Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bayern Sitting On Brink Of Disaster

Robben, Ribery, Gomez, Schweinsteiger, Klose, the attacking players possessed by Bayern Munich simply roll off the tongue, but despite their talents, Bayern may well be playing Europa League football next season.

Bayern started the season well, or so it appeared, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger helped the Bavarians to a 2-1 win over 2009 champions Wolfsburg. Perhaps we should have seen the signs presented by that game, a struggle to win against one of the Bundesliga's weaker sides, and a lack of potency in the final third with Arjen Robben out injured. However, still caught up in the beauty of Germany's World Cup campaign, inspired by the German core of this Bayern team, we ignored Munich's deficiencies, and dubbed them favorites to retain the Bundesliga crown.

Certainly, even the most enthusiastic of Bayern supporters would have struggled to take any positives out of Bayern's next match, a 2-0 thrashing at the hands of newly promoted side Kaiserslauten. Inspired by Srdjan Lakic, Kaiserslauten were the first side to punish Bayern's many failings in defense, as they shocked the reigning champions in only the second match of the Bundesliga season.

Following that defeat, Louis Van Gaal's side continued to struggle drawing with Cologne and Werder, before a win over Hoffenheim was followed by two consecutive defeats at the hands of Mainz and Dortmund. Well off the ridiculous title pace set by Mainz, the first murmurings of discontent were emerging from the Bayern camp, the word was that some of the playing staff had become disgruntled with the methods of Dutch manager Van Gaal.

At the back Bayern were looking increasingly vulnerable, players like Van Buyten, Badstuber and Breno were proving liabilities. Upfront Mario Gomez was the only bright spot for Bayern, after an unsuccessful debut season the former Stuttgart striker was making his mark, but even his good form wasn't enough to cover up for the absence of the injured Arjen Robben.

By New Years, and the return of Bayern's flying Dutchman, the Bavarians were out of the title race, Dortmund flying high at the top of an extraordinarily strange Bundesliga table.

With Robben back, the reigning Bundesliga champions began to find some momentum, Robben and Ribery both looked dangerous and Gomez's goals were continuing to flow. However, in a week dubbed as the most important in Bayern's season, the team fell short, knocked out of the German Cup by Schalke, turned over in the league by Dortmund, and shocked in the Champions League by Inter Milan.

Before long Van Gaal, who had already announced he was leaving the club at the end of the season, was sacked, leaving Bayern in terrible condition, behind Hannover in the race for the third and the final Champions League place.

On Saturday, Munich were guilty of dropping yet more points, two as they succumbed to a 1-1 draw away at Frankfurt. Meanwhile, Hannover were yet again victorious, moving them up to third place, one point ahead of Bayern. As it stands, Bayern Munich will be returning to the bowels of the Europa League, an astounding fall in grace for a team that last season contested the Champions League final.

It is difficult to place blame on the shoulders on one particular entity in the Bayern camp, no doubt Van Gaal is partially responsible for his former side's plight, but blame must also be handed down to an obstinate board of directors who have only managed to make life difficult for the team. Uli Hoeness and Franz Beckenbauer were both fine players in their day, but their weekly roastings of Van Gaal and his players will have done nothing for morale. Moreover, their constant meddling in the team's affairs has led to tension between themselves and the manager, and then eventually the manager and the playing staff.

Also culpable must be the Bayern players, particularly the defenders who have been shambolic this season, making basic errors that lost games that looked to be won. No doubt, the attacking aspect of the team's play was not helped by Robben's long injury absence, but reliance on a player as injury prone as Robben will always end in tears.

So a season of disaster for all aspects of Bayern Munchen could end with in ultimate ignominy, the denial of Champions League football. Standing between the 2010 champions and that fate are three matches, against Schalke, St. Pauli and Stuttgart. Over the course of those games, a one point deficit must be overturned or else the Europa League awaits.

Bayern have nobody to blame but themselves for their current predicament. From the board room downward, the Allianz Arena is layered with guilty parties, a difficult chairman, a defeated coach and a leaky defense are all causes of this year's terrors. With the rise of a young exciting Borruisa Dortmund side the headline of another absorbing season, this Bayern team's time at the top German football could be coming to an end. The lure of Champions League football and the opportunity to work under the inspirational Jurgen Klopp will assist in the retention and acquisition of top class players at Dortmund, neither of those could be said for Bayern.

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