Carlo Ancelotti vs. Thomas Tuchel: the contrasting styles in charge of Germany’s two heavyweights

Posted Saturday, November 19, 2016 by

Carlo Ancelotti vs. Thomas Tuchel: the contrasting styles in charge of Germany’s two heavyweights

This Saturday it's once again time for Der Klassiker as Bayern Munich take on Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park.

Despite being Germany's two biggest clubs, this match actually sees a side that is joint-top take on a team in fifth. Six points separate the two sides and Bayern could be in second place three points behind hotshots Red Bull Leipzig come kick-off.

But no matter the league situation, this is a match between Germany's undisputed heavyweights. All seven of the last Bundesliga wins belong to them and they have played out some tensely fought contests over the years under the guidance of various managers.

Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Gaal; just some of the stellar names that have managed Bayern and Dortmund recently. But now, it's the turn of young coach Thomas Tuchel, and veteran cup king Carlo Ancelotti. Two managers with vastly different ways of doing things.


Ancelotti isn't a great tactician when it comes to formation, tending to pick a system to line his teams up in and then running that into the ground. He rarely adjusts things as his time with a club winds on; his only major change at Milan (his longest tenured job) for instance was switching from a 4-1-2-1-2 to a 4-3-2-1 and that decision was enforced on him by injury.

Tuchel, meanwhile, is a coach that believes in fluidity. With Dortmund his side line up in an incredibly fluid 4-1-4-1. When they don't have the ball, Dortmund retreat into a solid defensive shape but with the ball, they expand and become open - central players split wide, wide players drift central, and just Julian Weigl holds a firm position in a central zone. The central axis Tuchel's wheel spins around.


Tuchel's tactics revolve around passing and fast movement both on and off the ball. Everyone is encouraged to play, even the centre-backs regularly push up into midfield zones, allowing the team to stay as compact as possible and always have numerical superiority.

Using passing triangles to penetrate the opponent's defensive lines, Dortmund also overload one side of the pitch to not only create a numerical superiority but also open up the switch-of-play to a free man on the opposite flank. It's extremely Guardiola-esque as his side even press-and-harry much as Pep's Barcelona and Bayern did (you can see why the Catalan wanted Tuchel to succeed him in Munich).

Ancelotti is a totally different type of coach. He doesn't tend to change too much from whatever team he has inherited, only to make his players more comfortable with the ball at their feet.
If there is one thing all Ancelotti teams have in common, it's that they want to be protagonists in every game they play. Otherwise he has managed teams that are very direct, whilst some were very patient. At Bayern he is, through the lineups he selects, slowly pulling the Bavarians away from a full-on Guardiola style.


Tuchel is a tactical coach. He's no Andre Villas-Boas, a tactical brain who cannot connect. He seems to be jovial with his players, and none who leave his charge have a bad word to say about him. But tactics and his system come first and foremost.

That is how they have been able to lose so many key players but keep on playing wonderful football. Replacing Ilkay Gundogan with Gonzalo Castro and not losing too much of a step is only possible through system play.

As explained above, Ancelotti doesn't have a system. His management style is pure charm. He was a world-class footballer and became a coach from a young age. Tactics were never his strong suit, instead he chose to be friends with his players (perhaps because when he first started coaching, a lot of the players were his ex-teammates and friends, like Paolo Maldini).


Finally, what kind of players do they use? With Ancelotti it tends to be whatever he has at his disposal. His trust in youngsters is largely non-existent, with Pato and Marco Verratti being notable exceptions. Carlo's big brother nature of coaching would make it difficult for him to bring through young talent that need teaching things, because really he doesn't teach, he just massages. He's the substitute teacher you had at school who would just put a film on to while away the lesson. You liked him a lot, but you didn't learn anything.

Tuchel, on the other hand, is an avid believer in young talent. Under his watch Borussia Dortmund have been hoovering up youngsters from around Europe.

Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, Raphael Guerreiro, Emre Mor and Weigl have all joined the club under Tuchel - and the coach has shown no hesitancy in bringing through players like Felix Passlack either. Tuchel's tactical focus makes him the perfect coach for young players - and he will be hoping that youth can carry him by the brilliant Bavarians this weekend.



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