FC Bayern: The Causes Behind the Sudden Loss of Form and the Loss to Basel
"It wasn’t a great performance in the 0-0 draw with Freiburg, and today we’ve even managed to lose 1-0. We have to try and turn the corner as fast as possible."
This is a post-match quote from our favourite chairman, Karl Heinz Rummenigge. The sarcasm in his words is clear. "A 1-0 loss to Basel is not the end of the world"—this is what players and management alike would be saying in another season, just not in this one. Let me give you a translation of Rummenigge's words:
"Jupp, buckle up, fix this mess. I don't care who you are—your days are numbered currently because I don't like this mess. This goes for the players too."
Now, one has to understand that the problems at Bayern this time have little to do with Franck Ribery refusing to shake hands with Heynckes after the match. The problem has little to do with Jupp's tactics as well. The problem in my view, at least, has more to do with deeper lying problems in management and the players' attitudes.
Normally, players from a big club that has just lost a very important match don't smile, shake hands and trade jerseys. Normally, the captain of the team does not just maintain his silence. And, turning the clock backwards to January, normally a club having one of its best half-seasons in living memory does not simply travel to India in midseason to honour a player they barely know. (No disrespect all the same to the great Indian Baichung Bhutia though—I apologize for having to say this.)
I will start with each problem and look into it as much as I can to make sense of this dip in form in 2012.
1) The Management
The 'trigger happy' trio of Uli Hoeness, Karl Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer are not really associated with patience. And I simply don't want to hear that Beckenbauer no longer plays a role in decision making as he is the "honorary president." Franz's opinions count to an extent. This time, he has largely remained silent.
Hoeness and Rummenigge are at fault for being former players and not knowing the damage a trip halfway across the world can do to an athlete's fitness and performance levels. Bayern is involved in three competitions and once the break is over, the season gets underway with a series of matches. Rarely do the players spend five days without a match.
Hoeness wanted to hire one of his two close friends—Mr. Hitzfeld or Mr. Heynckes. These two coaches are "safety" options to rescue Bayern. He could have stuck to Andries Jonker, who did so well at the end of last season. Yes, Louis Van Gaal was stern and stubborn and deserved to be removed. However, he garnered the same amount of points as Heynckes has done at this point of the season.
Last season, Mr. Nerlinger stood by Van Gaal until the situation became too horrible to bear. He thus has it in him to stand up to the hierarchy. What will he do this season to improve this mess?
2) The overpaid hyped up individuals we collectively call the Bayern squad
Each and every member in the team is to blame. No, not to be blamed for the loss of form, but rather to be blamed due to their lack of effort. Against Freiburg, the effort was minimal. While Heynckes did state in his post-match conference that the players showed more commitment, I have to disagree to a certain extent. Yes, they did—but even that effort was half-hearted. To me, only Holger Badstuber and David Alaba wore the shirt proudly on the night against Basel.
Will Bayern turn the tie around?
The "star duo" of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery appeared rather weak and incapable of shooting at the part of goal that was exposed, especially the latter. While Mario Gomez cannot be directly blamed, his touch let him down as did his finishing. Sometimes, strikers need to create chances for themselves—just ask Robin Van Persie, even though the Gunner is a player who possesses more tricks up his sleeve than Gomez.
I have a serious question for everyone: What is Anatoliy Tymoshchuk doing on the pitch? I just do not understand why he is supposedly a better choice than the ever-reliable Luiz Gustavo. Had Gustavo been present tonight, I doubt Bayern would have been exposed the number of times they were at the back tonight.
Alaba and Badstuber tried their best to help out the team. Question marks have to got to be raised about Rafinha's willingness to simply run forward without a care in the world and for Robben's lack of effort in defending. That new contract might not come for Arjen, unless Xherdan Shaqiri decides to tear up his Bayern contract and dump the papers.
These players are some of the best paid ones in the Bundesliga. No team has the financial nous that Bayern has in Germany. Yet, they fail to play for the shirt and accept the...um...fifth poor performance of the year with smiles (and yes, this includes the performance against Wolfsburg). One has to seriously question the role of Philipp Lahm in the team, which brings me to my next point.
3) Lack of Leadership
I will just run down a list of the names of past Bayern captains: Mark Van Bommel, Oliver Kahn, Stefan Effenberg, Thomas Helmer and Lothar Matthaus. Add Philipp Lahm to the list and you might as well add a question mark to his name. Each of these captains were either vocal, led by example or did both. Lahm does not deserve to be in this list.
To me, it seems that Lahm is simply in Bayern to collect his paycheck. Lahm did try to help out the offence today, but otherwise really did very little to wake his teammates up.
I will take you back to 2010—Bayern played Fiorentina in Italy that year. 2-0 down, Bayern looked to be down and out. And then Van Bommel scored a cracker and lifted the team up—now that's a captain.
Lahm didn't need to score a goal yesterday. What he needed to do was simply give his players an earful, which his predecessor Van Bommel would have done—and even which Bastian Schweinsteiger would have done. Lahm isn't a captain—he doesn't have the presence of one. Mark is missed, as is Bastian.
4) Jupp Heynckes and the (non) rotation policy
Heynckes feels his in-form players should be featured in matches. He also said he would rotate the squad when he came in. What has Gomez done in 2012 to justify his place in the team? With Ivica Olic and Thomas Mueller rotting on the bench alongside Nils Petersen, Bayern laboured through 70 minutes yesterday. Heynckes is as stubborn as Van Gaal in many ways. His personality just hides this trait of his though.
He refuses to change formation to a 4-4-2. As far as I can remember, this was one of the main complaints everyone had about Van Gaal. Heynckes will stick to the players he likes no matter what. I am not necessarily looking at Toni Kroos. When he benched Robben earlier this month, everyone patted him on the back. Now, we simply ask for the return of someone who will play for the shirt—Thomas Mueller.
Will Heynckes last till the end of the season?
5) The reliance on individual brilliance
Schweinsteiger seemingly possessed a power than none of the Bayern players have—he made Bayern gel. Nowadays, Bayern seems to try to employ the tactic that Van Gaal so often used: control possession and try to score a goal via brilliance from Ribery or all too often, Robben. I have heard comments about Bayern lacking a general creative figurehead.
I have to disagree. While Bastian's creativity is missed, the team can still rely on Toni Kroos. Kroos' main talent is his vision. He can find those passes and he can use those chips that other players cannot. He sees the pitch differently than most others. Yesterday, he was non-existent. However, Kroos is that creator and if Bayern can gel or if Heynckes can make the team gel, expect Bayern to start winning again and Kroos to be a factor once more.
6) The thought of losing Schweinsteiger
Yes, you read that right. Bayern lost Schweinsteiger to injury in the month of October last year. Where was Bayern in December then? As far as I remember, the team was in Manchester to play a "dead rubber" Champions League clash as they had already beaten Villarreal 3-1. Also, they were top of the Bundesliga by three points, right? Bayern lost to Dortmund and Mainz, but still beat Stuttgart, Koeln (with ten men), Bremen, Augsburg and Bochum in the Pokal. The loss to Dortmund was unlucky as Bayern dominated.
With the exception of the defeat to Gladbach this season, one has to ask just what exactly does Freiburg or HSV, for that matter, possess that the teams Bayern beat did not? The loss to Gladbach came with Schweini on the team. I feel that by psychologically blaming losses on the absence of the heart and soul of the team and not even looking at just what a great replacement Alaba has been, the players are somewhat losing their way, as is Heynckes.
I have pretty much summed up the reasons for the loss to Basel within those points. However, I will add a few extra points. What has Heynckes been teaching the team in training? The defending wasn't great today and the offence was quite flat. Some of the problems can be blamed on the pitch, though. In European football these days, teams damage the pitch to intentionally interrupt the rhythm of the opposition. Just ask Inter and AC Milan as well as Felix Magath.
What let Bayern down today was a lack of finishing, a lack of creativity and simply a lack of confidence. Basel didn't really perform brilliantly today. They just let Bayern dig themselves a hole as Inter Milan did last season. If Bayern does not convincingly put Schalke to bed on Sunday, expect Bayern to simply bow out of the Champions League on March 13th after having lost 0-1 at home.
Jupp Heynckes needs to fix things. Or else this season for Bayern will be what Hoeness would call a "wasted one." Two trophy-less years at the Allianz is an uncommon phenomenon. This season has all the bearings of being a trophy-less one.
So, finally, will the real Bayern Munich please stand up?
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