Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as Bayern Munich manager on Thursday following a 3-0 humbling at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
While some have thought the decision was hasty, here are five reasons why Bayern have acted …
Not good enough. pic.twitter.com/Re0WkwVbWs
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1. Tactical mishaps
It was billed as a battle between PSG’s new money and Bayern’s more traditional, hard-earned values — a high-profile opportunity for the Bundesliga champions to demonstrate their more conservative transfer policy could take on PSG’s lavish approach to taking on the European elite.
Ancelotti came up with a plan against Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe based on shoring up central areas. Disastrously, this cunning plan went out of the window after only 85 seconds when Neymar waltzed through the porous Bayern defence, laying the opener on a plate for Dani Alves. Ancelotti provoked his own dismissal with a peculiar team selection, pairing the cumbersome duo Javi Martinez and Niklas Sule in central defence. His most accomplished defender Mats Hummels was relegated to the bench alongside Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery and his most athletic defender Jerome Boateng watched the game from the stands.
Bayern pulled the plug after such an embarrassingly high-profile defeat in Paris, with Ancelotti the scapegoat.
2. Lost dressing room
A reporter asked Robben after the crushing defeat if the players were still behind the manager. It is the sort of question asked after a dip in form and murmurings of dressing room unrest. The Netherlands skipper declined to answer. That was a clear signal the Italian’s days were numbered. On Thursday, President Uli Hoeness confirmed to radio station FFH that five players had turned against Ancelotti. “An enemy in your own ranks is a dangerous thing,” he said. Bayern had to act swiftly.
There is little doubt that Ribery, Bayern’s longest serving player, was in those five. Bayern couldn’t fire five misfiring players so ultimately the manager has to pay the price for losing the dressing room. Robben, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski all had public run-ins with Ancelotti.
Once ex-Bayern right-back Willy Sagnol was brought in over Ancelotti’s head as his assistant, there’s a case for saying he was on borrowed time.
Michael Ballack’s foresight proved spot on when he said his former boss at Chelsea might regret agreeing to Sagnol. All was not well between him and the board, with Ancelotti saying he would have preferred Xabi Alonso or Philipp Lahm alongside him on the bench. Sagnol is now the interim boss.
3. Bayern go backward
There is no doubt Ancelotti had overseen a regression in the quality of performance since taking over from Pep Guardiola. Admittedly, Bayern fans have been massively spoilt in recent seasons, winning the Bundesliga five years on the trot, but the board had no confidence he could turn it around. Modern football, ladies and gentlemen.
Last year’s Bundesliga title win papered over the cracks; it was remarkably unspectacular in what is becoming a weak league judging by German clubs’ results in Europe. Bayern were a little unfortunate to go out to Real Madrid in the Champions League last eight, but they were also defeated by Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Cup semifinal when they were also deprived of the injured Manuel Neuer.
“Intensity” is undoubtedly Ancelotti’s favourite word, gleaned from his news conferences over the last season and a bit. But under his tutelage, Bayern have gone stale, lacking intensity and looking distinctly average on occasion. This season, they also have to contend without the retired legends of the game, Alonso and Lahm, and will miss the world’s best keeper and new captain Neuer for a large chunk too. In what is their worst start to a domestic season since 2010, Sven Ulreich, a hapless backup goalkeeper with floppy wrists, has not helped Ancelotti’s cause.
Weeks before his sacking, the rumour mill started to churn with stories of interest from the Chinese Super League. An ESPN FC source suggested a move to England was on the cards should the Italian’s time at Bayern end prematurely. In what proved his final, ill-fated weeks at the club, you never had the feeling he would be too bothered or upset if he was no longer tasked with coaching Bayern.
He would be quite content to return to his fishing in Canada for a few months, before turning up in China or in England in a few months’ time, working at a club that will not ban him from enjoying a cigarette in peace.
5. A different direction sought
The outspoken Hoeness has often said he dreams of a team of German internationals, and with this in mind Bayern added Die Mannschaft talent in Sule, Sebastian Rudy and Serge Gnabry (loaned to Hoffenheim) to their squad over the summer.
There’s a yearning at the club for someone closer to home, especially among the press pack, some of whom have had enough of the translators in tow with Guardiola and Ancelotti in recent seasons.
For all their faults, the German champions have only lost one league game this season: to Hoffenheim, coached by a highly rated 30-year-old who “dreams of coaching Bayern”. Enter a certain Julian Nagelsmann. A Bavarian no less. What can go wrong?
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.