After three games of the season Bayern Munich supporters wrote an open letter of complaint to the club. It detailed deficiencies in the side, urged the sale of Franck Ribery to strengthen the squad, particularly defence and midfield, and complained about players being picked on reputation not merit. The criticism fell on deaf ears. It was deemed too early to judge the make-up of Louis van Gaal's side and Ribery stayed.
Three months later those complaints have increased substantially as Bayern's worst start in 43 years - two draws and a defeat - has developed into a campaign of vast underachievement. They stand seventh in the Bundesliga, but more worrying is the fact they will be out of the Champions League tonight if they fail to beat Maccabi Haifa or Juventus win at already-qualified Bordeaux. The only time Bayern have fallen in the first round of this elite competition was on their debut in 1970 when St Etienne pipped them 3-2 over two legs.
The tribulations of Germany's most successful club have left observers bemused. They are a team blessed with riches and talent yet unable to function as a unit. While the supporters alluded to this back in August, it took a candid interview by the Bayern full-back Philipp Lahm to provide credence to the observations. He questioned the summer policy of buying players such as Mario Gomez, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Arjen Robben when it could mean a change in system and breed discontent among a squad of established internationals, one being Luca Toni, who went home after being taken off at half-time against Schalke 04.
"One cannot simply buy players because they are good," said Lahm. "If you want to measure yourself with Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United, you, as Bayern Munich, need a philosophy." Lahm's words were brazen but refreshing in a time when players are often unable to speak out. The ?30,000 (Dh165,000) fine for his outburst has not silenced him. He was critical after Saturday's 1-1 home draw against the unbeaten league leaders Bayer Leverkusen. Most would have welcomed such a result, but not Bayern. They have too much history, pride and ambition to accept second best.
But the fear factor is hurting them. "You sense we're not confident, which comes of not having put together a run yet. Wins settle both the individuals and the team. We have to win all our matches between now and Christmas," Lahm said. Even that may not be enough to keep van Gaal at the helm for the New Year, although Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern chairman, seems reluctant to appoint a third new coach after Jurgen Klinsmann's departure in April.
"We need to be rational and objective, not irrational and emotional when we consider the situation," he said. "We need to join forces with the team and the coach and hopefully turn things round as quickly as possible. I hope we succeed." If not, and Juventus are in no mood to falter in France, Bayern will have to regroup to restore their reputation. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Bayern Munich v Maccabi Haifa, 11.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +8