Carlo Ancelotti’s reign at Bayern came to an unexpected end. The veteran coach left quite a mess behind him that the next coach will have to clean up. Here are some of the things that the next Bayern manager will have to do to succeed in Munich.
Organize the defense
A common discussion after Ancelotti took over for Pep Guardiola was that the defense was likely to improve. One of Pep’s most criticized tactics was his often absurd high-line which was prone to being exploited by fast counter-attacks. With the reduction of the high-line and a defense that had Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels, and a host of others in front of Manuel Neuer it seemed like nothing could go wrong.
But things did go wrong, and far too often.
Bayern developed a nasty habit of conceding goals, and in very sloppy ways. The problems of getting hit on a fast counter-attack never went away, even though the high-line was gone. The defense never seemed to have a cohesive plan (a problem not isolated to the defense).
The team gave away cheap goals. Even though the high-line was mostly abandoned the defense was still often responsible for starting attacks through the middle. Under Pep, this worked great because the defense and midfield had an understanding and chemistry. Bayern lost that cohesion under Ancelotti, for whatever reason.
A lot of the recent cheap goals Bayern conceded can be blamed on Sven Ulreich for simply not being up to Manuel Neuer’s standards. But still, Ulreich had to be in a situation to make those ridiculous mistakes. Whoever coaches Bayern next will have to get a plan going to get the defense back on track.
Develop a system
Bayern Munich’s players went from having an incredibly complicated system to having almost none at all. Instead of having a varied and nuanced tactical set-up, Ancelotti instead decided that Bayern could rely on individual talent. Fellow Bayern Central writer Shubham Ahuja discussed this in his piece here.
This worked well for some players. Thiago Alcântara for example played the best football we have ever seen from him. As the young Spaniard was given the freedom to roam and do his thing, he simply took over games and dominated the midfield.
But this came at the expense of other players. Arturo Vidal performed a bit worse than he did under Guardiola, for example. Thomas Müller, who despite beginning to drop off at the end up Pep’s reign, completely fell off a cliff under Carlo and has looked a shadow of his former self.
There were certain players who had enough individual quality like Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski who still performed at a decent level, but there was not much improvement. The entire squad felt like it stagnated since the beginning and it never really got better.
A new coach will have to implement their ideas and their system at Bayern Munich. They will need to get the players working as a unit again, and lower the reliance on individual talent.
Get underperforming players going again…
This one is painfully obvious. Towards the end up of Pep’s time at Bayern, it was noticeable that certain players were beginning to lose their “it” factor. The obvious examples are Thomas Müller and David Alaba who have looked completely lost for quite some time now.
It is hard to say what exactly the problem is. For Thomas Müller, the argument from fans has been that the problem is simply systemic. Carlo Ancelotti did not know how to use Müller, and because of that he never performed. But Müller has looked out of sorts for the National Team as well, rarely contributing much of anything. This could simply be because his confidence had taken a major hit since missing the penalty against Atletico Madrid. If that is the case, the new coach will have to work with Müller to get him back at top form again.
The other obvious case is David Alaba. It is difficult to say what is going on with the Austrian. While many argue that Alaba’s decline began last year, I honestly think his form took a dive after his first season under Guardiola which was one of his best. Perhaps injuries slowed him down. Perhaps he is too focused on social media. Maybe he just has no interest in playing as a left-back and wants to be a full-time midfielder. (Good luck with that at Bayern, David.)
Whatever the case, the next coach will have their hands full getting both of these players back on track.
…or have the guts to bench them.
This is a risky thing for the coach to do, but perhaps forcing Müller, Alaba, and any other under-performing players to ride pine may be the solution.
If the new manager implements a system and it works but certain players simply do not fit into it, they will have to be benched. Nobody is bigger than the club. If Bayern can play attractive, winning football and any player cannot be bothered to adapt or is too out of form to be effective, they should not start games.
There are of course inherent risks to this. Fan reaction will not be pleasant. Understandably, when a player like David Alaba or Thomas Müller get benched, fans will start asking questions especially if something goes wrong on the pitch and a result is less than satisfactory.
These questions might even be understandable on some level. Even if a player is in a poor patch of form, if Bayern is facing against a big club in Europe it is hard to justify leaving out a potential X-Factor. If Bayern were to lose to Real Madrid or Barcelona and a player like Thomas Müller is on the bench, everyone including myself will being asking “what if?”
Ultimately the best coach can get the best football out of the best players. But sometimes, poor form happens and if the manager cannot get underperforming players out of a funk, they will have to sit them out on some games.
Reign in FC Hollywood
I actually feel bad for whoever has to do this. Like it or not, FC Hollywood is in full swing. The next coach will have to find a way not only to handle it, but try and stop it as well.
Bayern Munich is a club with quite a few big personalities, such as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. These personalities are one of the major reason that Carlo Ancelotti lost his job, as Uli Hoeneß has claimed that “five players had turned against him”.
The next manager will need to find a way to keep the locker room intact. This could prove very difficult considering that only 11 players can be on the pitch at once, and some of the older players need to start being phased out. (Sorry, Robbery. It is true though.)
This could be the most difficult part of the job. But it might also be the most important.
Not a crisis, but not an easy job
The next Bayern manager has a tall task ahead, but it is not impossible. A clear system and some ego management will go a long way for the next Bayern manager.