It has been an extremely disappointing start to his Bayern Munich tenure for Niko Kovac. The Croatian is certainly experiencing his toughest spell in management in comfortably his biggest job to date. A terrific spell in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt seems a distant memory for Kovac with life in Munich proving extremely tough right now and the pressure is severely mounting on him.
Bayern find themselves 9 points off their bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund after another winless weekend in which they threw away at 3-1 lead against strugglers Fortuna Dusseldorf. While credit must go to the strugglers for a brilliant fightback, Bayern Munich look lost as a team with a severe lack of belief and confidence. This does stem from the management and Kovac knows things must improve and the Champions League against Benfica this week is crucial to his stay of execution. 2 league wins in their last 7 games highlights their severe struggles and they’ve conceded 17 goals in their 12 league games and that is not good enough. Kovac is clearly struggling to get his ideas across with several senior figures frustrated within the squad and injuries to the likes of Corentin Tolisso and Serge Gnabry. Kovac is also struggling to get the best out of the likes of Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery and Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker regular scores 25 goals a season in the Bundesliga but so far has 7 in the 12 games played including a brace in the recent Klassiker defeat to Dortmund but goals consistently have alluded the prolific pole. The striker’s form is a real frustration for Kovac and the fans with nobody really suited to replace him. Yes, Muller and Gnabry could but Kovac prefers them as wingers as opposed to the central attacking threat. There is Sandro Wagner, but the German has struggled for game time, form and confidence when he gets that opportunity. The strikers aren’t the only ones struggling with the defence also suffering a loss of form and confidence. The likes of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Niklas Sule, Josh Kimmich and David Alaba are all shadows of their usual selves and this can only be adding to Kovac’s problems and the fans frustrations.
Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge gave a passionately heated press conference back in October giving their full support of Kovac and again today Kovac has spoken passionately about his job status in his press conference ahead of the Benfica game. ‘Those who know me know that I am always a fighter. My whole life has been to assert myself, giving up or waving the white flag does not exist in my vocabulary. I will always fight’. "Criticism is always there if you don’t live up to the expectations - we need one point tomorrow to progress, but we want to win. And then we hope we'll perform better in the Bundesliga than we have before”. There is something not right at the club whether that be the manager, playing staff or the hierarchy at the top. A lack of summer transfer activity has highlighted some issues with only Leon Goretzka walking into the first team on a free from Schalke. Their only other recruit is highly rated Canadian winger Alphonso Davies who joins very soon following the conclusion of the MLS season. Just £10M spent in the summer on improving the squad and while they do have one of the best squads in Europe, the squad is ageing, and youthful exuberance is lacking despite some promising talent breaking through from the youth academy. Kovac is doing his best to use what he’s got but he must certainly want to stamp his authority and identity on the Bavarian giants. Bayern Munich are a huge football club that are on the brink of a crisis both on and off the pitch with just 6 wins in their 12 league games overall and the clock is very much ticking on the Kovac tenure which started excellently with 5 straight wins in all competitions. A draw to Augsburg back in September really started Bayern’s slow decline of form.
Kovac is no doubt feeling the heat and certainly the Allianz Arena is not the fortress it once was. They have won just 2 of their 6 league games at home and that is a severe problem considering it is usually one of the toughest places to go in Europe let alone Germany. They are winless in their last 4 home league games so it’s no wonder the fans are unhappy. A humiliating defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach at the start of October really hit the players and the fans hard. They were completely outplayed and outclassed by Dieter Hecking’s team and since then, they have failed to recover from that at the Allianz Arena with 2 consecutive draws against Freiburg and Fortuna Dusseldorf. Teams are finding a way to talk something away from the Allianz Arena and is clearly emphasising Bayern Munich’s struggles to take their chances, kill off games and see out results. These are factors usually associated with relegation battlers.
There is no denying Bayern Munich are in crisis certainly on the pitch and this is a crucial week for the club with important matches against Benfica in the Champions League and a trip to Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. Surely wins in both are imperative for the club and Kovac to keep his job. They cannot surely pull Jupp Heyneckes out of retirement yet again to rescue their season but certainly it could a thought that has crossed the mind of Hoeness and Rummenigge. Their season has been very poor by their high standards and they must improve and fast to save their season and Kovac knows he must get them going otherwise it will be curtains on his very short time in Munich.