Published On: Thu, Sep 28th, 2017

Axed Ancelotti the fall guy for a Bayern team in transition

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Carlo Ancelotti got the sack Thursday, and for all the talk of his failings at Bayern Munich, the state of a rapidly aging squad is largely being overlooked.

Critics of the affable Italian point to a penchant for leaving jobs in or around the second year in charge, while others identify just four league titles in nearly two decades in charge of some of Europe’s biggest clubs as a sign of Ancelotti’s shortcomings.

Related: Bayern Munich sacks Ancelotti after defeat at PSG

Often the scapegoat for underperforming squads, managers like Ancelotti fall on the sword as a facile alternative to widespread squad overhaul, and while most of the talk Thursday will focus on the gaffer’s missteps, the players deserve some of the blame.

Age is more than a number

Talismanic leaders Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso both retired in the summer, and a core of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, and Arturo Vidal are all either 30 and in the decline of celebrated careers or rapidly approaching it.

That’s not to say world-class footballers can’t excel beyond their 30th birthdays, though it’s worth noting amid countless comparisons between Ancelotti and his beloved predecessor Pep Guardiola: The Catalan gaffer had a dynamic squad rife with youthful vigour. Ancelotti, the only manager with three Champions League crowns, not so much.

With age comes the increased possibility of injuries, and like a bee sting on a rash, one problem compounds the other.


First-choice centre-back pairing Boateng and Hummels both missed chunks of last season, as did Robben and Ribery, and the issue of long-term ailments to key players has carried over to this season with skipper Manuel Neuer‘s protracted absence due to a broken foot.

In the wake of Wednesday’s thrashing at Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “It’s a very painful defeat, a defeat we have to analyse and after which we’ll have to talk about clearly and draw the consequences because what we saw was not Bayern Munich.”

The consequence is that Ancelotti is out of work, but considering the state of a squad in the infantile stages of transition and the failure to adequately replace those who have retired or are in decline, perhaps it’s time Rummenigge considers his role in the current state of Bayern Munich.

A scarcity of academy products

The task of replacing Lahm and Alonso is like substituting salt for sugar in your morning coffee. Even so, Joshua Kimmich and summer signing Corentin Tolisso have been pegged as successors to the influential pairing, and only time will tell if the young duo can fill their boots.

Colossal centre-back Niklas Sule, Sebastian Rudy, and James Rodriguez were all brought in to refresh the squad’s make-up, and the hope is that Kingsley Coman can bounce back from an injury-riddled campaign to merit his permanent move from Juventus.

These additions appear underwhelming, and with a rapidly aging squad, some attention should be turned towards the academy. Among the current first team, only David Alaba and Juan Bernat emerged from Bayern’s youth set-up.


For the sake of a topical comparison, PSG has also experienced a shortage of academy graduates, shipping off the likes of once-promising budding talents Jonathan Ikone and Odsonne Edouard. For Wednesday’s victors in the French capital, the failure to promote means very little when hundreds of millions can be splashed on a teenager like Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern is opting for a comparatively modest approach, and despite five league titles on the trot papering over the cracks, it’s simply not working, and that’s not entirely Ancelotti’s fault. Again, fingers should be pointed at Rummenigge, general manager Uli Hoeness, and the rest of the Bayern brass.

Going forward

There appears to be a deeply rooted institutional issue at Bayern Munich that is being overlooked in light of Ancelotti’s sacking. Comments in the press from the likes of Lewandowski and Ribery point to an attitudinal headache, while a string of recent additions hint at abating ambitions.

Willy Sagnol will take the reins on an interim basis, and if reports that the club’s marquee players forced Ancelotti out have any veracity, anticipate an upswing in form both domestically and on the continent paired with smiles on the faces of Bayern’s most discontent.

It was never going to be easy to succeed Guardiola, and had Bayern not gotten the wrong end of several decisions during last year’s Champions League semi-finals with Real Madrid, an alternate history could have favoured Ancelotti.

Regardless, on Thursday Ancelotti became the scapegoat for a European heavyweight mired by a relative hiccup when really the blame should arrive at the doorstep of several of the club’s high-profile pieces.



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