February MSR Roundtable Part 2

miasanrot Separator February 21, 2024

This article written by Lok San Wong
This article was also written prior to the news breaking regarding Tuchel leaving at the end of the year.

Question 1

As it stands, Bayern have not only failed to show a strong reaction to their recent form, if anything they sunk even deeper into crisis mode. What do you think has gone wrong and led to this situation?

Lok San: The tactics, coaching choices and individual mistakes in those games have already been discussed by my colleagues but perhaps even more than the losses, it’s the manner in which we lost that annoys me the most. We simply never looked like winning any of these three games, except maybe during the first 15 minutes of the Bochum match. We might be unlucky with the injuries but still, this squad of players should be good enough to do much better than what they showed. With the exception of a couple of players, the team played most of those games with no intensity, no fire, no freedom nor creativity and certainly no joy. I can’t remember a Bayern team as soulless as this one at the moment. 

Rainer: I think it is a problem that goes all the way to the top of the club and stretches back. At the same time that Tuchel is making poor decisions, and we have many individual mistakes on the field, I also think that a lot of the issues we are seeing every game comes back from the way that the squad was built. Everyone could see in the previous two seasons that the team needed a more defensive midfield and nothing was done. Everyone could see that the defense was seriously neglected, and then in January the club needed to run until the last minute in January to fill the gaps and with that, not giving much time for the newcomers to settle in. Also with the way that the previous director gave huge contracts to other senior players and basically promised them that they would start all matches, we have turmoil everytime someone doesn’t start or is taken out early. With the Bayern “philosophy” of not giving coaches the right to decide, we also don’t have a team that fits Tuchels idea, at the same we didn’t have a team that completely fit Nagelsmann’s plans back then. 

Add all of this to a coach that seems lost in his decisions, and lost the confidence of the squad, plus players playing badly for a long period and losing confidence, that’s the result we see now, game in, game out. 

Pepe: The sheer amount of injured players conditions the squad selection and the tactical approach. This has been happening since the first half of the season, where we even saw Goretzka and Laimer playing as improvised CBs. Last match vs Bochum, we also saw a lack of confidence that translated into Bayern underperforming their xG with Bochum doing the opposite. Upamecano’s 2nd red card + penalty combo was really unfortunate but may also indicate he is, yet again, struggling with self confidence.

Besides injuries and lack of rotations, at the moment it’s difficult to see what Bayern is trying to do in the attacking phase, with Tuchel making weird squad choices, like playing Choupo, Müller and Kane together, when it has never worked. This would be an ideal moment to give Tel a chance to play on the wing. Bayern currently, due to injuries, lacks players that can overlap so it’s strange to see Tuchel not playing at least one of his winger substitutes. 

If we go further back, when evaluating this injury, performance, and squad depth crisis, we could also point to failed transfer windows, where Bayern let go of four defenders and only bought one (then Dier and Boey in the winter). The lack of defensive midfielders is also important. Tuchel begged for a real defensive midfielder since he arrived and at the moment it’s hard to disagree that he was right in wanting one in the first place. This current crisis not only depends on Tuchel, but also on the board for not making the right signings, and on the squad for playing very poor football. There’s no single scapegoat to sacrifice and no magic fix for this team. Bringing back Hansi Flick or Solksjaer as an interim won’t change the deep troubles this team has. The midfield seems to be having some of its worst performances in years, with Kimmich and Goretzka on the double pivot contributing little to the attacking and defensive phases, leaving all the work to the attacking and defensive units respectively, so one has to question what their actual role is in this team.

Marc: As everyone has pointed out tactics, form, squad formation, transfer policies and injuries obviously play a massive part. However for me the biggest issue at the moment is their mental state. Every single person in this team looks dejected. There is clearly no confidence in Tuchel or his ideas. There is no belief in one another. They literally look like a group of robots out on a pitch that must stay in their little predesigned area and have no idea what to do when Option A doesn’t work. Unfortunately, I think things have gone too far for Tuchel to fix them at this point. Whether the team is in actual open revolt or not, he has seemingly lost the dressing room. Once that happens, there is almost no way to recover.

Question 2

The club has now publicly backed Tuchel and confirmed that he will at minimum be in charge for the Leipzig game. Their intention is to keep him in place at least until the end of the season although they are said to be evaluating the situation game after game. Do you believe this is the right decision? 

Lok San: I don’t think it is. While Tuchel is neither the only nor the biggest problem at the club right now, he’s undoubtedly a significant problem. Don’t get me wrong, the players must bear the responsibility as well. Regardless of what you think of the coach and what the circumstances are, you have to play for the badge first and foremost. 

That being said, it’s his job to get the most of his players and set them up in the best possible way. Since his arrival, he hasn’t improved any players (except maybe Sané for the first half of the season). Week after week, he persists with the same players and the same decisions, unless forced by injuries, even though they produce nothing but underwhelming performances. Most of all, his man management has been hugely problematic in my view. While it is glaringly obvious that this team consistently lacked leadership and drive on the pitch, he has consistently overlooked the players that actually show those qualities like Müller, De Ligt and Tel. 

Letting go of Tuchel isn’t going to solve everything but the disconnect between him and the players can’t be more evident. There are many things to fix, including undoing some of the bad squad planning decisions of recent years but I don’t believe that Tuchel can be part of the solution moving forward. Things have gotten far too toxic and nothing can be solved properly until the air is cleared. 

Rainer: Not really, but it is also hard to find alternatives. I think it would be best for everyone, including Tuchel, to part ways. But at the same time who would accept the current position as a caretaker until the end of the season? I don’t see any top level coach accepting this, especially with Bayern not being a clear contender for any titles. At the same time, I don’t see any coach in the club, assistant or at Bayern II, who would be able to take the current squad, at the level that they are, and do better. So, while I don’t agree with the decision of keeping Tuchel in the current scenario, I also understand it.   

Pepe: I think keeping Tuchel is the right decision, at least until the summer. Coaches in Bayern average one or two seasons and then they’re sacked. If the board sacks another manager mid-season, it sends two very negative messages: 1) A message to the players: That the club works for them (instead of the opposite), and perpetuates a vicious cycle where players dislike their manager, get him sacked, perform well for a season or so, and then do the same again to the next guy in charge. This keeps the team from building an identity other than the players that are on the pitch.

2) It also sends a very negative message to future managers. Which manager is going to want to sign with Bayern knowing they will last one or two seasons, with no support from the board, having to deal with players with immature attitudes and lots of influence on club decisions? Which elite manager would be able to implement an attractive type of football if they’re given one season to get it going or they’re out? If we think of Pep, Klöpp or Arteta, they all had time and were backed by their bosses despite the pressure. Even Inzaghi at Inter. Right now, it seems both Bayern and Liverpool want Xabi. Who will he choose? A club that backs their manager despite pressure from fans and media, that lets him develop a style and players and has patience to see results? Or a club that will sack him whenever he loses one or two matches, or whenever the German press and fans call for his head? Or even worse, whenever he dares to question some players’ level and their roles in the squad? 

If Bayern sacks Tuchel mid-season, I fear no elite coach will want to come to this club, and we will be stuck with the Mourinho’s and Contés of football. In 2013 Pep arrived at Munich to an attractive long term project. After 3 years he completed his contract and left. Besides him, not even guys like Ancelotti or Heynckes lasted more than two seasons. It’s been 10 years like this, maybe more. Even Flick, who won the sextuple, quit. In 2024, what kind of project does Bayern have to offer to a manager, based on the long list of elite coaches that have been sacked and received little to no support in the short period they spent at the club?

Marc: I do not think it’s the right decision because of the reasons I mentioned in the first question. Regardless of the optics or options, things appear to have reached a level where there is no recovery. If they lose against Leipzig and get bounced from the Champions League, I really can’t see them sticking with Tuchel till the end of the season. Both of those results seem reasonably likely. At some point they’ll likely even have to worry about Champions League qualification. A loss at the weekend would leave them with only a 7 point difference between themselves and Leipzig in 5th. Yes that’s still a pretty large gap, but at the rate they’re dropping points, that’s also pretty small. 

Question 3

Bayern will welcome Leipzig at home on Saturday. The reverse fixture in September ended in a 2-2 draw. After that, Lazio will come to Munich on March 5th as Bayern has to overcome the first leg defeat (1-0). Do you see a path for Bayern to turn things around? What do you think are the changes that are needed? Do you believe Saturday will be the last chance for Thomas Tuchel? 

Lok San: I genuinely believe we could turn things around but that has to start with finding ways to get the team out of this negative mindset. This could be an important stepping stone for some longer term changes in the summer. In the meantime, I think a few changes in the line-up are absolutely needed, mainly to bring some players with fresher and less heavy minds. With the current injuries, Kimmich will probably drop down at right-back. I would start De Ligt in central defense with Kim, and Guerreiro at left-back. If Pavlović is fit I would go with Pavlović-Dier in midfield or Dier-Goretzka if he’s not. In attack, I would start Tel, Müller and either Musiala or Zaragoza with Kane upfront. For the Lazio game, it’s a must win at home. If the team with a changed personnel can put on a good performance against Leipzig, we should build on that. 

I think if we lose the Leipzig game it could well be the last straw for Tuchel and in my opinion it should be. 

Rainer: I don’t see Bayern turning things around this season at all. But unless we have another Leipzig pounding at the Allianz Arena, I also don’t see Tuchel leaving before the Lazio match. But, maybe the current injuries at right back could be a blessing in disguise, with Kimmich going to the right-back position, or a three at the back similar to the one that Nagelsmann used to do. In the end, I think we will grind out until the end of the season, with Tuchel having some draws and wins securing the second place in the Bundesliga, and with some luck going to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and then in the summer we are going to have a change on the whole coaching staff and, hopefully, also a big change in the current squad.

Pepe: I think this squad is set on losing to get Tuchel sacked and it will happen either after the RB Leipzig or the Lazio match. These players should be able to perform decently even with no manager, but it seems they don’t want to track back, they’re not winning 1v1s, they’re missing clear chances, or not generating chances at all.

I think the downward spiral will continue until the coach gets sacked, and then, “miraculously”, the team will go back to performing more or less well, at least until they get tired of the new manager. If some of the players in this team acted like professionals, I would have no doubt that they could beat Leipzig and Lazio and even try to make a decent run for the league title, but based on their recent performances, it seems they have little to no interest in playing like a team.

All I see are players with a “not my job” attitude, no winning team mentality, just apathy and even laziness. I feel bad for our CBs having to cover half the pitch and sprint like crazy because whenever there’s a counter no one tracks back. It’s depressing to see Müller trying to get his teammates to move forward and then they just play backwards passes. It’s frustrating to see players like Tel on the bench, while others under perform but can’t be benched for some unknown reason.

Saturday will probably be the last day we see Tuchel on the Bayern bench, and while some fans and pundits will celebrate, this will not be not good news for the long term, rather, it will be a continuation of a vicious cycle where Bayern can’t really build a project or an identity because the board and the players have a hard time not getting what they want as soon as possible. 

Marc: I wouldn’t say there is no way for things to turn around but I do think it’s extremely unlikely. Realistically, just picking a squad at this point is both easy and hard. Easy because you have such limited options, but hard because those options don’t fit particularly well together. There are very few options to provide any width on the pitch and the players the have in attack have not been able to break down their opposition in quite a while at this point. Couple that with the fact that the players are not playing with any kind of confidence and the opposition they’ll face are both good and tasting blood in the water and things could get ugly over the next two weeks. As Rainer said, I think most likely Tuchel makes it to the Lazio match at least baring a massive collapse against Leipzig. However, if he loses both matches, I think it is almost unimaginable that Bayern will stick with him.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Any update on this given his “dismissal” or really lame duck status? I don’t understand the board at all. They make a half move and then pressure the players to perform. I’d prefer if they had not announced this as I don’t see how it helps anything at all. The longer this goes on, I feel like it just shows how much this is really on the board.

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