You get the feeling that down Bayern Munich way, amongst players and fans alike, the change from the intensity of the Pep Guardiola era is a welcome one.
There is respect for his work, for the technical excellence, for the innovation – but there seems to be no sense of warmth. A valuable experiment with a singular football brain, but one that ultimately fell short of the club’s ultimate goal.
Time for everyone to move on.
So in walks Carlo Ancelotti – three times Champions League winning manager – and there is a mood change. A release.
Here is a man you can warm too. The player noises hint at it. The fans feel it. Affable and charming, the Italian already seems to have been drawn to the bosom of the Bayern family in a way that Pep never was.
A change in atmosphere. A change in direction. And changes on the pitch too. Gone – or largely gone – is the Spaniard’s smothering death by football.
There’s a definite return to the conventional. Full backs are fullbacks, for instance, overlapping and providing width rather than tucking into central midfield positions.
And Bayern now seem content to play a little deeper – drawing their opponents on before striking on the break, rather than camping in the opposition half and suffocating the life out of them.
It’s more reminiscent of the style imposed by Jupp Heynckes back in 2013 when the club last tasted Champions League glory than Guardiola’s Barca blueprint.
There have been some personnel changes too. In have come reinforcements in Mats Hummels and Renato Sanches – although both have struggled to impose themselves.
Most striking, however, has been the return to first team duty of Franck Ribery.
The 33-year old has seemingly overcome the string of injuries that hampered him last term and appears central Ancelotti’s plans, plans that no longer seem to involve the use of chalk on their boots wingers. Another change from the Guardiola regime.
In a surprise response to the problems caused by opponents parking the bus against his Bayern side, last season, Guardiola changed tack somewhat by playing two wingers, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, very wide in an effort to stretch opponents and free up some space centrally for Lewandowksi and Muller.
Ancelotti has changed the approach, preferring instead as mentioned earlier to get Alaba and Lahm to provide the width while Ribery and Muller provide close support to the left and right of the Polish hitman.
Bayern are also somewhat more direct, with an emphasis on getting the ball forward quicker.
The results? Five wins from six league games. Sixteen goals scored, only two conceded. Business as usual? Most likely – but then perhaps there are reasons to believe that this will not be the familiar procession to their eventual coronation.
The Bavarians have not been especially convincing in the early stages of the Bundesliga season.
They’ve had a number of narrow victories, where they’ve relied on moments of class from their stars rather than a compelling team performance to pick up the points.
And on Saturday they were fortunate to draw at home with unfancied FC Koln. That result topped off a poor week for Ancelotti’s men, after they suffered their first reverse of the season at Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Evidence of fallibility, perhaps?
Indeed, could it be that Ancelotti’s arrival and his more relaxed approach has seen a few players drop the Pep-levels of intensity and concentration on the pitch?
The Italian has won the Champions League, which Bayern covet, three times as a manager, but it’s surely worth noting that he has also only managed three domestic league titles in his 20 year managerial career.
Does it suggest that he might lack the focus and intensity required for a full season of domestic bread and butter?
Bayern’s domestic rivals would love to think so. But whether the unconvincing form is just a short transitionary period of adjustment for the champions or is in fact the result of a drop in standards, their rivals must exploit the current sloppiness if they are to knock them off their perch this time round.
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