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Bayern Munich board's age and lack of pace more concerning than the squad's

Friday 29th September 2017
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge promised consequences, then sacked Carlo Ancelotti when PSG outclassed Bayern Munich. Should he have been more introspective?

Football has certain truisms. One is it's easier to fire a single coach for poor results than an entire squad.

Unfortunately, easier isn't always better. Adhering to that philosophy is reactionary. It's about image, being seen as proactive when in reality you're reactive. If you were (or are) a company CEO, you wouldn't want employees who look like they're working. You'd want ones who are. Certainly, you shouldn't be setting the wrong example yourself.

Yet, that is what Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has done by sacking Carlo Ancelotti. It's easy to argue the team wasn't responding to the Italian. Results demonstrate it's true. That doesn't change Ancelotti's history. This is the manager who has won league titles in Serie A, the Bundesliga, Premier League, and Ligue 1. He's won three Champions Leagues with two clubs, including delivering the long-awaited La Decima to Real Madrid, a feat neither Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster, nor Jose Mourinho could pull off. If the squad isn't responding to him, the fault is theirs, not his.
And this is where Rummenigge might want to look in a mirror. Bayern Board Chairman Uli Hoeness has stated five players went over the manager's head. Again, it's easiest to assign blame to the manager for such a predicament. Certainly easier than questioning one's own performance.

A closer look at the backroom set-up at the Allianz Arena reveals a natural inclination to side with players rather than managers. Both Rummenigge and Hoeness are club legends. As was Franz Beckenbauer before his turn at the helm. It's highly probable Rummenigge will look to remain in charge until another club legend emerges as a suitable heir, most likely Phillip Lahm.

The Bavarians' business model isn't unique. Ajax follow the same philosophy. The difference is the Dutch side don't allow old hands to linger overlong. Johan Cruyff has been in charge, as has Louis van Gaal. These days, it's Edwin van der Sar.

Bad things happen when you cling to the past. The two wisest, if unlikely, voices to touch my life taught me that.
It was an underlying theme in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The Shire was a happy place so long as the outside world was kept at bay. When modern forces invaded, hobbits weren't prepared to cope. There's no evidence Tolkien the linguist was also a football fiend but Bag-End does have a teasingly coincidental phonetic kinship with Bay-ern.

The Munich club generally dominate the local patch. It's when they journey into foreign lands that their hairy feet are exposed. When Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin first embarked on such a journey, seeking to rid themselves of gold rather than acquire silverware, they immediately entered another insular realm. Only, the Old Forest was a nasty, bitter place whose denizens just wanted to be left alone. Old Man Willow was so set in his ways he would destroy anyone who threatened his carefully crafted environment.

Bayern may be at the same crossroads with Hoeness and Rummenigge. They need a Tom Bombadil to come along and sing a powerful new song. In this case, Rush's Tom Sawyer would be apropos, one verse especially.

No, his mind is not for rent

To any God or government

Always hopeful yet discontent

He knows changes aren't permanent

But change is

Like Tolkien, Neil Peart knew what he was about. Rummenigge and Hoeness certainly rent their minds to a single-minded method of club governance. It's all about catering to the veteran players. Bayern are always hopeful for Champions League glory but not so discontent in their ways to realise they need change. Uli Hoeness' assessment of Ancelotti's dilemma reveals the board's flawed thinking.

There were five players against Ancelotti. It was impossible to get out of that.

The point that escapes Hoeness is the impossibility lay in Ancelotti's isolation. Part of a manager's job is to phase out ageing players in favour of younger, abler bodies. Yet, he can only do so with the board's backing. The Italian did not have it.
Players such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, and Robert Lewandowski, Bayern's answer to Rush as a power trio, were handed all the power. Lewandowski, at least, is still at the height of his powers. Yet, he could do with some new blood on his flanks to provide better service. He is a target man, after all.

Last season, Robben provided nearly as many helpers (14) as goals (16). Direct involvement in 30 goals over 37 matches was a productive 0.81 per game rate. In this campaign, at 33, his only assist has been against inferior competition in the DFB Pokal, Bayern's lowest priority. That and his two goals have come in eight matches, a far less prolific 0.38/game pace.

While the Dutchman hasn't publicly criticised Ancelotti, he has withheld his support and promised a written statement. A third wise voice, Peter Parker's sage Uncle Ben, is credited with teaching the Amazing Spider Man that great power demands great responsibility. Robben is not delivering.

Similarly, Ribery's lone goal and assist over eight matches, this season, came in the DFB Pokal. For Ancelotti, having to play the waning duo was like being stuck with two Wayne Rooneys. It's never pretty when the inmates are given the keys to the asylum.

Carlo Ancelotti is a class act. He will not criticise his former players or the Bayern Munich hierarchy. He will also have his pick of opportunities, should he wish.
Meanwhile, Rummenigge and Hoeness are rumoured to be interested in Hoffenheim's Julian Naglesmann as a so-called permanent replacement. Outsiders will view the choice of a young coaching talent as the ideal dovetail for the squad's younger talents. Yet, so long as the old guard holds all the power, it won't matter who takes the reigns. He will be impotent. Outside the Shire, at least, so will Bayern Munich.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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