King Of Tactics: Bayern Munich Boss Carlo Ancelotti Looks To Beat The Ghost Of Pep Guardiola
Philipp Lahm was highly cautious when celebrations after Bayern Munich’s magnificent 5-1 home win against a disappointing Arsenal team did not seem to want to end. “There’s still a long way to go,” said the captain.
Like Lahm, Carlo Ancelotti was cautious in his statements saying, “We’re satisfied with the game and the result today.” “Today” was the important word in his review after an almost perfect game. For good reason, neither Lahm nor Ancelotti saw any cause for exaggerated reactions. Their message was clear: Winning the Champions League is like running a marathon up a steep hill.
Putting games like the 5-1 drubbing of Arsenal into perspective might be one of the biggest challenges for players and coaches of the winning team. Both Lahm (over 500 games) and Ancelotti (over 1000 games) are experienced enough to be realistic. Both know, the festival against Arsenal is nothing more than an important step, but far from the breakthrough when it comes to the dream of reaching (and winning) the final of the Champions League in Cardiff/Wales on June 3.
On Wednesday evening, it was not easy not to be carried away by emotions. There was enough reason for Ancelotti to be flooded with feelings of satisfaction.
However the enormous relief around him was evidence enough to show how big the doubts are in Munich regarding his work and ability to take the Bavarian outfit all the way to the final.
Doubts have been growing for months now and fans and club officials are discussing whether the 57-year old Italian is the right man to take over from Pep Guardiola, who failed thrice to reach the Champions League final.
In contrast to his predecessor, Ancelotti has not delivered breathtaking games, but instead appears totally calm and emotion-less calculator repeating his mantra that festivals in the first part of the season do not help. What counts is to be ready when it counts in springtime.
Now Bayern’s victory was a sign. More than the result and the fact that they are almost certain to progress to the quarterfinals, it has gone some way to allaying the club’s doubts about Ancelotti’s way of doing things. Bayern proved that they can up the pace when it comes to the crunch to both the fans and themselves.
Just as important for Ancelotti was the fact, it was his team that did the job against Arsenal. For weeks now he has been talking about Thiago being the midfield general.
Though many in the club called for its icon Thomas Muller to be selected, Ancelotti stuck with the Spaniard who is now not only the leader but a goal-scorer too.
Thiago has become Bayern’s midfield boss as Ancelotti had predicted. Ancelotti was the winner on Wednesday evening. His attitude ( “It is the attitude that counts for a team” ) has affected his players and has spread self-confidence.
With the Arsenal game Ancelotti has landed in Munich. His defense did a good job, the “old” man on the right flank (Robben) was unstoppable, and Robert Lewandowski up front worked tirelessly, scored a goal and back-heeled a brilliant pass to Thiago.
34-year-old Alonso was a reliable worker in the background instead of being accused to be too slow. Now the Bayern coach is hoping Franck Ribery will return soon from injury and start weaving his magic again down the left flank.
Ancelotti’s tactics to attack Arsenal down the wing (Arjen Robben/Lahm right – Douglas Costa/David Alaba left) paid off and was one of the reasons for what turned out to be an easy win increasing rumors that Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger will soon lose his job.
The harmless Arsenal side allowed Thiago to find ample space and time to propel his team forward, and score himself which is something he hadn’t done for a while.
On Wednesday, Thiago was the decisive man and everything Ancelotti had hoped for. All of a sudden, sidelined Mueller was no longer the most important. That is until the 86th minute when, to ease Bavarian emotions, the home-grown player appeared on the pitch to add the finishing touches by scoring the important fifth goal.
“That fifth goal was a very important as it gives us greater certainty we’ll progress to the next round,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. It was reason enough for team captain Lahm to take his fifth yellow card in his stride.
Though banned for the second leg in London at the beginning of March, it is much better than being unable to face an opponent of greater quality than Arsenal at a later stage of the competition.
“We manage to be ready on the point,” was the sentence all of the winners used. That evening it sounded like a promise that fans can expect more in the future.