There’s a popular belief that when Bayern München are strong, the German national team are strong.
Perhaps there is some merit in the theory that the fortune of one follows the other because right now, both are struggling.
There are certainly striking similarities in the positions of Joachim Löw and Niko Kovac. Both are at the helm of teams looking a shadow of their former selves.
Germany lose for the sixth time in 2018, that's a new record for losses in a calendar year.. #FRAGER
— Chris Williams (@Chris78Williams) October 16, 2018
Inevitably, the two become intertwined because a successful Bayern team formed the backbone of the German national team that won the 2014 World Cup.
Of that World Cup winning team, Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Mario Götze were all Bayern players at the time.
Since then, Mats Hummels has joined Bayern, Schweinsteiger, Kroos and Götze have all left and Lahm has retired, but the spine of the national team remains strongly influenced by Bayern. Particularly when you factor in Niklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka as part of the set-up.
The four-game winless run for Bayern before the international break naturally attracted a lot of attention and debate.
Bayern are not alone. Die Mannschaft endured a miserable summer and World Cup humiliation. Löw rightfully came under pressure for their group stage elimination that was tracked back to pre-tournament preparations.
The shape and tactics of Löw’s team that looked so stale and predictable in Russia has continued since then.
Germany suffered further indignation in Amsterdam last week, losing 3-0 to a fresh, energetic and talented Netherlands side.
3 – The Netherlands have beaten Germany with a 3+ goal margin for the first time in history. Historic. pic.twitter.com/rDscgOKO64
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) October 13, 2018
Germany have a wealth of talent at their disposal, but the coach looks devoid of ideas and as a result, the national team looks as disjointed as Bayern.
Neuer, Boateng and Hummels all came in for deserved criticism – Neuer still looks rusty after a year out injured, Boateng got dragged all over and Hummels simply gave up defending.
All this and the mounting pressure obviously stirred up the Bayern hierarchy. Cue an ‘extraordinary press conference’ called by Bayern.
Bayern Munich have called an extraordinary press conference today which will feature their three big guns President Uli Hoeness, Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidzic.
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) October 19, 2018
Initially, this got the rumour mill working overtime as to the reasons behind it. First, Kovac faced the media for his usual pre-match responsibilities, quashing any rumours that he may have been sacked.
After he was done with proceedings, out came Bayern President Uli Hoeness, CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidzic. What ensued will be talked about for years.
In relation to criticism Neuer, Boateng and Hummels received after Germany’s loss, Rummenigge stated:
“Human dignity is inviolable! We will not accept that at Bayern München anymore.”
The Bayern CEO also raged at critics of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery before the tirade was taken over by the club President.
“It’s important that the most important club in Germany positions itself clearly” stated an angry Hoeness, before going on to say:
“Let me tell you something. When we played in Seville, Juan Bernat was single handedly responsible for us almost being knocked out of the Champions League. Since then, we decided that he will be sold.”
Salihamidzic also weighed in on proceedings and these are just a few of the quotes from a surreal press conference.
The arrogance shown was breath-taking, the hypocrisy staggering. Hoeness, remember, was the one to single out Mesut Özil for scathing criticism this past summer.
To also point the finger at Bernat just moments after what he and Rummenigge had been saying was beyond parody.
The kindest way I could describe this press conference would be to call it a spectacular miscalculation from Messrs Hoeness, Rummenigge and Salihamidzic.
It will only serve to further magnify the pressure on the team and its coach; not to mention add fuel to the fire of rumours of discourse within the club.
On the pitch, Bayern already needed a win to keep within reach of leaders Dortmund, but after Friday’s events, Bayern needed a win more than ever.
On paper, Wolfsburg looked a good opponent and so it proved. Robert Lewandowski rediscovered his scoring touch, to put Bayern ahead in the first half and double their lead early into the second.
A Red card for Robben offered Wolfsburg opportunity and a goal from Wout Weghorst gave them hope. However, it was short-lived as James Rodriguez restored the two-goal advantage.
With Dortmund cruising to a 4-0 win in Stuttgart, it was vital Bayern registered the win, regardless of all the other pressures surrounding the club as a whole.
Kovac has predominantly been the focal point of attention during the poor run of results, with question marks over his suitability for the job, rumours of board members not wanting him and players not respecting him.
However, it should be noted that Bayern are a team in transition. In terms of age and depth, it’s a squad that is unbalanced. The cracks were beginning to show under Carlo Ancelotti and although Jupp Heynckes was able to largely paper over them, they still remain and are becoming more evident.
Kovac may not be the right fit for Bayern, but they are a club with more problems than the coach and a valuable win at Wolfsburg is unlikely to change that.