Having sounded out the year by leading Bayern Munich back to first place for the winter break, Carlo Ancelotti sat down with Süddeutsche Zeitung for a wide-ranging interview on everything from his approach to his players and tactics to Christmas tortellini and his rustic upbringing milking the family cows in Northern Italy.
Asked about his relationship with his players and criticism that he is too easy-going, in contrast to the constant tension that prevailed under Pep Guardiola, Ancelotti emphasized the human relationship between himself and his players and the need for respect. He confessed,
It’s true, I would like to have a good relationship with my players. Many people confuse that with softness - but that is not quite right. Discipline, following rules, and respect are important to me. I’m not obsessive about them, but definitely assertive. In other regards, I try to talk to everyone and - what is even more important - listen to everyone. Eye to eye.
In one regard, however, the relaxed discipline under Ancelotti - namely, the fact that he often allows his players to sleep at home before home games - stems from completely different motives. Ancelotti attributes the practice to “a phenomenon that I call the loneliness of the smart phone.”
The current generation of players has become increasingly isolated in Ancelotti’s view, as social networks have become more important than their own teammates:
That is why I sometimes avoid lengthy training camps or retreats. When the players are home, they have to talk to their wives and children. When on a retreat, some of them spend three hours on their screens. When I was a player, interaction at training camps was more intense. We played cards, fuzzball, ping pong, and above all we talked to one another. Today players speak to one another virtually only at communal meals.
Ancelotti also candidly addressed criticism of the tactics he has used this season. Of course, by that we mean his predilection for a 4-3-3 system (as at Real Madrid) over the 4-2-3-1 formation most often deployed by Guardiola. Asked whether the players had to convince him to let them play in a 4-2-3-1, as they have in recent games, he replied,
“No, no. In practice, we would try out different formations. It always depends on the match, on the opponent that day.” He added, “When my players would rather play in a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3, then they should do that. Other things are important to me: rhythm, playing intensity, careful interplay, organization. Those are things that can be improved in every system.”
As Bayern’s recent tactical flexibility would suggest, it seems certain that we will see more of Ancelotti’s new twist on the 4-2-3-1 in the Rückrunde.
On a personal note, Carlo himself will be cooking the family meal at the Ancelotti household over Christmas: tortellini in homemade broth, bollito, and of course panettone. He will be spending the holidays with his Candadian wife in Vancouver before rejoining the team for their winter training camp in Doha, Qatar.