The law of gravity tells us that what goes up must come down, but although Bayern Munich have had a few bad results lately, I hope none of us would be naive enough to take Pep Guardiola's side for granted.
Bayern, we have to remember, won the Bundesliga in record time this season, and something like that will inevitably affect the players. Like it or not, a sense of accomplishment can sometimes cause players to take their foot off the pedal, and that's only natural.
There's been a certain amount of criticism of the way Bayern have played of late—and that has included me—after back-to-back league defeats.
Matthias Sammer, the club's director of sport, has defended Guardiola's rotation policy, telling Sky Sports: "Maybe what we got wrong was saying that the Bundesliga was done and dusted, that we didn't care about it anymore, but you have always got to remain in a rhythm psychologically."
Not everyone will agree with me, but I don't think I'm wrong in my theory that Bayern aren't quite as good, as dominant, as they were last season under Jupp Heynckes. That said, they are breaking all kinds of records, and being "not as good" is relative since they can still win the treble again this season.
It should be no surprise that Bayern look different this season. Even though Heynckes was a wonderful manager, everyone at Bayern knew that, by virtue of his age, this was always the time to look at someone with fresh ideas, a proven winner, someone with motivation and ability to make Bayern the best in Europe—and keep them there.
Guardiola was brought in not only to have success now, but also to continue to develop Bayern into a powerhouse over the next four or five years. It was inevitable that he would bring his philosophy with him, but I don't think he is trying to change Bayern into Barcelona, as many seem to think.
First of all, Bayern Munich don't really have the types of player to play the Barcelona way, but we do know that a coach's philosophy can't be dismissed, and you can see some aspects of change in the way Bayern are playing.
This is where some, myself included, might have a bit of a problem with the way Bayern are playing. Under Heynckes, Bayern, in my opinion, had the perfect balance.
Like Guardiola's Bayern, Heynckes' version valued possession, recording the third-best possession rate in the Champions League last season, per UEFA.com. But whereas Heynckes had a Plan A and Plan B—they were ruthless in transition and on the counter—Guardiola's Bayern don't seem to have that. Obviously the focus remains on possession, but they seem to have lost the Plan B.
The strength, the power and the dynamism under Heynckes, using pace and power of key players, seem to have been lost a bit in translation.
Roles under Heynckes were clearly defined, and every player knew exactly where and how to play. Under Guardiola, I can't help but think the same players can be a little confused at times.
For example, if there's a weakness about Bayern—and admittedly this goes for both Guardiola and Heynckes—it's the back four. Philipp Lahm is, to me, the best right-back in the world today, bar none.
Guardiola clearly thinks the world of him, and calling Lahm the "most intelligent player" he's ever worked with, per UEFA.com, is no small statement. I can see what Guardiola means, but while I do think Lahm can play as a holding midfielder, I think moving him into the midfield sacrifices Bayern's back four.
It may be a coincidence, but Arjen Robben has not been as effective as he was last season. I believe part of that has to do with the Dutchman feeling less protected with Rafinha behind him instead of Lahm. But he also misses Lahm's runs and timing, which allowed Robben to play free, roaming wide or inside.
Last season, the back four was wonderfully protected by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez.
I understand that for long spells this season, Schweinsteiger and Martinez have not been available, and I do get the fact that Guardiola was forced to change things because of that. But I have to wonder why he hasn't restored those two as of late on a consistent basis.
We're approaching the end of season, and I think that as intelligent as Guardiola is, he could benefit from putting his players in the comfort zone rather than tinkering.
Other players who must feel confused a bit have to include the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, who is capable of playing a couple of different positions but has seemingly played just about every position on the pitch.
Players, like everyone, are creatures of habit, and there are certain patterns in the game that need to be repeated constantly in order to develop good habits. Constantly changing the roles of some key players takes away the wonderful rhythm that I felt Bayern had under Heynckes.
Of course, there were times this season that changes were forced, but in general I can see that the patterns have changed.
And here's where I'm conflicted, because I don't necessarily enjoy watching this season's Bayern as much as last season. I do understand that for Bayern to be the best they can be in the next five years, they will have to go through this transformation. They have to evolve and trust Guardiola because he's proven in the past that his teams at their best are incredible to watch.
Remember, Guardiola came into this team with an unbelievable amount of pressure. How do you make last year's team better? It's a huge task.
He has come into a team that has won everything and played some unbelievable football. Most of us will never forget how Bayern demolished Barcelona last season.
And yet Guardiola knew he had to put a stamp on the team and yet make it better or different to stay at the highest level for the next three, four or five years. I just hope that he understands that the mentality of this Bayern team is different than Barcelona.
Even while the team was winning and breaking records, Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer complained about Guardiola's tactics, saying (per Marca) that Bayern could "end up being unwatchable like Barcelona."
He may not be directly involved in the team, but I don't think Beckenbauer's words will go unnoticed in Munich. If this doesn't work, changes will come quickly.
And while change is good, if Guardiola becomes too radical—even if trophies are won—he might not have the same comfort he had at Barcelona. I believe that he is a lot less powerful in Munich than he was at Barca.
Those who know me best will know that I have an incredible amount of respect for Guardiola. I absolutely adored the way Barca played at their best under him, but Bayern Munich last season showed me that this game can be played even better and more effectively than those wonderful Barca teams.
I loved the possession, the combination play, the technique and wonderful goals of Guardiola's classic Barca sides, but if you can accomplish all that while getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as you can, that, to me, is a better way of playing football.
And that's what we saw under Bayern and Heynckes last season.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!