Bayern haven’t won any of their last three matches. Are they having their first crisis under Guardiola?
The last three results haven’t really been what we have come to expect from the current Champions League holders: 3-3 against Hoffenheim, 1-1 in Manchester and now 0-1 in Augsburg.
The last result marks an end to an impressive series of 53 Bundesliga matches without a defeat. That this day would eventually come was clear, but three matches without a victory in a row is something that happened to Bayern the last time three years ago and never once under former boss Jupp Heynckes.
Of course one can argue that Bayern have already won this year’s Bundesliga and therefore they focus more on the other tournaments like the Champions League and the German Cup. This attitude became clear in the statements after the defeat against Augsburg.
Guardiola said that the result against Augsburg was “not so important” in contrast to the match against Manchester on Wednesday. “That’s a final. That’s about life or death.”
Also Bayern’s players seem to have the same opinion. Toni Kroos said after the match on Saturday that “nothing has happened” and Bayern’s goalkeeper Neuer apparently shared his opinion: “The most important thing is that nobody got injured. We only care about Wednesday – everything else doesn’t matter.”
At least Thomas Müller was able to criticise Bayern’s performance, but then he also started to think about the match against United. “The decisive centimeters were lacking, but if we qualify for the semifinal on Wednesday, then we have made everything the right way.”
Guardiola’s strategy becomes clear when you listen to these statements. The team was obviously already thinking about the match against United even though they had a Bundesliga match beforehand.
Everybody is just focused on the big aim to pass to the semifinals in the Champions League, but will it really be that easy for Bayern to switch from training mode to top level competition on Wednesday?
The players already had their rhythm, and the rotation made sure that everybody could rest. Now the team starts to rest mentally even though they are actually playing.
Against Augsburg they still had the normal starters Neuer, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and Mandzukic in the starting line-up and in the second half Götze, Alaba, and Müller were brought in. However, Neuer was the only player who played in a normal form and helped Bayern avoid a bigger margin of defeat.
The problem was obviously not the starting lineup – although all three youth players disappointed – but the attitude of the players on the pitch, which was exactly the same attitude that Guardiola showed in the interviews afterwards.
So far, he has already received a lot of criticism from other Bundesliga coaches for the performance of his team against Augsburg, but if his players won’t show a concentrated and more aggressive performance against United on Wednesday, then he will have to justify his strategy to Bayern’s fans and bosses.
It really wasn’t necessary for him to take this risk, and heightens the fact the midweek fixture is seen as a must-win for the manager.