Among the interesting sub-narratives to have emerged from Carlo Ancelotti’s failure at Bayern Munich is the elevation in status of the job Pep Guardiola performed at the Allianz Arena.
Eternally scarred for having taken the “easy way out” by inheriting a treble-winning squad from Jupp Heynckes, the Catalan’s trophy haul of three Bundesliga titles, two DFB Pokals and countless domestic records was overshadowed by failing to get past the semi-finals of the Champions League.
That argument has merit, of course, as Guardiola was employed to maintain Bayern’s position at the top of the European elite while playing an iconic brand of football, instead he played a small part in surrendering it to Real Madrid.
But to measure his achievements on how further he filled Bayern’s trophy cabinet is along the same lines as expressing incredulity over the fact Ancelotti was sacked after two defeats and a draw in 11 games.
Because where the Italian failed spectacularly compared to his predecessor was not in what he did or didn’t win, but how he got his players to do it. Aside from stylistic criticisms – and Bayern’s football under Ancelotti was largley indistinguishable, it just got results – was that not a single individual in the squad improved on his watch.
Each player inherited from Guardiola has stagnated or gone backwards, visible in all its shame at the Parc des Princes.
Thomas Muller has been playing the worst football of his career for at least a year now; David Alaba being sent to a different part of Paris by Kylian Mbappe on Wednesday night summed up his regression having become one of the best left-backs in the world; Robert Lewandowski looks sullen and disinterested; Arturo Vidal is all bark and no bite. The list goes on.
For all the demands he put on his players each day in training, Guardiola set the bar through the stratosphere and the expectation placed on the individual enabled them to exceed performance levels of the past. As difficult as it may have been, it made the players happy, more fulfilled. These are footballers at the very top echelon of the game for a reason, they have worked hard to get there and, by nature, don’t want to stop.
Ancelotti’s laissez faire and contrasting attitude to training – every Sunday off, straightforward 11 v 11 matches the norm – left them disinterested and demotivated.
But his departure not only shines a more illuminating light on Guardiola’s work in impacting his players, it also reveals the influence he has had on coaching this decade.
There are, of course, exceptions – Zinedine Zidane the most prominent – but coaches are increasingly shying away from the Ancelotti model. As, for all its charm and simplicity, it’s become outdated.
Julian Nagelsmann has taken Hoffenheim from a middle to lower level Bundesliga outfit to the Champions League qualifiers with such revolutionary training concepts as a massive video wall constantly analysing a player’s performance. It’s now no surprise he’s the frontrunner for the Bayern job.
Nagelsmann has also highlighted a very Guardiolan concept in that the future of football will rest in players being positionally flexible. Fabian Delph at left-back, anyone?
Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham and Watford’s Marco Silva are coaches in the Premier League catching the eye and over-performing with an intense attention to detail on the training ground.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are the perfect mirror image of the man himself whose passion and touchline antics often unintentionally mask a brilliant coaching mind.
In France, the charismatic Jocelyn Gourvennec is reinstating Bordeaux as a force in Ligue 1 having performed wonders at Guingamp with a dedicated ethos and players following his methods to the absolute specifics.
The devil is always in the detail. Analysis and information crucial but also the concept of implementing your ideas on a group.
The dilemma for managers has always been, do you impose your methods on the team, or soften them according to the players at your disposal? In Ancelotti’s case, it’s the latter but that is being eroded, as Guardiola’s theories – admittedly, drawn from Marcelo Bielsa – are mimicked and redesigned.
Not only does the Manchester City manager enhance players, he does the same with individuals in the dugout, and Ancelotti, unfortunately, got left behind.
Bayern Munich have sacked coach Carlo Ancelotti in the wake of their Champions League defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain, the club announced on Thursday.
“Following an internal analysis in Munich on Thursday 28 September 2017… the club is to part company with head coach Carlo Ancelotti with immediate effect,” Bayern said in a statement on their website.
Former player Willy Sagnol, the ex-France international who had been serving as an assistant to Ancelotti, has been named interim coach.
Pressure had already been building on Ancelotti with Bayern enduring an inconsistent start to the season before losing 3-0 to PSG in the French capital on Wednesday.
After that game the Italian was questioned by German media about his tactics and team selection, following his decision to leave Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Mats Hummels on the bench at kick-off.
“The performance of our team since the start of the season did not meet the expectations we put to them,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“The game in Paris clearly showed that we had to draw consequences. (Sporting director) Hasan Salihamidzic and I had an open and serious discussion with Carlo today and informed him of our decision.
“Carlo is my friend and will remain so, but we had to make a professional decision in the interests of FC Bayern. I now expect the team to have a positive development and top performance, so we can reach our goals for this season.”
Bayern are currently third in the Bundesliga table after six games, three points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, before visiting Hertha Berlin on Sunday.
They have not been so far off the pace at the top of the Bundesliga so early in a season since 2010/11, when Dortmund went on to win the title and Bayern finished third.
Ancelotti, 58, led Bayern to a fifth consecutive Bundesliga title last season in his first campaign in charge after succeeding Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena.
However, the Bavarians lost to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and to Dortmund in the semi-finals of the German Cup.
Ancelotti has also coached Parma, Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.
Among the potential replacements being mentioned is Thomas Tuchel, currently a free agent after leaving Dortmund at the end of last season.
Arsenal travel to Belarus to take on BATE Borisov in their second game of this season’s Europa League on Thursday night.
Here, Press Association Sport analyses their little-known opponents.
BATE’s form is very similar to Arsenal’s. Like their visitors they remain undefeated in September, with Saturday’s 6-0 home win against FC Slutsk their fifth victory from their past six unbeaten matches. From 31 fixtures this season they have recorded 20 victories, six draws and five defeats.
Thursday’s match is BATE’s 32nd of the season. Their first came on April 1, meaning they have been involved in regular competition for the past six months compared to Arsenal’s two. Incidentally, it is by the six-month point of the season that many of Europe’s other leagues have had their mid-season breaks.
Former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Alexander Hleb started his career at BATE before his transfer to Stuttgart in 2000. They are not only also Belarus’ reigning champions; their 2016 title success was their 11th in succession.
ONES TO WATCH
Striker Vitali Rodionov and attacking midfielder Mikhail Gordeichuk have formed the Belarusian Premier League’s most successful attack, with both players finishing last season with 15 goals apiece. Gordeichuk tops the domestic charts with 14 so far this season, while Rodionov has five.