Bayern Munich’s rocky start to the season was thrown into chaos on Thursday as the club saw fit to sack Carlo Ancelotti.
A 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the amiable Italian, who had struggled to live up to the expectations set upon him at the Allianz Arena after Pep Guardiola’s glittering three-season stint.
Specifically drafted in to win the Champions League trophy that Guardiola could not manage in Germany, Ancelotti could only guide Bayern to last season’s quarter-finals before a thrashing at the Parc des Princes “showed that we had to take action”, in the words of CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Falling three points off the pace of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund, led by newcomer Peter Bosz, also left Ancelotti in a precarious predicament.
However, poor performances on the pitch have not been Bayern’s sole issue this season and Ancelotti’s departure may not be the salve to all of the Bundesliga giants’ issues.
Here we examine the squabbles, subterfuge and farce that has put Bayern’s domestic domination at risk.
LEWANDOWSKI LASHES OUT
Bayern’s hierarchy were put behind the eight ball before last season had even ended, after coming under fire from one of the club’s star players.
Robert Lewandowski missed out on the Bundesliga top scorer award to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after failing to net on the final day, but the Poland star had already insisted that Bayern’s squad needed refreshing: “Of course we need new players on two, three positions probably, but that is not my job. Bayern has to work now a bit.”
Niklas Sule, Sebastian Rudy, Corentin Tolisso and James Rodriguez all made the switch to the Allianz Arena, but it was seemingly not enough to satisfy Lewandowski, with sniping from his and Bayern’s respective camps overshadowing pre-season preparations, which leads to another point of ire of the striker…
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) September 12, 2017
“We did not have time for training in the pre-season, we had a lot of friendlies,” was Lewandowski’s lament as Bayern began their campaign with a penalty-shootout win over Borussia Dortmund in the DFL Supercup and 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
It is often folly to read too much into pre-season results, but Bayern’s made for particularly grim viewing.
Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (2-3 on penalties)
Bayern 0-4 AC Milan
Bayern 3-2 Chelsea
Bayern 0-2 Inter
Bayern 0-3 Liverpool
Bayern 0-2 Napoli
Of course, these games were not played at full speed, or with anything on the line, but the new-found advent of high-profile competitions such as the International Champions Cup has added an extra dimension to pre-season.
Bayern’s lackadaisical approach was to follow them into the campaign.
ANCELOTTI TAKING ON MULLER, AND LOSING
The form of Thomas Muller had been a stick to beat Ancelotti with throughout his time at Bayern.
After scoring a career-best 20 league goals in Guardiola’s final campaign, Muller scored just five last term – his worst return.
Naturally the player did not believe he was to blame, but Muller’s popularity at the club has ensured that enough supporters would fall on his side of the argument, especially when he was backed by Lothar Matthaus.
“This has nothing to do with Muller. He needs a coach who wants him in his team, then Muller will not disappoint.”
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) September 16, 2017
CLUB ICONS CLAIM TIME IS UP
Ancelotti may have feared the worst as he digested Wednesday’s defeat in Paris, but it was not the first time in the early knockings of the season that he had contemplated his future.
Club legend Stefan Effenberg warned that a repeat of the relative failings of last season would cost the Italian, while former Bayern player Mario Basler caused ripples of rumour when claiming that he had it on authority that Ancelotti would be taking a job in the Chinese Super League in January.
Ancelotti swiftly rubbished the suggestions, but it sowed the seeds of doubt that he would be in the hot seat long-term.
Who knows, a lucrative job in the Far East could now be on the table after all…
THE FATAL PSG GAME
Muller was not the only first-teamer to become disillusioned with Ancelotti’s chopping and changing.
Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, so often the tandem upon which Bayern success has been built in recent years have also found themselves subject to rotation, with the Frenchman showing his anger when throwing down his shirt after being substituted against Anderlecht earlier this month.
Both wingers were left on the bench at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday, forcing Ancelotti to defend his selection, and it was Robben’s reaction to the defeat which suggested the Italian had lost the faith of his players.
Asked if the team were still behind Ancelotti, Robben told reporters: “I will not answer that. I’m now in my ninth season with FC Bayern, this is something I am not accustomed to.”
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