Last week, I speculated in this column that it could be a defining week ahead for Carlo Ancelotti and Bayern Munich; prophetic words, as it transpired (writes Andy Wales).
As per the thoughts I shared last time around, I felt negative results would heavily escalate the pressure on Ancelotti, but never did I believe that the axe would fall so quickly.
The dust had barely settled on Bayern’s 3-0 Champions League drubbing in Paris when rumours began circulating that Ancelotti had been relieved of his duties at the Allianz.
A very brief, but equally illuminating, speech from Chairman and club legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the defeat, ended with the words: “…what we saw tonight was not Bayern Munich”.
As the cliché goes, “there’s no smoke without fire” and there has been a lot of smoke surrounding Bayern Munich recently. Make no mistake, this was more than a simple results-based sacking; despite any official words put out that reference performances as to why the club decided to part ways with Ancelotti.
The behind the scenes rumblings involve reported divisions between Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness over the direction of the club. Only last year, the now retired Philipp Lahm was said to be extremely disenchanted with the level of influence he was being offered at the club beyond his playing days.
Add to that, the issues surrounding Manuel Neuer’s recent injury, with the furore over previous club doctor Hans Müller-Wohlfahrt still relatively fresh in the memory.
In Germany, Bayern Munich are a sporting institution, their sheer size, power and influence is difficult to quantify to fans of other leagues. The club structure famously includes a number of club legends in prominent positions, so whoever is in charge of first team duties has to contend with egos in the boardroom as well as the dressing room.
Speaking of the dressing room, reports in Germany over the past week point to problems between Ancelotti and a number of senior players. Names mentioned include Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
Uli Hoeness was even quoted as saying that Ancelotti had five players against him. There have been some particularly unflattering comments have been attributed to Robben in regard to Ancelotti’s training methods.
Robben, when asked by a German broadcaster if the team were behind their coach after the loss to PSG, said :”I don’t want to answer this question”.
With his record and reputation as a coach, Ancelotti was seen as a great appointment for Bayern. It was thought that, on the back of his success at Real Madrid, he could be the man to guide Bayern Munich to the European glory the club so desires.
His ability to handle big name players was seen as one of his biggest strengths, but curiously appears to be one of the biggest factors in his sacking. Without that harmony, alongside deteriorating performances and results, it was a matter of time before things would come to a head.
And, for all reports of trouble behind the scenes, what was happening on the pitch magnified things. There was a magnificent quote from Christof Kneer of the Bavarian newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (that came courtesy of Archie Rhind-Tutt), describing Bayern as having “holes in the defence the size of Louis Van Gaal’s ego,” against PSG.
The air of invincibility that Bayern have long held domestically is slipping. If surrendering a 2-0 lead at home to Wolfsburg before the defeat in Paris was bad enough, the first Bundesliga match post-Ancelotti was just as bad.
Again, Bayern surrendered a two goal lead, this time away to Hertha Berlin. To say Bayern don’t do that kind of thing, is no understatement. In fact, it’s the first time in the club’s history that have let a two goal lead slip in consecutive Bundesliga games. Just to top things off, Ribery suffered a lateral collateral ligament tear in his left knee and will be out for a considerable amount of time.
Tuchel, Nagelsmann and Van Gaal are among the candidates to take over at @FCBayern:https://t.co/mNWRTEh1vB pic.twitter.com/TYD4faO6cG
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) October 3, 2017
Meanwhile, speculation continues as to who will take over from Ancelotti. Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann is the long term favourite, but former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel is the front runner to take over in the interim.
National team coach Jogi Löw has also been touted, but whoever is appointed Bayern need to move fast to find some stability before their Bundesliga crown threatens to get away from them.
The main beneficiaries of Bayern’s woes, domestically, are Borussia Dortmund. Under new coach Peter Bosz, Dortmund have had a disappointing start to their Champions League campaign, but are flying in the Budesliga.
Their 2-1 win at Augsburg saw them go 5 points clear of Bayern at the top of the league and with Hoffenheim suffering a surprise 3-2 defeat to Freiburg, Dortmund are in a fantastic position to capitalise on the defending champions problematic start.
Looking ahead, once we return from the international break, Bayern host Freiburg and will be expected to win, irrespective of their current plight.
The biggest match of the weekend though, will not be at the Allianz, but at the Signal Iduna Park when Dortmund host RB Leipzig. This Saturday evening game promises to be an exciting affair for neutrals and a massive test for Dortmund, with so much riding on the result.
It will be an opportunity for Dortmund to validate their credentials as potential title winners against a Leipzig side that caused them problems last year. Can Bosz pass this test and put Dortmund firmly in a position of strength? I, for one, cannot wait to find out.