SThe mood at the players’ exit hadn’t been depressed for a long time. Shortly before midnight, the stars of FC Bayern Tuesday snuck out of the Munich stadium to their cars, no longer looking forward to the training-free Wednesday. Captain Thomas Müller spoke of a “shambles” and his colleague Leon Goretzka of a “bitter pill”. A couple of fans waiting at the exit of the stadium shouted “Let’s go!”, but their expressions remained depressed. “There’s a shitty night ahead,” said Müller. The feeling will also be similar afterwards – “with a blow to the neck like that, where something is taken away from you, because the trophy is gone now. Very, very bitter. That really hurts.”
The 1: 2 (1: 1) in the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup against SC Freiburg was an industrial accident with consequences. It’s not easy for Bayern either with their costly squad to win a title, but of the three possible trophies this season, the cup seemed to be the smallest challenge in relative terms. Now the first title has been lost, the Mission Triple failed at the beginning of April.
Far too early given the club’s claims. For the third time in a row, Bayern miss the cup final in Berlin. “It’s a big disappointment,” said Thomas Tuchel. For him it was the second game as Munich coach. He gets to know his team, especially their weaknesses. “To develop a power and greed together and to keep it permanently, that’s a bit of the topic,” says the 49-year-old. The departure “will keep us busy for a while.” And Müller said: “Now we’re emotionally down to earth or a little further down.”
“A defeat that scratches the sense of honor,” says Müller
Two weeks ago, the club leadership around CEO Oliver Kahn and sports director Hasan Salihamidzic released Tuchel’s predecessor Julian Nagelsmann. Part of the reason: you see the goals of the season in danger. Now Bayern have missed the first under Tuchel. There is mockery on social media, tenor: Nagelsmann would have just managed to do that.
Tuchel has been training the master for just over a week. After the 4: 2 in the top game of the Bundesliga against Borussia Dortmund, the cup out is a major setback for him and the club bosses. After Bayern’s 1-0 from Dayot Upamecano (19′), Freiburg scored from a long-range shot by Nicolas Höfler (27′) and a penalty from Lucas Höler (90′ + 4), but otherwise had hardly any chances to score. But it was more than bad luck and young star Jamal Musiala’s clumsy handball before the penalty kick that caused a defeat “that scratched my sense of honor,” as Müller said.
The game showed weaknesses that initially remained under Tuchel. The team does not call up constant top performances. It’s not effective enough on offense, many stars are unstable when it comes to their potential, and despite their quality on the defensive, they often don’t behave cleverly enough in crucial situations. “In these last actions, when scoring, when taking the ball last, when passing, we just lacked the precision,” said Müller.
Midfield boss Joshua Kimmich was correspondingly harsh with his team. The national player, who prepared the 1-0 goal with a corner kick, said: “I struggle a lot with myself not to go completely crazy and lose my composure – a day like that really hurts. At the end of the day it pisses me off the more titles we lose. Now we’ve lost one again. The goal was clearly Berlin. We’re eliminated even though it wasn’t necessary.”
FC Bayern club management is under even more pressure
The words of the leading player give a deep insight. He asks the character question. “One has the feeling that it’s a bit too little – too little passion, too little emotion,” Kimmich continued. “In the end we don’t manage to decide these games and win.” His team had two or three very clear chances to score, “in terms of quality there were a few good ones, they have to be enough to win.”
Should the change of coach have been more motivating? Kimmich’s answer: “Definitely. A change of coach is always a bad sign for a team, because we didn’t perform well before and didn’t win the games. Accordingly, one hopes for a certain defiant reaction. I’m not talking about technical, tactical things, but about this emotional thing – we have to get that back on the pitch as soon as possible.”
In view of the embarrassing end of the cup, the club management around Kahn, Salihamidzic and club president Herbert Hainer is under even more pressure. Not only the timing of the change of coach is discussed. With Nagelsmann’s release, those responsible put everything on one card and ended a hoped-for and expensive long-term project. The pressure to succeed in the Bundesliga and the Champions League is now enormous: the record champions last experienced a season without a title eleven years ago. Should it be another season without a trophy, the Bayern bosses would be the losers of the season.
Kahn and Hainer remained silent after the defeat, only Salihamidzic asked critical questions. The sports director protected Tuchel: “It’s bitter for all of us, but it has nothing to do with the coach. It’s a process now. He makes a good impression, a good job.” At times the team wasn’t able to keep up “the energy or the number of strokes” against Freiburg.
In addition, the question arises as to whether Bayern should not have brought in a striker when putting together the squad. Robert Lewandowski moved to FC Barcelona a year ago, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting works a lot for the team but has been unlucky lately. And Sadio Mané is far from his top form after his injury, just like under Nagelsmann and under Tuchel, he is currently only a substitute.
“We have a few options on the nine,” says Salihamidzic. “I wouldn’t say it’s lacking. But on other things.” The team “often missed the last pass.” Sometimes he lacked the determination. How is he thinking about signing a striker in the summer? “Of course we will sit down and see what we do on the transfer market.” Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani is considered a candidate.
Bayern meet Freiburg in the league on Saturday and Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday. Before the groundbreaking weeks, Kimmich made a clear request to his team: “We have to turn the anger and sourness into passion and will. The goal now must be that we play a little more emotionally.”