Sitting in second place in the Bundesliga after just seven games would be deemed a promising start for most German sides. Though, Bayern Munich is not one of them. With 27 league titles and five European cups to their name, they’re used to a certain standard of success.
In their first fixture since Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking, Bayern have played positive, attacking football whilst showcasing their immense individual quality. It’s the 49th minute, and Robert Lewandowski grabs his eighth goal in just seven games to double Bayern’s lead over a promising Hertha Berlin side. And from here they switch on the cruise control and take their foot off the pedal, confident they’ll walk away all with three points.
However, the team’s recent habitual complacency laced with a lack of concentration is ever apparent; misplaced, simple passes accompany a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, with just five attempts on target from 17 efforts. Having squandered further opportunities to put the game beyond doubt, Bayern had left themselves exposed for what would come next:
Just two minutes after Munich’s second goal, Genki Haraguchi weaved through German internationals Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng as if they weren’t there, before putting the ball on a plate for Duda to tap in. Next, former Chelsea man Salomon Kalou netted the equaliser, following a suspect defensive display from a set-piece.
Bayern had let a two-goal lead slip for the second consecutive week and now find themselves without a win in three heading into the international break.
If nothing else, FCB’s fans will be using this time to ask: where has it all gone wrong?
First – and most likely – the answer lies in the realms of Bayern’s summer departures. The club has relinquished a plethora of experience with the sales of Medhi Benatia and Holger Badstuber, and in the retirements of Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm.
Die Bayern recruited heavily in the transfer market, bringing some of the best young talents in football such as Corentin Tolisso, Niklas Süle and Kingsley Coman into the club. Though in doing so, the average age of their new recruits is just 23 years. Essentially, the club has exchanged established players with the ability to dictate both on and off the pitch, for promise. And no matter what the level of talent, in will always subceed leadership.
Xabi Alonso 🇪🇸 and Philipp Lahm 🇩🇪 have both retired from football 😢 Two absolute legends who have combined for over 1,500 appearances 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/gkavkNcXL5
— MatchdayCentral (@MatchdayCentral) May 23, 2017
Despite players with experience like Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are quick to make themselves heard on the pitch, they command no authority. Neither of the pair have ever had to step up and lead at Bayern whilst the evergreen Lahm was present. Now, the club is crying out for someone to shout, organise and manage those on the pitch; something which resonates in the lacklustre, wasteful football of which Bayern are guilty.
Munich’s complacency has also greatly contributed to their current situation. In years gone by, the club could allow for slip-ups in the league due to the inconsistency of the teams around them. Now, things have changed. A seriously impressive Dortmund have conceded only two goals in the Bundesliga whilst scoring 21, whilst Hoffenheim and Leipzig nip at the champion’s heels in third and fourth place.
The time has passed when Bayern could concentrate solely on the Champions League and walk the Bundesliga with ease (as they did by fifteen points last campaign). Now, they find themselves in a position where they must truly graft to compete for titles. Something they haven’t often had to do in years.
A further issue for the club is that their spread of goals is top heavy.
Munich are heavily reliant upon Lewandowski, who has scored more than half their league goals so far this season. This is fair, it’s his job to score. However, Mats Hummels and Arjen Robben are tied as the next top scorer with two a piece, whilst the likes of Muller, Ribery and Thiago are each sat on a single goal so far. The squad’s dependency of Lewandowski is only made worse by their average strike rate of just 7.8% from nearly 18 shots per match. The side as a whole have been poor with the taking of their opportunities, and recent results show it.
Without management to shoulder the blame, all that remains are the players. Those who wanted Ancelotti ousted, now find themselves the victims of the same scrutiny he suffered. Bayern have been far from their best. This is true of them across the field. But lapses in concentration are less to do with he who holds the reigns and moreso with those on the pitch after all.
There is no one definitive answer to their problems, and there is no single causation to blame. But is it a new philosophy that Bayern need, or simply a wake up call?
Willy Sagnol is likely to bow down as interim manager, once an ‘appropriate’ candidate with the required pedigree has been selected. Perhaps he can give Bayern the boost they so sorely need, both in terms of leadership and awareness.
Times are changing, and Bayern must be swift to change with them.