Bayern Munich’s humbling Champions League defeat against Real Madrid will increase the pressure on coach Pep Guardiola to change his methods, which were being questioned even before Tuesday’s debacle.
Hailed as the world’s best coach when he arrived at the start of the season, Guardiola’s constant tactical switches are now seen as too clever for his own good while his side’s possession-based football has become predictable and toothless in the eyes of the critics.
Guardiola may have won the Bundesliga with seven matches to spare but domestic honours are seen as little more than an obligation at a club who want to be considered the best in the world.
Bayern looked anything but that on Tuesday as they crashed to a humiliating 4-0 home defeat in their semi-final second leg, ending their dream of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League.
It will be fascinating to see how Bayern respond in the summer transfer window after a night that exposed the shortcomings of the current crop of players.
“Real have a magnificent team at the moment and our limitations have been exposed to a certain extent tonight,” said chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “You get games like these, but we need to hold our nerve.
“Despite the anger you feel welling up inside, I think on days like these you have to stay calm, go home and try to do things better as of tomorrow.”
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer looked insecure and his forays out of his penalty area were so reckless that he at times resembled maverick former Colombia keeper Rene Higuita.
The central defensive pairing of Dante and Jerome Boateng were all at sea, Bastian Schweinsteiger failed to dictate the midfield while Franck Ribery continued a miserable run of form in attack.
Striker Mario Mandzukic spent more time squabbling with his opponents that creating openings and was taken off at halftime. With Robert Lewandowski arriving from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, the Croatian forward’s place looks increasingly under jeopardy.
Bayern appear to have lost their way since winning the Bundesliga and Guardiola could be at fault for that as he has chopped and changed the team, making an average of five switches to the starting line-up for every game.
Yet the season is not over for Bayern as they still have the DFB-Pokal final against bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund, where defeat would pour more fuel on the fire.
In accepting the blame for the defeat, Guardiola insisted he would stick by his possession game.
“The reason for the defeat is that we didn’t do enough with the ball,” he said. “I can’t change what I feel and what I feel is that we must play with the ball and attack as much as possible.”
That would not have made welcome listening to Bayern’s plethora of influential former players, led by honorary president Franz Beckenbauer who is fast becoming the leading critic of Guardiola’s football.
A quick look at Bayern’s recent coaches shows that, for all their much-admired football administration, they are not a club who tolerate failure and Guardiola will be under intense scrutiny next season.
Four years ago, flamboyant Dutchman Louis van Gaal was flavour of the month after leading Bayern to the Bundesliga title and the Champions League final.
Less than one year later he was gone after failing to take on board suggestions from above about team selection and tactics. Uli Hoeness, the club president at the time, complained that Van Gaal was a one-man show who never took any advice.
He was among seven different Bayern coaches to have occupied the hot seat in the last 10 seasons.
Beckenbauer even suggested Bayern would struggle to beat relegation candidates Hamburg on Saturday.
“That is the best chance for Hamburg,” he said. “If Hamburg don’t take this chance, against such a battered team, then they really do belong in the second division.”
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