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Leverkusen Show Carlo Ancelotti Work to Be Done at Bayern Munich

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“Everyone’s expected we wouldn’t see a brilliant win today but have to turn in hard work, and that’s what we did,” said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer per Bayern Munich’s official website.

Bayern certainly huffed and puffed and very nearly still did not blow the Leverkusen house down. But after losing in Dortmund last entertainment news for kids weekend and the UEFA Champions League defeat in Rostov, they were happy to take the three points. “Sometimes the win is more important than a good display,” Carlo Ancelotti said per Bayern Munich’s official website, after his team’s lukewarm performance in their 2-1 win at Allianz Arena.

The Italian made seven changes to the starting line-up that had lost 3-2 in Russia on Wednesday, and though the result was improved, Bayern’s play was still riddled with problems. Bayern and Ancelotti are still clearly seeking each other and the right setup.

Again, Bayern were not at ease tactically. With Joshua Kimmich and Philipp Lahm on the right-hand side, undoubtedly with the justifiable goal of trying to nullify Hakan Calhanoglu, there was simply not enough creativity going forward down that flank. Indeed, even the belts and braces approach on trying to stop the Turkey international was not enough given Calhanoglu scored Leverkusen’s goal. Having said that, what a gorgeous goal it was. Few teams if any would have been able to stop it. So good and smooth was the interplay between Calhanoglu and Julian Brandt and so peerless the finish that even left Neuer looking ordinary.

.@MrAncelotti: “It was a tough, high-intensity game. We fought hard for the win.” #FCBB04 pic.twitter.com/7FvpGLt7nG

FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) November 26, 2016

But with Lahm and Kimmich occupied at the back, Thomas Muller was totally ineffective, not for the first time this season. It is little wonder the Germany international looks like getting nowhere near the 20 Bundesliga strikes he produced in the 2015/16 campaign. For all his talents, Muller is not a player who thrives in the one-on-one positions in which he finds himself in Ancelotti’s 4-3-3. When isolated still more without the support of either the full-back or the midfielder on his side of the pitch, the Bayern-youth-academy-product-turned-superstar is all but a waste of a shirt. The exploitation of space, not individual skill, is Muller’s weapon of choice, and Ancelotti needs to figure out how best to use that. He could do worse than look at a few DVDs of last season.

With Douglas Costa on the opposite flank, things were better given the Brazilian does have that trick or that startling burst of pace over two to three yards required to take him away from a defender. However, he clearly does not have the same understanding with David Alaba as Franck Ribery does. This is understandable given Alaba and Ribery have played together for much longer and have a great relationship off the pitch, too. But with Costa, 26, very much the future of the Bayern rather than Ribery, 33, it is a partnership Ancelotti needs to focus on. It was certainly the only one that provided a cutting edge against Leverkusen.

Two Alaba crosses in the first half brought a goal and a dangerous situation, and while the Austria international faded in the second half as Bayern attempted to secure their hard-gotten gains, Costa’s ability to shift the ball quickly to create space for a shot or a cross meant the hosts still had some sort of attacking threat.

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Matthias Schrader/Associated Press Robert Lewandowski is struggling in Bayern’s current set-up.

Despite the Brazilian’s best efforts, Robert Lewandowski, like Muller, was all but absent from his team’s play. The Poland international has now scored two goals in his last nine Bundesliga outings, though that says more about his team and the way in which he is employed than his own failings. It is not as if last season’s Bundesliga top scorer is missing chances. He is simply not getting them. He proved last term and in seasons before at both Bayern andBorussia Dortmundthat if you give him goalscoring opportunities, he will take an alarmingly high ratio of them.

However, with the midfield too narrow and the players on the flanks unable to provide the service from out wide, his movement and instinct to be in the place where the ball will arrive is wasted. As good as he is with his back to goal and his ability to bring team-mates into the game, Lewandowski is in the side for his goals. If Ancelotti persists in this setup, he will get some simply because he is too good not to, but it will not be as many as he could.

The game threw up another issue for Ancelotti. Javi Martinez has been hailed as the back-up option bar none for centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, but on Saturday’s display when he was paired with Hummels, his inclusion looked to be a problem for Bayern. He and Hummels do not have the speed or athleticism of Boateng, who was absent through injury, and they were shown up time and again by Leverkusen’s fleet of foot and speed of thought.

Yes, Martinez prevented Kevin Volland getting an equalisera deserved equaliser you would have to say on the balance of playthough, but for the cunning use of an arm, the Spain international would have been holding his head in his hands as the Leverkusen substitute wheeled away in delight. Martinez was indebted to referee Marco Fritz, who did not spot the infringement, which would have led to a red card and a penalty.

Back in business! #MiaSanMia pic.twitter.com/zgwHoOXpqu

FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) November 26, 2016

“There’s no need for a discussion, I think. It was clearly handball, a clear red card and a clear penalty,” Volland said, per German sports magazinekicker. It was very clear indeed. “We put Bayern under pressure and were clearly the better team at the end. That’s why it’s all the more disappointing that that key situation didn’t go our way.”

Martinez and Hummels were not the only ones who looked lethargic with Xabi Alonso not having one of his best days, and he looked every year of the 35 he celebrated on Friday when Calhanoglu blasted by him to score. Thiago Alcantara, who was probably Bayern’s best player, might not have been caught off guard quite so dramatically despite also having the mobility to diminish the influence of Brandt, who showed the sort of touches that will surely convince Bayern to try to buy him in the not too distant future.

“We’re having more difficulties than in the past,” Thomas Muller told Bayern’s official websiteafter the win, which took the champions back to within three points of leaders RB Leipzig. “So we sometimes have to work hard for a victory. We’re not 100 percent satisfied, we know what has to be done. Anyway, we’ll turn in feeling at ease tonight.”

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Beware, Thomas. There might be just one or two nightmares.


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