Preview: FC Bayern – VfL Wolfsburg

Justin Separator February 7, 2017

Last time out with Antonia we talked about Wolfsburg’s crisis. Shortly after the interview, Klaus Allofs was dismissed. This time she’s trying to get rid of another Wolfsburger, and tells us why Gomez doesn’t share a large portion of the blame.

Visual: Michael Böck

Hello Antonio, time for another interview and a little sooner than you probably would have hoped. How fed up are you of playing in Munich?

On a scale of 1 to 10, a clear 12.

After your last vent, Klaus Allofs was let go. Who are you trying your luck with this time?

Valerien Ismael!

And why him? What’s he doing wrong in your view?

Is he doing anything at all? That would rather be my question. Since he took over for Dieter Hecking, our way of playing hasn’t changed a bit. Rather, everything has gotten even worse. The three wins in a row were more luck than judgment. During the game he gives absolutely no instructions. Whatever the score, he makes subs far too late. After the break at half-time, nothing changes at all. So any aspects where you could evaluate a coach just don’t even occur with him. What’s he doing wrong then? Kind of everything.

In winter there were a few incomings, among them talented players like Ntep or Malli. How happy are you with the transfers?

Although Malli hasn’t been able to show his quality so far, I’m really happy with the transfers. Ntep’s performances have been so far really convincing, and I’m also really excited about Bazoer. Dejagah… I’ll give him a chance. I would have really liked a defensive signing too, but all in all the transfer window was pretty good.

In the meantime, you’re actually finding yourselves in something of a relegation fight. Will the quality of the squad shine through, or do you have genuine concerns?

With Ismael as the manager, I have genuine concerns. The tougher opponents like Dortmund, Hoffenheim etc. are all still to come. If we don’t manage to take points from Augsburg, I’m pessimistic. Even Hamburg are starting to pick up some victories. Hoping that three other teams are even more awful than us won’t work in my opinion.

One problem is the attack. How come Gomez isn’t quite integrated in Wolfsburg’s game, and is he really the right type of striker for this team?

When the attack has a good day, Gomez is integrated really well. If not, he isn’t. I think every fan would rather have a striker who gets involved and doesn’t only have his first touch of the ball after 45 minutes. But as long as he scores, that’d be just fine. I do think though that Gomez right now is the least guilty in terms of how poorly we’re doing at the moment. We’ve seen in moves like against Hamburg that it could actually work pretty well.

Luckily, with the cup, form goes out of the window. Bayern haven’t quite been as brilliant as they used to be for some time. So give us a few reasons why this game will be Wolfsburg’s turning point.

Okay. Here are a few reasons. _ _ _. That’s about it.

But don’t you see a few chinks in Bayern’s armour that Wolfsburg could make the most of?

Well, if we were to come confident out of the blocks and score straight away before parking the bus, yeah. I just can’t see it though.

Okay, at least I’ve tried to coax a few positive words from you. I can hardly bare to ask, but: how will the game go?

Last time I went for 3-0 for Bayern, and the final score was 5-0. This time I’ll just go for 5-0 straight away, that way it can’t get any worse. (Right?) [Translator: Now you can expect 7-0…]

Do you believe that Wolfsburg can make a successful new start to the new season, and if so, what has to happen for that?

Aye. If we bring in a new manager who can get rid of the deadwood, meaning one Luiz Gustavo finally leaves too, sure. But without changes like that, it just doesn’t seem like things will work out. The winter break was meant to bring a new optimism to the club, and things have already gone right back to how they were before.

Which Wolfsburg player do you miss the most and why?

On the pitch, the only answer can be Kevin de Bruyne. Not just an outstanding playmaker, but he also makes the whole team around him better. We could definitely use him right now.

Last time you took Robert Lewandowski for Wolfsburg, because he can link play with others. Who else would you like to take from Bayern and why?

Either Thiago or Boateng. A world class attacking player would obviously be attractive, but another defensive rock (alongside Bruma) would help for sure too.

Carlo Ancelotti is regarded as a Champions League manager, and as somebody who can get his team in top form at the right time. And yet time is slowly running out for him.

In a recent interview, the Italian implied that, though he admires Pep Guardiola, he represents a different philosophy. For him, the intensive pressing couldn’t be carried out over a full season without paying the price eventually.

Ancelotti was indirectly addressing how that he consciously coaches his team with the handbrake on, in order to have them in top form in the important weeks. But these weeks are just around the corner and the list of problems is a long one.

The Thiago problem

When the Spaniard isn’t there, it becomes rather apparent: this FC Bayern side has no positional play anymore. The midfield dominance of the last three years ago is finished. There are but few automatisms left. Players often step on each other’s toes within the same zones and the counter-pressing is worse off for that too.

Having said that, we shouldn’t hope for a return to the system that Guardiola practically perfected in Munich. We already wrote back in November that Ancelotti has to find his own way to control and dominate games.

For that, the key is Thiago. Against Leipzig, but as well in many other games, you could see that the 25-year-old is the most important player for the manager.

He gives structure to Bayern’s uncreative game, creates an unbelievable number of links, and makes it at least seem like Bayern are still executing Guardiola’s positional play. Let’s call it “Fake Positional Play”.

Indeed, Ancelotti recently acknowledged that there has to be a better occupation of the ten zone, but without Thiago he lacks the right player for that.

Müller and Thiago at the winter training camp.
(Image: Lars Baron / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Müller is the big loser under Carlo

In the not-too-distant past, this role was filled by Thomas Müller. But unsuccessfully. The German international doesn’t get involved enough, can’t create any links with the defensive midfielders, and often makes the wrong decisions.

Partly it’s about the fact that he’s clearly become more ponderous on the ball, but also on the other hand he’s simply the casualty of Ancelotti’s system.

Under Guardiola, each player was given instructions to them on a silver platter. Everybody knew where he had to move and where, and how his team-mates would be positioned at any given moment. In spite of that, the creative players still had enough freedom.

With Ancelotti on the touchline, that seems different. You get the feeling that players do get more freedom, but they’re lacking the tactical framework in which it was possible to regularly break down compact defensive lines.

Because of that, the team is extremely reliant on the individual class of individual players. Thomas Müller is a victim of that. Lewandowski, Robben, Costa, Ribéry and Thiago can take a game by the scruff of the neck and decide it on their own, but Müller needs his team-mates more than anyone else does.

That’s not to say that the striker is nowhere near as brilliant as everybody thinks. Quite the opposite: his capabilities are thus even more unique and important for the Rekordmeister, but Ancelotti desperately has to find a solution, a way to incorporate Müller sensibly and in a way that benefits the team.

The myth of the Champions League manager

They say that the Italian is a man for the big occasion. As already indicated, the general view of Ancelotti is that he can manage his team in a way that allows them to explode towards the end of the season. He’s proven that several times.

And yet Bayern are in awful form, and in Wolfsburg and Arsenal the first two (or rather three) knock-out games are waiting for the men from Munich. If those games aren’t to be the last of their kind this season, Ancelotti has to be true to his reputation.

It may be my subjective opinion, but it would be ludicrous to consciously coach a team with the handbrake on with the aim of getting them to flip the switch at a moment’s notice.

The team needs automatisms, clear instructions, a tactical framework that they can orient themselves around, and above all rhythm. Right now, all of that is missing from this Bayern team, and so it will be interesting to see if Ancelotti can get his team into good form at the right time before the Arsenal game.

In April and May, when the titles are decided, form is no good to anyone if you’ve already thrown away your chances of glory in February.

FC Bayern find themselves in a dangerous situation and perhaps, despite the four-point gap at the top, they should first of all focus on gaining some momentum in the day-to-day business of the Bundesliga before they dream of exploding into form in spring.

Five bold predictions

  1. Bayern will win the game in normal time.
  2. Wolfsburg won’t score.
  3. The Rekordmeister will score at least three times.
  4. Lewandowski will score.
  5. There will be a goal in the first 20 minutes.

Two correct predictions are the result of the Schalke preview. Total: 62/120.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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