FC Bayern München were right to sack Carlo Ancelotti, but the unprecedented timing of this decision creates serious stability risks.
Before going further, it is only logical to look at the reasons why firing the Italian coach is a sensible decision.
Ancelotti’s coaching has been poor this season, with a player rotation that raised as many question marks as the number of times he raised his eyebrow during matches. Bizarre starting lineups, strange substitutions, questionable tactics and lack of inventiveness made the Reds play stale football.
Despite previous words about balance and direct play, Carlo brought unproductive possession to the table and chaotic defending. It speaks volumes when you realise that Pep Guardiola’s counterpressing was more effective than the leaky midfield and final third FCB inherited since Carlo joined.
The 0:3 loss at Paris Saint-Germain was the “icing on the cake”. Leaving key stars on the bench, starting an unfit left-back and implementing the Christmas tree formation in a big Champions League matchup left people scratching their heads.
That could be water under the bridges. A loss this early in the season is not the reason why you fire a coach. Long-term considerations should weigh more in the balance than a single result because excellent coaches can adapt, make changes and get things right.
This is where Ancelotti failed at Bayern. The staleness started in the autumn in 2016. I was entirely ready to forgive poor league shape… if it meant that Mr. Champions League would bring European glory to Munich with his fourth CL title. A short-lived return to form ended when Real Madrid took FCB to school in the quarters.
True form never entirely returned after that. Ancelotti did not seem to have a clear plan to make the central midfield more resilient against the counterattack. He did not seem to know how to use a number of highly-rated defenders to contain attackers.
For all the above reasons, his sacking is highly logical.
That being said, the timing of Carlo Ancelotti’s dismissal by the Bayern board opens a different can of worms.
The earliest firing in the club’s modern history was that of Jupp Heynckes in October 1991. Something that Uli Hoeneß admitted to be a mistake. We are used to seeing clubs such as Real Madrid and Chelsea pull the trigger this early, but FC Bayern are known as structured and stable.
Were top managers and the board so unconvinced by Ancelotti’s plans, why did they not sack him in the summer or give him a full second season? By traditional standards, coaches are on the hot seat only if they fail to deliver against their minimal targets. Those are going for the Bundesliga title (3 points away today), a Champions League spot (no problem) and aiming at the quarter-finals in Europe (no threat yet).
Furthermore, firing a coach at the end of September without a clear succession plan brings instability in Munich. It is highly likely that Willy Sagnol will act as the caretaker for a few weeks, until a suitable “permanent” replacement is appointed. This means two coaching changes in a short time.
I see you coming, folks. You will rightfully tell me that Ancelotti lost the dressing room. Yet, isn’t it reasonable to think that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeneß knew what was going on much before any of us heard about it? Reports suggested that Ancelotti’s relaxed approach made waves last season, but I bet that top managers heard of it before reporters.
Arjen Robben’s refusal to answer a question about Ancelotti’s responsibility for the PSG loss was only the last straw.
In the circumstances, why wait? Why did they give Ancelotti his men, James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso, only to get rid of him a few weeks later?
FC Bayern’s way to handle coaching appointments is usually better thought out. Board members like bringing a guy on board with a three-year term and a vision. Whether that plan fails (Jürgen Klinsmann) or leaves a strong legacy behind (Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes) is a hit or miss, but at least it is a structured working method.
By ad libbing now, the Bayern board hands Ancelotti’s successor a raw deal. Suppose that Thomas Tuchel, who is available, returns to coaching in Munich. He will have an incredible amount of catch-up to do. Building a new tactical scheme and making sure that the team does not fall in the Bundesliga and Champions League rankings is a heavy task for anyone. Surely that is better handled with summer planning…
In addition, should the Reds wish to have a long-term appointee such as Julian Nagelsmann, they cannot have him now. His shadow can threaten anyone who takes over coaching duties in Munich in 2017.
I personally approve of the Ancelotti sacking. The man is an excellent coach but he may have been incompatible with Bayern Munich. He failed to make the Bavarians his team and crazy decision-making led to a debacle in Paris.
The timing of his sacking, though, is equally crazy and absolutely risky.