This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes is created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com
Bayern’s start into the rest of the season began bumpy – and then got even worse. On Friday evening, they started off the Bundesliga campaign with a narrow and somewhat lucky 2-1 win at Hamburg in an not very convincing way, thanks to two goals from Robert Lewandowski, who scored with a penalty and a deflected shot. “It wasn’t something for aestheticians” and “Bayern looked sluggish”, concluded Süddeutsche Zeitung and was pretty much on point.
But after the hard fought win, all the talking was not about their style and current shape but about their misfortune: Jerome Boateng limped off against HSV, and the consequences are fatal: Boateng suffered a serious groin injury and is out at least three if not even four months, a heavy blow in the hunt for the treble.
“In some way we have a plague on the boots”, said Thomas Müller in a characteristic German saying about the recurring injury problematic at the club. The month long absence of Boateng is already the 14th muscle injury the Bavarians suffered season. Currently are Mario Götze, Franck Ribery, Juan Bernat and Medhi Benatia out with similar problems. “Without Benatia, Boateng and a not fully recovered Javi Martinez we have a problem,” said Pep Guardiola with a look at his back four.
Recurring muscle injuries are raising questions about Guardiola’s training
So the injury woes are no news to the Catalan. The media and supporters are wondering why the Bayern players are constantly suffering muscle injuries. “This raises questions”, notes kicker sport magazine, asking about Guardiola’s training methods, his maybe not good enough preventive measures, the workload he’s demanding or if he forces comebacks of newly recovered players too quickly. The recurring problems of his players can’t be a coincidence anymore, that’s what many are thinking.
The magazine reminds of the fight Guardiola had with club hero Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, who left Bayern about a year ago in anger after a reported fight with Guardiola. Now, without the world famous doctor, “the communication is the main problem”, says kicker about Müller-Wohlfahrts successors Dr. Volker Braun and Dr. Ernst-Otto Münch, claiming the new medical executive has no voice under Guardiola’s reign.
On Tuesday, Sport Bild was reporting that Müller-Wohlfahrt could return to Bayern as a consultant – but only in summer, tellingly when Guardiola will be gone… Asked about the injury setback, Captain Philipp Lahm said: “I have no explanation why we have so many muscle injuries.” Maybe the doctors with no voice have, who knows? Here’s me thinking somebody could ask them.
For some time now, Bayern are left with Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez in central defense, with the versatile David Alaba surely helping out here and there. There’s still a question mark behind the former two of course, both suffered severe knee-injuries in the past and aren’t exactly back to their best, especially Badstuber lacks crucial game time and has only started in three games this season. Remarkably, Martinez and Badstuber have started only one (!) game together in defense during their time at Bayern.
In the Bundesliga, the Champions will do fine even without Boateng, since the domestic opposition seldomly is a real goal threat to Guardiola’s eleven. But looking at their duel with Juventus and possible future crucial ties in the knock-out round of the Champions League, Boateng’s loss is a heavy blow for Bayern’s European title dreams.
So they might be tempted to make a panic buy in winter, although kicker is insisting “right now” they don’t have any plans to invest in a new defender. There’s still some time left until 1. February to change their minds, tho. The particular problematic is: The new defender should be able to play in the Champions League – therefore many interesting names are automatically crossed off this list already (sorry, Marc Bartra – hello, Joel Matip?).
“We have a problem – but we will find a solution,” Guardiola stated on Friday. For the Catalan, the sorrows and difficulties have just started – after the first game of the new year, mind.
The Pep Episodes is a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.