Defence in shambles and goals drying up as Bayern Munich slump down table

Aditya Devavrat 07:29 09/10/2018
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Problems aplenty for Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac.

Bayern Munich don’t do comebacks. They haven’t won a Bundesliga game after falling 2-0 behind in the first-half since 1988.

Of course, they’ve rarely ever been two goals behind in the league at any point, let alone as early as the opening 45 minutes, given their superiority over most of their domestic rivals.

But it’s now two straight games that Bayern have had to deal with such a deficit, and on each occasion, they’ve lost. It is approaching crisis point.

After losing 2-0 to Hertha Berlin last week, they suffered an even worse defeat on Saturday, 3-0 at home to Borussia Monchengladbach, a side who have had a habit in recent years of troubling the otherwise almighty Bavarians, though usually on their own patch.

Going into that game against Hertha, Bayern were unbeaten in the league, sitting atop the table, though coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw against Augsburg in which they’d conceded a late equaliser. That draw began a sequence of four straight games without a win.

This run of form has seen them slip four points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and down to sixth in the table, their lowest position after seven league matches since the 2010-11 season, when a Louis Van Gaal-managed side was fifth.

It’s too early to panic – Bayern were five points off the pace at this stage last season, and of course, they ended up cruising to a sixth straight title.

That turnaround also needed a managerial sacking, and although there are no suggestions that the club are considering replacing Niko Kovac, the man who was appointed at the end of last season is certainly under pressure.

His defence is a shambles at the moment – Mats Hummels, Niklas Sule, and Jerome Boateng have all been guilty of errors in recent games, and the team has managed only two clean sheets in the league so far, and just four in ten games across all competitions.

But the bigger concern for Bayern is up front. Their 12 league goals this season puts them at just sixth in the Bundesliga’s goals for column, a shocking statistic for a team that regularly beats up on the rest of Germany’s top flight. To put it into perspective, they scored 92 goals in total last season, an average of 2.7 goals per game – that number is at 1.7 through seven games this term.

Kovac’s tactics are at fault for both that profligate form and the results overall. The 4-1-4-1 formation he prefers puts too rigid a structure for some of his best players to thrive, starting with midfielder Thiago.

Playing the Spaniard in the pivot requires too much defensive responsibility of him, when it’s crystal clear that both he and the team benefit when he plays with freedom. Bayern’s best period of play on Saturday came when Renato Sanches came on early in the second-half, allowing Thiago to move forward and be less predictable.

The same holds true for James Rodriguez, who looks a shadow of the player he was last season after being restricted to a more regimented role.

Sanches is a success story Kovac can point to, given his horrid loan spell at Swansea last year, and Goretzka is another player who’s done well under the new manager, but everyone else in attack is struggling. Robert Lewandowski, the perennial runaway Golden Boot winner, has only three league goals so far, and he’s the club’s joint-top scorer alongside Arjen Robben.

The spectre of Zinedine Zidane is hovering over Kovac, as it is for any manager of Europe’s big clubs, with the Frenchman rumouredly interested in the job.

For now, Kovac retains the backing of the board. But the numbers and the league table don’t look good for the new Bayern Munich manager.

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