April 12, 2024

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Bayern Munich are stuck in a 'horror movie' – and Tuchel's chances of escaping are slim

Bayern Munich are stuck in a 'horror movie' – and Tuchel's chances of escaping are slim

“It feels like a horror movie that never ends,” said a shocked Leon Goretzka after the final whistle.

Bayern Munich's 3-2 loss to mid-table Bochum on Sunday certainly capped a horrific week of three straight defeats for the perennial German champions, plunging the club into a deep crisis.

Now eight points behind unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern's strangely disorganized and unfocused side don't look as if they can keep up with Xabi Alonso's men, let alone overtake them. Their Champions League future also hangs in the balance after a 1-0 defeat away to Lazio last Tuesday in the first leg of their round of 16 tie.

Coach Thomas Tuchel put a brave face on things in the aftermath of last night. In contrast to what happened in Leverkusen (a 3-0 defeat last weekend) and Roma, he felt that his team did not deserve to be defeated by Bochum, who started the day only six points above the relegation zone and lost 7-0 to Bayern in the first division. Reverse match in September.

“It was Murphy's Law – everything went against us,” Tuchel said regarding defender Dayot Upamecano being sent off for the second time in five days, after committing a foul in the penalty area and having his attackers miss three big chances. “Today, I can't blame my players. If we play this match again, we have a high probability of winning it.

Look at Bayern's expected goals (xG) of 3.35, the fact they had 27 shots to Bochum's 10 and had more than two-thirds of the possession, and Tuchel earned a point.

But success is not defined in virtual terms in Munich. Had they been able to snatch a late equalizer against Bochum, or even a win later on, it would not have made their inconsistent performance any less worrying.

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Midfielder Goretzka's assessment was more accurate. “It's individual mistakes we make, a lot of them,” he told local broadcaster DAZN, which is broadcasting the match. “Right now, I think we have to question everything.” When asked if he still believed Bayern could win the Bundesliga this season, his verdict was clearer: “Not now. I'm honest about that.”

For the umpteenth time since the start of Tuchel's reign 11 months ago, the team has been a mediocre mixture of half-good spells and periods of timid fragility. That famous Bayern DNA, an unwavering belief in their own greatness, appears to be irretrievably buried beneath an ugly patch of collective uncertainty – or perhaps lost amid a sense of dark foreboding.

Instead of drawing strength from winning 11 consecutive league titles, these players seem to be controlled by the fear of becoming the team that will end that golden era.

Perhaps Tuchel is simply unlucky to have reached the inevitable sunset of a historic period of dominance. Bayern were already weak enough not to win the league last season, but somehow fell short of another title when Borussia Dortmund blew it all away with a draw at home to Mainz on the final day.

Tuchel feels cold at Bayern (Ena Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

This season, they are an objectively better team than that – more stable defensively and more efficient in attack, thanks to new signing Harry Kane (25 goals and counting in the league after scoring late yesterday to halve the deficit) – but they are still vulnerable to… Mysterious bad days off threaten to end their 2023-24 trophy hunt with three months of football remaining.

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Internally, there is talk that too many well-paid senior figures have lost their hunger. But every player has lost form and confidence in recent weeks, making Tuchel's role clear once again.

The 50-year-old former Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea manager has been unable to forge much of a bond with the majority of players in the dressing room after implicitly questioning their credentials on numerous occasions. “He undermined everyone,” said a senior member of Bayern's leadership. The athleteon condition of anonymity due to the volatility of the situation in the club.

As countless managers before him have discovered, tactical competence doesn't matter much if you can't keep the dressing room on your side.

Sunday night saw further signs of disappointment when midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who was substituted in the second half when they were still 11-11, exchanged angry words with assistant coach Zulte Loew at the end of the match. Tuchel said about that incident: “It is normal as long as the matter does not go further than that, and it does not go further than that.”

Kimmich was taken off after 62 minutes against Bochum – and he wasn't happy about it (Lars Baron/Getty Images)

However, things are bad enough between him and the team, that club bosses consider the situation essentially untenable. The only real question is whether the results will allow Tuchel to finish the season.

Bayern have already looked to former coach Hansi Flick as an emergency replacement, but some influential people at the club are unsure whether the 58-year-old can repeat his impressive run of 2020 and early 2021 (six titles) after overseeing dreadful results. With the German national team, which includes six players from Bayern Munich.

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The club would much prefer to deal with Tuchel and use the time between now and the summer to target a big name who will come and reform the entire team with new momentum for next season. Unsurprisingly, Leverkusen coach Alonso, who played a starring role in Bayern's midfield from 2014 until his retirement in 2017, is their dream candidate.

In the meantime, Tuchel will be safe for at least another six days. CEO Jan Christian Driessen confirmed to reporters in Bochum that Tuchel would be a “natural” on the bench for the home game against RB Leipzig next Saturday night, but also warned that “this oath of loyalty does not tend to last more than a week.” “.

A fourth defeat in a row could force the board to pause, even without a savior ready to step in. The last time Bayern lost so many matches in a row was in April and May 2015, but this team, managed by Pep Guardiola, had already lost. He had clinched the title by then.

People used to complain that the Bundesliga season routinely ended by March. This year, it may not take as long.

(Top image: Lars Baron/Getty Images)