No one at Bayern Munich is talking about a seventh consecutive Bundesliga title anymore.
The club is back in crisis with coach Niko Kovac likely to pay the price for the team’s failure to reinforce the squad in the offseason.
Bayern’s 3-3 draw against relegation-threatened Fortuna Duesseldorf has left the defending champions nine points behind Borussia Dortmund after 12 matches.
It was Bayern’s fourth consecutive league game at home without a win, prompting Germany forward Thomas Mueller to note: “I never experienced that before.”
It is, indeed, a record for the club.
The 47-year-old Kovac is in trouble in his first spell in charge of a major club. Kovac previously enjoyed success with Eintracht Frankfurt, helping the side beat Bayern in the German Cup final last May, but he is struggling to get his current team playing as cohesively as his former.
It doesn’t help that Frankfurt is now two points ahead of Bayern, which is languishing in fifth place.
The last time Bayern was nine points off the lead was in the 2011-12 season. Dortmund was champion at the end.
“It’s not right to look at the table now,” Bayern defender David Alaba said.
Teammate Leon Goretzka said the club needed to “pay attention to other things” after failing to beat Duesseldorf, a team that remains one point off the bottom of the league.
Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who previously said he would defend Kovac “to the hilt,” appears to have changed his tune after blasting the team’s performance on Saturday.
“What happened today is absolutely not acceptable,” said Hoeness, who said Kovac would remain in charge for the Champions League game against Benfica on Tuesday but made no commitment beyond that. “We have to analyze the situation to see where we are. For us it’s important to remain calm. It’s difficult, I admit that.”
But Hoeness shares the blame for Bayern’s demise. Together with chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, they oversaw one of the club’s quietest offseason transfer windows.
In contrast to recent years, Bayern opted only for Goretzka on a free transfer from Schalke and the return of Serge Gnabry and Renato Sanches from loan spells at Swansea and Hoffenheim, respectively.
Arturo Vidal, Douglas Costa, Sebastian Rudy and Juan Bernat all departed the club.
Kovac also hasn’t been helped by injuries to James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben, Thiago Alcantara, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman, who is now back in training after missing most of the start of the season.
Others like Mueller, Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are underperforming.
“There are one or two players who need to have a look at themselves,” Hoeness said after the draw against Duesseldorf. “You could see that again today, where amateur mistakes were made. When I look at the first goal, I’d only seen such a thing in slapstick films. Of course it can’t work like that.”
Arsene Wenger is already being touted as a replacement for Kovac. The 69-year-old German-speaking Frenchman has been out of work since leaving Arsenal after more than two decades in charge.
Bayern previously tried to sign the French coach in the 1990s.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work out at the time because he decided differently,” Rummenigge said before Bayern faced Arsenal in the Champions League last year. “I personally have a very good relationship with Arsene Wenger, whom I respect for a long, long time.”
Former Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl is also a candidate, while Zinedine Zidane, another person without a club since leaving Real Madrid at the end of last season, has been linked by Kicker magazine.
Source: The Associated Press