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The title I’ve used is pretty backhanded. First of all you have to know that this article is going to be about Bayern Munich. There were times when people would have thought other clubs were on red alert because of Bayern. But this time it is exactly the opposite. Not the opponents but Bayern are on red alert. After their 2-0 loss against Bayer Leverkusen yesterday, on Saturday 3rd March 2012, the crisis seems to have punched Bayern right into the face. Dortmund’s 2-1 win against Mainz in the evening of the same day didn’t help much either for sure since they are 7 points ahead of the Bavarians by now. Even I, who is kind of an all-time-optimistic Bayern lover, don’t really believe in the championship title anymore. I’m afraid of another untitled season what would be a real disgrace for such a glorious club as Bayern. We are truly on red alert!
“Interviews aren’t important at the moment.” (Holger Badstuber)
This statement by Holger Badstuber about the current situation in Munich actually says everything that needs to be said: Work and stop talking! Bayern has become a club who seems to be overestimating themselves. It began in the winter break in Abu Dhabi. Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and also Christian Nerlinger were talking about winning the Champions League. So they thought they were already among the best in Europe and would defeat any German opponent easily in the Bundesliga as well. We all know the rest of the story: Bayern lost their first match of the second leg of the season in Gladbach and a crisis was developing little by little. By now only Philipp Lahm and Christian Nerlinger are talking big while the rest has simply understood that not talking at all is the best. The worst of this whole story is, that the manager of our nemesis is totally right:
“Nerlinger better understates.” (Jürgen Klopp)
When we are already talking about Philipp Lahm, let’s stay there: the defense. I have always said it: The best individual players in the Bundesliga but by far not the best organization. Leverkusen’s first goal celebrated Bayern’s weakness in the defense: one of them is trying to win the ball while the rest is standing around, hoping that their team mate wins the ball and looking at it while totally forgetting about their opponents. Chief culprit yesterday in that situation was Holger Badstuber who didn’t mark Stefan Kießling at all. Neuer, Rafinha and Boateng must be blamed a lot as well for that goal against as well though.
Next major issue of the defense: they are way too slow. Badstuber might have increased his speed but neither him nor Boateng are fast and strong enough for sprints over half of the pitch. As seen in the 90th minute when Leverkusen was counter-attacking almost perfectly and not giving any chance to the central backs to come back. Actually both had already crossed the mid-field line, a mistake that was crucial. There should always be tops one central back acting as modern libero while the other one is backing him on or behind the mid-field line… The point is though, that no-one of them was able to be in the own box before Bellarabi could convert Castro’s pass. The full-backs weren’t better either by the way, their defensive abilities were the poorest and couldn’t lower the space. Only Arjen Robben was fast enough but his heroic run back to the own box wasn’t successful.
So much about the defense… Fortunately the situation in the defensive midfield looks better. “Better” is relative since Bastian Schweinsteiger, the heart and brain of our team is missing. Ok, maybe he isn’t the heart, I think Holger Badstuber is the heart of our squad since he’s the only one showing passion about his club at the moment. Anyways, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo were doing an excellent job yesterday. Especially in the first half! They saw that they weren’t needed on their actual position and pushed forward what really helped. They could have closed space up a bit better in the second half but let’s not complain too much about them. Especially David Alaba is doing a great job as replacement for Schweinsteiger. I would never have expected that, to be honest.
In the first half and the beginning of the second one, Bayern’s forward line was doing exactly what I’m preaching since quite a lot of time: rotation! Robben and Müller were switching sides constantly and in the second half Heynckes even let play in a 4-2-4 just like I have described it exactly in one of my previous articles (Time for a tactical revolution) with Thomas Müller up front and Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos right behind him. But actually they weren’t rotating anymore and I think that’s the major problem: When Franck Ribéry came in, he wasn’t switching sides anymore with his pendant on the right side. Egoism? Jealousy? I don’t think so, after all they are all great friends even if Müller and Boateng were fighting on the pitch yesterday. But that not-rotating when Ribéry is on the pitch is surely one of the major issues. One reason could be the possession play preached by Louis van Gaal, but actually nobody really knows about this.
I’ve worked out kind of a solution though. In my opinion Toni Kroos is the major problem. He actually is playing a great season but unfortunately he is out of form at the moment and doesn’t want to run much. His passes aren’t the best anymore either and he is rarely switching positions with one of his team mates. I think to come back to success, Heynckes should delete Kroos’ position, the offensive central midfielder in his system. So Ribéry, Robben and Müller, who’d be the third player in the forward line, would rotate even more. To confuse the opponents, Ribéry could start in the middle of that forward line but still rotate with Robben and Müller, switching sides. As Louis van Gaal had to experience painfully, Franck Ribéry is everything but a offensive central midfielder and the strongest on the wings. I’m sure though that he could also play very well in the middle of the forward line and use the spaces very well for a short period of time a half. The past has already shown us as well that Robben and Ribéry playing on the same side is utterly successful. I’m always calling for that too but it never happens. Nobody knows why…
I don’t think it’ll be easy to change our problems in the defense soon… If they still aren’t able to organize themselves that late in the season, then you shouldn’t have much hope for many clean sheets… The only solution for that problem is to finally (!) spend a lot of money for a central back who can actually organize a whole defense for a whole season. Of course Nerlinger needs to spend a lot of money for such a player but it’ll be totally worth it. He should have bought Alex for 5 million in winter! That guy is rocking Paris at the moment! A typical transfer fail by Nerlinger even though Alex could only have played tops 2 or 3 seasons on an high level.
Last but not least about the manager: I am 100% sure that Jupp Heynckes is not going to be sacked by the board. Uli Hoeneß has always said that sacking Heynckes in the 90s was the biggest mistake of his career and I’m sure Hoeneß would rather die than sacking his friend again. Furthermore “Don Jupp” has shown in the first leg of the season that the team can play football that is close to perfection under his guidance. His players (especially Mario Gomez) are just lacking luck at the moment and so is he if you consider the injuries of his most important player Bastian Schweinsteiger. I honestly expect Heynckes to resign on his own in the end of the season if Bayern will have to look back at another untitled season. And at the moment it does look like this… They aren’t on red alert for nothing…
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