It continues to amaze how the Budesliga never ceases to surprise. The week before, Schalke gave away a certain victory in the Ruhr derby away to Dortmund and last Saturday the mighty Bayern Munich responded to their last match, (3-0 in Cologne) which had the sensation of Bayern’s return to form after a shaky start to the season, with a mind numbing 2-5 home defeat against rivals Werder Bremen. Bremen stormed into a 5-0 lead and the two goals scored by the former Bremen player Tim Borowski were conceded merely as acts of pity.
The outlook of Bayern was almost comical. Toni stranded upfront, doing what he could with two centre backs on his back. Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, deployed as the driving forces in Klinsmann’s formation, were non-existent in midfield. The controversial captain, Van Bommel, in centre-midfield was apparently suffering from an identity crisis after being reprimanded by the club because of his idiotic red card in the opening match of the season. And three donkeys at the back.
When a home team concedes five goals the knives are out for the manager. When the team happens to be FC Bayern, the knives are replaced by axes that are remorselessly wheeled by the three Munich darlings Uli, Karl-Heinz and Franz. However, there seems to be much more leniency with the crowd favourite Jurgen Klinsmann than, for instance, with Ottmar Hitzfeld last season. And in a way this unprecedented act of sympathy shown by the trio is understandable. Klinsmann cannot be blamed, entirely at least, for the disastrous defeat that has heavily dented the image of FC Bayern’s greatness. Klinsmann can be of course criticised since a manager should be able to lift his team for the big occasion but the lack of fighting spirit shown by most of the Bayern players falls outside the manager’s responsibility. What Klinsmann needs to take full responsibility of are the choices he made with his squad and tactics.
Starting with a 3-5-2 formation using two wing-backs and Demichelis, Lucio and van Buyten as central defenders, Klinsmann probably had in mind that he can easily scarifies one position in midfield so that he can deploy three defenders at the back. This might not make much sense taking into consideration that Bayern was playing at home and are the reigning champions. But then again the defence mathematics of Bayern Munich has also defied belief during the last couple of seasons since when you look at the performances of their centre-backs, 3 actually equals 2. The frailty of Bayern’s defence has been the glowing weakness of an otherwise strong squad which they can almost disguise when playing against teams like 1. FC Köln and Arminia Bielefeld. But with the top teams in Europe returning to Munich this season in the Champions League, it seems implausible why nothing’s been done to fix the patched up defence.
With an increasingly crumbling centre, the flanks don’t look too strong either. With his wonderful forward runs and spectacular goals Philip Lahm has deceived many into thinking that he’s a world-class defender but in reality he is too easily caught out of position and too often skinned when up against players of true quality. On the right, Christian Lell is no world-beater either and his inclusion in the squad is even more puzzling since Bayern started with two wing-backs. Surely, with this formation, the on-loan World Cup winner, Massimo Oddo would’ve been a sounder choice. Oddo might also have his failings when it comes to defending but he would have at least posed a threat going forward with his superb crosses and sleek technique. Also the exclusion of Tim Borowski seems odd. Although I’m not much of a fan of the former Bremen player, he would probably have at least shown willingness to win playing against his old team.
Putting all other things aside, the most important thing Bayern lacked was heart. Where were the tackles? Where was the electricity of the big match discharged in heated verbal confrontations between opposing players? Where was the cynical foul and consciously taken yellow card signifying the captain’s last effort to galvanise the team into a fight after Bremen made in 3-0 on the 54th minute? It is telling that the home team’s only caution came when the match was still goalless. Instead of going for it with all they got, they seemed more than happy to give up without a fight. In the mean time, Bremen just went along with the business of scoring at will with clinical counter-attacks as the clueless Bayern defence kept their distance.
Even though FC Bayern suffered one of the biggest and definitely one of the most humiliating defeats of their History, it would be naïve to question their strength. They might now be eighth, with a measly eight points from five games, but they are still level with Bremen and only three points behind Schalke, the comedy club of the previous weekend, who are topping the Bundesliga table. The joke was on Bayern last Saturday but come the 23rd of May, Bayern Munich will most likely have the last laugh.