Bayern lost for just the second time this season against Hanover. The loss was in truth a very unlucky one. In recent weeks, Bayern's results haven't been good. They have won just once, drawn two games and lost once. Before looking into why this has happened, let's take a lot back to Sunday.
Bayern took time to get going but eventually took hold of the match. Unfortunately, at about the 23rd minute, Philipp Lahm was adjudged to have fouled H96 captain and defender Steve Cherundolo in the box. Lahm admitted later that he had indeed committed a foul but the decision looked very questionable all the same. Lahm showed no intent to foul his opponent. In fact, what happened was more of a tangle of legs with Cherundolo losing his balance and Lahm staying upright.
Nonetheless, after seeing his clean sheet run in the Champions League end with an own goal, Manuel Neuer saw his Bundesliga run end at 770 minutes when Mohammed Abdellaoue stepped up and took the penalty. Neuer guessed the right way—but the shot was well struck and saw the ball travel into the back of the net beyond Neuer's reach.
Matters got worse for Bayern at about the half-hour mark. Rafinha fouled Sergio Pinto who fell over and exaggerated the foul. Someone, presumably Christian Schulz, pushed Toni Kroos aside and Jerome Boateng retaliated to this reaction and pushed away Schulz. He saw red whereas Schulz only saw yellow. What nobody can really tell from the replay is whether Kroos pushed someone at the beginning which caused this whole issue.
Boateng was given a two match ban which Bayern accepted but released a statement saying that Schulz and Boateng were punished differently for the same offence. In truth, either both should have been sent off or both should have been penalized with yellow cards. Pinto's acting is nothing new. Uli Hoeness bemoaned this afterwards but the Bayern players should have known better than to react as they all know about what Pinto does.
A goal down and a man down by now, Bayern still looked the better side as they piled on the pressure. Unfortunately, FCB conceded a pretty strange goal in the second half when Christian Pander's shot took a large deflection off Luiz Gustavo and ended up at the back of the net past a confused Neuer. Bayern set off again in search of goals. In the first half, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez had both been denied by Ron-Robert Zieler and Kroos was denied by the post.
Bayern had so many chances but Gomez just could not find his scoring boots. Shortly after the hour mark, Cherundolo saw red for fouling Franck Ribery. The sides were level in terms of number of players. David Alaba was introduced and he went on to score a great goal for Bayern. Both him and Schweinsteiger were denied by the smallest of margins in the dying minutes as the match which Bayern perhaps would have won in an 11 vs 11 contest came to an end.
Nonetheless Bayern still remains top of the Bundesliga table, a full three points ahead of second placed Borussia Dortmund who they face in mid November.
So, what is the reason behind this poor run of results? Well, I can come up with three:
1) Luck: Let's face it- Bayern's luck has been pretty pathetic in the last two matches. In Napoli, Holger Badstuber turned the ball into his own net. Both Hanover's goals were lucky ones on Sunday and even Mirko Slomka knew it. Badstuber had a bit of a nightmare on Sunday again and hopefully his form will improve again soon. Also, Bayern played reasonably well in both the last two matches and wins wouldn't be undeserved.
2) Lack of rotation: Jupp Heynckes does rotate Gustavo, Tymoshchuk, Rafinha and Daniel Van Buyten regularly. However, both Schweinsteiger and Lahm have played on and on and require a break. Schweinsteiger's best replacement would be Tymoshchuk; however the Tymo—Gustavo combo is untested. Trying a Kroos-Gustavo combo with Ivica Olic taking over the wing and Thomas Mueller returning to his old position behind the striker might also work.
Lahm had problems taking care of Christian Maggio and Cherundolo in the last two matches and this is rare for him. Diego Contento is a good fullback and we all know it. He has played in the latter stages of the Champions League and will offer good crosses to Gomez. It is not necessary to play Lahm against Bundesliga sides which Bayern knows they will run over or continue to play him when they are leading 3-0.
It is also time to utilize the depth in the squad and play Nils Petersen, Olic and Alaba more regularly.This might require a change of formation to 4-4-2 but Bayern is fluid enough to adjust to a 4-4-2 and Heynckes is experienced enough to get it right.
3)Late substitutions: Heynckes doesn't easily substitute his players. Had he substituted Gomez early on in Naples as well as in Hanover, Bayern might have come away with more than they came away with. Bringing on Alaba earlier as well as Petersen and Olic might have worked better.
Bayern next takes on FC Ingolstadt from the second division on Wednesday in the second round of the DFB Pokal (German Cup). Ingolstadt, otherwise known as FCI, is having a horrible season so far in the second division. They are conceding multiple goals in every match and are set to be relegated to the third division.
FCI boast four ex-Bayern players in their squad: Andreas Goerlitz who just left about a season ago, Max Haas, Stefan Leitl and the talented Christoph Knasmuller. Knasmuller was a young talent and Bayern's decision to let him go can be questioned. Haas failed to break into the senior squad. Goerlitz's spell at the club for six seasons will be best remembered for the talent he seemed to possess and the injury that seemed to put his fire out. Goerlitz's two-year spell on the sidelines took something out of him which never really returned.
As far as Bayern is concerned, both Schweinsteiger and Van Buyten are suffering from bronchitis and they are both not guaranteed to make the squad just yet. In any case, whether Schweinsteiger would start is questionable. What has been confirmed is Hans Jorg-Butt will be in goal. What is easily forgotten is that Bayern has two world-class keepers: Neuer and Butt. Butt would have been first choice in 90% of European clubs. He is a good all-round keeper and played a key role for Bayern in both of the previous two seasons. He is a fan favourite and this is his last season in football.
So, who will the starting 11 be? I have no idea but will take a guess:
Contento - Van Buyten - Gustavo - Boateng
Tymoschchuk - Kroos
Alaba - Mueller - Olic
I will stay away from predictions after both of my last two went horribly wrong. After this match, Bayern will play another derby on Saturday against Nuremberg.