Call it a trap game. Call it a champions league hangover. Whatever you want to call it, Bayern did not bring their A-game when they played Köln on Saturday.
Was Ancelotti’s perfect run bound to come to an end? Probably, but Bayern got out-played in the Bundesliga for the first time this season. Here are some observations from Bayern’s 1-1 draw with Köln.
Ancelotti wanted more intensity, he did not get it
In Bayern’s press conference Friday, Ancelotti said he aimed to keep the intensity at a high level. Bayern’s tempo looked sluggish in stretches, not showing the initiative they have in other matches this season. When Köln cranked their effort up a notch, Bayern looked on their heels. It’s hard for a team to keep a high match intensity when they are playing twice a week, but an effort against an unbeaten team has to be better.
Kingsley Coman needs to do more than just run and gun
Coman was electric when Pep Guardiola and Didier Deschamps brought him onto the field last season. He has yet to recapture that spark this season, without a goal contribution in any of his five appearances this season. He was fast enough to blow by Frederick Sorensen and strong enough to hold off Megrim Mavraj, but his technical skills and his combination play have not taken a step forward. Ancelotti is using Coman as a like-for-like switch with Franck Ribery at the moment, and the two players are on completely different levels this season.
Juan Bernat needs a bigger role
He has been David Alaba’s back-up the entire season – Saturday was his fourth start in all competition this season – but Juan Bernat showed against Köln he is much more than that. He had the intensity Ancelotti wanted from the players he rotated in, and he moved with purpose and precision on and off the ball. The fact Ancelotti brought on Alaba for Coman spoke to how important he was in the game. Thomas Tuchel found a role for Raphael Guerreiro despite Marcel Schmelzer being the incumbent defender, and Ancelotti needs to do the same for Bernat.
Carlo Ancelotti may be over rotating his squad
Ancelotti’s system of rotation is much simpler than Pep Guardiola’s was, but he may be overdoing it. Several players needed rest after a taxing game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, but the seven changes he made took away from the cohesion Bayern had under previous coaches. Ancelotti might still be learning how to use his team, and has to balance the fitness of players if Bayern want to perform well in April. But these vast number of changes undercuts Bayern’s consistency, and may cause the defending champions to drop more points when they normally would not.
Renato Sanches needs guidance
He has a lot of quality for a 19-year-old player, but Renato Sanches has looked lost in every Bayern appearance. He is moving like the player at Benfica or with the Portuguese national team, not one that has integrated into this Bayern team. His best action was a counter he started in the second half, but the break ended abruptly when he could not release Coman the way other midfielders can. With each of his appearances coming as a replacement to Arturo Vidal, one has to wonder if Carlo Ancelotti is the coach to get the best out of him, or if that man is coaching in Manchester now.