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Bayern Munich: ‘Who wants to win the Bundesliga? Not us!’

  • April 23, 2023

It’s safe to say that Thomas Tuchel’s first month in charge of Bayern Munich has not gone as Oliver Kahn anticipated.

“Which team here today looked like they wanted to win the league?” the furious Bayern chief executive asked DW rhetorically after watching his team lose 3-1 away to Mainz. He provided the answer himself: “They also play in red, but it certainly wasn’t us.”

In actual fact, Mainz are indeed hoping to win the league this weekend; the final of the under-19 German championship, which they last won in 2009 under a certain coach by the name of Tuchel, takes place on Sunday.

Kahn, however, was of course referring to the Bundesliga, which is now led once again by Borussia Dortmund after the Black and Yellows did what they failed to do in Stuttgart last week and saw a comfortable half-time lead over the line with a 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Bayern Munich blame game

This weekend, it was Bayern Munich’s turn to produce a spectacular second-half collapse, and CEO Kahn was in no doubt as to who was to blame.

“Every single player has to ask himself: what do I want to achieve when I’m on that pitch? Am I bringing the requisite commitment and readiness? Everything that you need in football, beyond simply playing the game, was missing in our team today.”

Then came the next rhetorical question: “What have we not tried this season?” And the next answer, as the 53-year-old effectively conducted his own mixed zone interview:

“We’ve tried conversations, analyses, meetings, training sessions, systems, tactics, we’ve changed the coach, but ultimately it’s the 11 men on the pitch who are responsible for working their asses off for the goals of this club.”

There are, however, as DW pointed out, others in Munich who would see the responsibility elsewhere.

“Targets can be missed, but not the club’s values – question the club management!” read a huge banner on Bayern’s Südkurve during the final minutes of the Champions League quarterfinal exit against Manchester City on Wednesday. Another banner explicitly mentioned Kahn and director of sport Hasan Salihamidzic in less diplomatic terms.

“I don’t have any problem with criticism, I’m happy to take it,” acknowledged Kahn who, together with Salihamidzic and club president Herbert Hainer, took the decision to dismiss Julian Nagelsmann exactly one month ago.

Since then, Bayern have been knocked out of two cup competitions and surrendered their Bundesliga lead. Meanwhile, star signing Sadio Mané – who headed Bayern ahead in Mainz – was temporarily suspended and fined for reportedly striking teammate Leroy Sané in Manchester, while Säbener Straße has also been full of speculation that honorary president Uli Hoeness could use his considerable influence on the supervisory board to have Kahn removed as CEO.

“I’ve experienced a great deal in my career,” insisted Kahn, mellowing slightly. “I know what it means when it’s not going well for Bayern. As far as I’m concerned, we all carry some responsibility.”

Thomas Tuchel exempt from criticism

With one exception.

“Thomas Tuchel is the last person we need to talk about,” Kahn continued. “He is doing all he can tactically and psychologically to improve the players and make it clear to them that it is worth winning this title, together with his coaching staff.”

The latest addition to that staff, Anthony Barry, observed his first game from the stands in Mainz. But the English assistant coach who followed Tuchel to Munich from Chelsea this week didn’t look overly satisfied with what he was seeing either out on the pitch or on his video monitor, especially at the start of the second half.

Mainz had already had one half chance fall to Ajorque after Joshua Kimmich had lost possession, prompting demonstrative shakes of the head from Tuchel. But Bo Svensson’s “Zero-Fivers” – who themselves extended their own unbeaten run to ten – were clearly targeting the German midfielder, who was caught in possession again in his own box by Leandro Barreiro shortly after.

Tuchel issued urgent instructions via Thomas Müller, urging his players to clear the ball quicker and farther to escape the Mainz press, but it was too late. Bayern failed to clear an Aaron free-kick, Jae-Sung Lee shot from distance, Yann Sommer could only parry and Ludovic Ajorque was on hand to nod home.

Ten minutes later, the impressive Barreiro was rewarded for his incessant harrying with Mainz’s second. Five minutes after that, Aaron made it three. And Bayern never looked like hitting back.

Mainz players celebrate Leandro Barreiro's goal which made it 2-1
On a roll: Mainz extended their unbeaten run to ten games with their third straight home league win over Bayern MunichImage: Thomas Frey/dpa/picture alliance

Tuchel: ‘Points slipping through our fingers like sand’

“We looked shattered, like a team which has already played 70 or 80 games, like we’re always playing in extra time,” said Tuchel.

“We’re simply not capable of concentrating until the end, of converting chances into goals, of avoiding mistakes. We’re lacking assertiveness and physical presence. The points are just slipping through our fingers like sand.”

After a baptism of fire in his first month in the job, Tuchel looked and sounded as drained as his players, so much so that he couldn’t even work out how to say his team lacked a “sense of urgency” in German, instead using an English phrase perhaps picked up at Stamford Bridge.

“We just seem to trundle along, playing at exactly the same tempo and with the same intensity, whether it’s working or not,” he continued, reverting back to his native language. “But we don’t adapt our behavior or body language to things happening in real time, like how to block a shot or win a header, it’s all missing.”

Having overseen just two wins in his first seven games and suffered more defeats than Nagelsmann had all season, Tuchel now has his first full week of training with his players ahead of Bundesliga games against Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen and Schalke, all in the bottom half of the table.

But training won’t begin until Wednesday – which is probably a good thing, given the next tired linguistic slip-up: “I think some distance will do us good after three-and-a-half years – I mean weeks, although that’s what it feels like – with hardly a day off.”

Thomas Tuchel sits on the bench in Mainz, head bowed
Baptism of fire: Thomas Tuchel and his players looked drained in MainzImage: Harry Langer/DeFodi Images/picture alliance

Advantage Borussia Dortmund

For Kahn and the Bayern Munich board, however, there will be little time to rest as the pressure around the club grows, but the former goalkeeper and captain remained bullish.

“I won’t give a millimeter,” he insisted, although it was unclear whether he was referring to his own position or his belief in Bayern’s title chances. “Despite this performance, we can still win this league.”

Only, with five games left to play, Bayern can no longer match last season’s points total of 77. The last time they failed to reach that figure was in the 2011-12 season, when they only amassed 73.

The champions that year were Borussia Dortmund.

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