What’s going on at Bayern Munich?

By Louis Ostrowski 

No matter the result when Bayern Munich travel to Dortmund on Saturday, the Bavarians know they will not be top of the Bundesliga during the international break.

Sitting four points behind the unbeaten BVB, Bayern could be seven points off the top should they lose – and many expect them to.

How has it come to this after a record six consecutive Bundesliga titles?

Coach Kovač struggles

Many were underwhelmed when Bayern moved to appoint Eintracht Frankfurt’s boss Niko Kovač at the end of last season. Former Bayern midfielder Kovač had done an impressive job with Eintracht, but he didn’t have the experience or star power many were looking for.

When Bayern won the first seven competitive games he took charge of, it seemed everything would be okay. Then they drew to Augsburg, lost 2-0 to Hertha BSC, drew with Ajax and lost 3-0 to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The Berlin-Born Croatian has struggled to keep his stars happy. The under performing Thomas Müller has frequently found himself out of the side, and his demotion to the bench has been controversial. Müller is not the only player who demands more football than he perhaps deserves. Other influential and vocal senior players like Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben have not been at their best, causing Kovač serious headaches.

Depleted squad lacks depth

The Bavarians signed Schalke 04’s Leon Goretzka to bolster the midfield this summer. Amazingly for a club of their stature, Goretzka’s free transfer was the only new arrival. Despite that, they let Arturo Vidal, Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rudy depart. That means there is a serious lack of depth in some positions – there are only three full backs in the squad, for example.

What makes things worse for Bayern’s already thin squad is the amount of injuries suffered. Kingsley Coman tore a ligament in the season opener against Hoffenheim. Corentin Tolisso and Thiago – arguably Bayern’s best player this season – are also sidelined.

Off-pitch distractions

In the 1990’s, FC Bayern became known as FC Hollywood, such was the drama surrounding the club. Volatile personalities such as Mario Basler, Lothar Matthäus, Oliver Kahn and Stefan Effenberg permeated the squad, while coaches like Giovanni Trappatoni ranted angrily in press conferences.

The only remainder of those days are Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeneβ, both former players who now hold influential roles at board level. The pair seem to be on some sort of a mission to bring back the FC Hollywood moniker.

Hoeneβ labelled Bayer Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi as ‘mentally ill’ after he put in a late challenge in Leverkusen’s game against Bayern, while also harshly criticising former Bayern player Juan Bernat, who was sold in the summer.

This all took place at a surreal press conference where Hoeneβ demanded respect from journalists and criticised the media’s coverage of the club’s previous few results.

Since then, there have been leaked documents showing that Bayern, led by Rummenigge, looked at forming a European Super League and leaving the Bundesliga behind.

That won’t have done much to endear the management to the Bayern supporters, who are already angry at Bayern’s close ties to Qatar and their untraditional navy-blue shorts.

The players families are also getting involved in the Bayern soap opera. When Müller was left out against Freiburg last weekend, his wife Lisa criticised Kovač on Instagram for not bringing him on sooner.

That has sparked such scandal that Bayern released a statement condemning Mrs. Müller, while Mats Hummels’ wife Cathy has made headlines for publicly criticising Müller’s social media post.

At the moment, Bayern are giving the tabloids more material than they know what to do with.

Are Bayern in crisis?

Despite all the infighting and soul searching, Bayern remain in a good position – top of their Champions League Group, third in the Bundesliga table. They did manage to put an end to their poor run, but there is still obvious weakness in the team – evidenced by Freiburg getting a point in Munich for the first time this millennium last weekend.

It’s not going to be as dominant a Bayern team as in the past few years– but you can still expect the Rekordmeister to fight for the title this season.

Edited by Harry Trend

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