row of not reaching a Champions League final, it’s time to win it again. For these players.
The transition into a new generation of players was delayed deliberately. Establishing an identity or philosophy and thoughts as to how the club can develop successors for Lahm and “Robbery” were missed after Guardiola’s departure.
To blame Ancelotti for all of this would be wrong. In February we were already talking about the conscious “step back for the big goal”.
The Italian is not an innovative developer that will sit with young players at the tactics board and teach them football. He is someone, who can get the maximum out of experienced players and has achieved his biggest victories doing so.
FC Bayern were attracted by that reputation, because what would be greater than a successful ending to a generation that will be talked about in decades to come?
This thought is hardly reprehensible. Time and time again Ancelotti has proven that he can do it. However, he was probably appointed at a time which wasn’t ideal for his way of working.
When the 57-year old won the Champions League with Real Madrid he had a squad that was about to enter its prime. The Galácticos surely had the best individual players in Europe and Ancelotti knew how to deal with them. There was no need for development.
In Munich it’s a bit different now. Robben, Ribéry, Alonso and Lahm are forming nearly half of the starting eleven. All of them are already past their peak.
This was especially noticeable in the duel with Real Madrid. Lahm and Robben were dominated by Marcelo for most of the game. Ribéry only showed his class in a few phases of the game and Alonso had problems to show his quality over 210 minutes, too.
If one is trying to compete with the squad of the Galácticos on an individual level, you’re going to have a tough time. That was obvious from the start. That’s why Ancelotti gave his key players a lot of rest in the first half of the season. The rhythm was supposed to be at its peak in April.
In the end it wasn’t possible to put this plan into action. That’s also down to mistakes that were made much earlier.
The assumption to suddenly pick up rhythm in the middle of the season proved to be hard in its realisation. It’s true that Bayern improved in the second half of the season. There were a lot of games where the record champion showed his quality and was reminiscent of recent years.
However, one realised quickly, that FC Bayern didn’t have enough consistency in their performances. In the Bundesliga they usually played with power-saving mode on, while a few days later the pace had to be picked up again.
On top of that, Ancelotti only trusted a small core of players consisting of about 12 or 13 players. One could possibly add Müller and Costa to the starting players as rotations or substitutions, who didn’t get that many games.
A few disadvantages come with that. On one side you’re not able to mask absences or bad individual form. Players, that came from the bench hurt the game rather than bringing in some fresh air. The reasons for that are lack of game time, poor confidence (especially young players) and the consequent bad form.
Here and there it was questioned if Bernat, Sanches, Coman and Costa even have the quality to help Bayern on a high level. The squad planning got a lot of criticism, too. How are these players meant to prove themselves, when they only get their chances sporadically?
They had their best performances, when they were integrated into a functioning team. Ancelotti often fielded all of them at once which led to insecurity, lack of automatisms and the continuously dropping confidence.
The Italian had his first eleven on a level with which it was still possible to pull it off. A lot of times it’s forgotten, that big games are decided by luck and bad luck.
A converted penalty in the first leg and getting a bit luckier with the referee’s decisions in the second leg and today one would probably be thrilled about a semi-final against Atlético Madrid.
A clear-cut chance converted by Lewandowski to make it 3-1 against Borussia Dortmund and Munich would probably be in the DFB cup final.
External factors should never be the main reason ahead of own mistakes. Though, this constellation shows that it was possible to make it further in the cup competitions. Because ultimately Bayern weren’t inferior.
The players have to take up their promise, too. It’s not the manager’s fault, that Javi Martínez and Arturo Vidal get sent off needlessly. It’s also not down to the manager, if a penalty is missed or a pass over five yards doesn’t reach his target.
Pep Guardiola lost a semi-final in 2015 against Borussia Dortmund, where his team were clearly better as well.
Something that definitely warrants criticism about the manager is the complete lack of reaction to changing circumstances after set-backs. The team repeatedly had no solutions. Ancelotti didn’t change a thing or made questionable substitutions.
There is no need for tactical adjustments every few seconds like Guardiola did. However, in these moments the team needs someone who offers support and is reacting on the sideline rather than just watching.
If you want to compete with the likes of Real Madrid you need a plan. Ancelotti let it come down to a challenge in every game, where the individual class would decide.
This worked until Madrid arrived, a team with a better and deeper squad than Munich.
It’s a thesis that is hard to prove as Guardiola didn’t manage to beat the biggest teams. Nevertheless, a win is more likely if you face an individually strong team with strategy, tactics and team spirit. Even in the future FC Bayern will probably lose in a pure arm wrestling contest on this level.
So who actually helps Carlo Ancelotti since the departure of Paul Clement? It’s pretty strange, that an assistant manager of his ability is just allowed to leave in the winter without a replacement.
Gerland moved up in the hierarchy, but surely he had to be replaced wherever he was working before. Maybe it would be useful to appoint someone who could give Ancelotti a hand when it comes to tactics.
The biggest point of criticism of the past year is the lack of development. At the start of the season we already drew first conclusions that a lot of things would forcibly regress. The tactical knowledge of Guardiola and the associated flexibility would be lost.
Especially the younger players in the squad need someone who can teach them. Kimmich and Coman absorbed everything the Catalan had to say and thus knew how to impress on the field.
This season they’re looking helpless and overwhelmed. The club made it clear that they’re counting on them and expressed their high confidence in the two. Rarely did this reflect under Ancelotti, though.
This criticism is only partially aimed at the manager. It’s more one at the club, which banked on the last shot of a big generation after Guardiola left and forgot about a lot of important tasks for the future.
Ancelotti was appointed at a time, where a transition was necessary. The era which began with van Gaal in 2009 is coming to a close. The club needs new impulses in all areas and for that the Italian probably isn’t the right man.
There are four games still to play. If Leipzig would win all of their games, Bayern would need four points. The remaining schedule consists of two away games in Wolfsburg and Leipzig as well as two home games against Darmstadt and Freiburg.
In the end the championship is probably going to be the only title in the books of FC Bayern. Considering the increased ambitions and the weakness of the league this obviously doesn’t lead to rejoicing. One shouldn’t forget, that the record champion is still writing history.
However, there is still a feeling of emptiness, that would be easier to accept if it would’ve been a transitioning year of development. Which leaves the valid question: Who benefited from this year?