Please can we have our money back? Three takeaways from FC Bayern v SC Freiburg
Not everything is down to Niko Kovač, but even the most sympathetic supporter has to agree that things are starting to look shaky for the coach.
For as long as we all can remember, the Allianz Arena has been a fortress for FC Bayern. Before setting foot on the Fröttmaning turf, opposing teams would often feel that the game was already lost.
This no longer holds true.
Bayern have failed to register a win in front of their home fans since the middle of September, when Bayer Leverkusen were dispatched in what were better times for the Bavarian club and coach Niko Kovač. Since then, we have seen draws against FC Augsburg, Ajax and now SC Freiburg, as well as that horrid 0:3 defeat against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
At four matches, it is the longest winless run since the new stadium opened in the autumn of 2005. In fact, it is Bayern’s most barren home run since the winter of 2001, when they strung together four successive draws at the old Olympiastadion.
Not for the first time this season, Die Roten dominated the statistics. They had 78 percent of the ball, and racked up 722 passes to their Freiburg’s 277. They completed 89 percent of their passes compared to their opponents’ 73. The corner count was 14 against two.
If possession and passing won football matches, the Bavarians would have a perfect record this season. But once again, their profligacy in the final third would be their undoing.
Bayern had hit the headlines with their Halloween party shenanigans, and there was an obvious horror hangover in front of goal. Robert Lewandowski had a bit of a nightmare, fluffing an excellent opportunity in the first half and letting a couple of other half-chances pass him by. Arjen Robben was practically a spectator, and Freiburg had certainly done their homework.
The one bright spark was Serge Gnabry, who gave Bayern an 80th-minute lead with his first goal as a Bayern player. But even he has a lot of work to do. The 23-year-old winger was the most dangerous player in a red shirt, but he lost the ball far too often.
If Bayern were misfiring in front of goal, there was an equally familiar script at the back. Freiburg had offered next to nothing all game, but a lack of coordination at the back between Niklas Süle and Jérôme Boateng allowed Lucas Höler to sneak between them a minute from time.
Niko Kovač has copped a lot of criticism over the last couple of months, and plenty of Bayern fans have vented their opinions. I have opted for a more measured approach, but have to admit that even my patience is starting to thin a little.
The biggest story before kickoff was to shift Joshua Kimmich into the six slot, which elicited mixed reviews. I had no problem with this. With Thiago Alcântara and Corentin Tolisso both out injured, the coach had little choice. Kimmich has played this role for Germany, and Rafinha is a more than adequate filler at right-back.
More questionable was the change made just after the hour mark, when the ineffective Robben was subbed out for Franck Ribéry. The Frenchman had been exceptionally poor in the cup tie against SV Rödinghausen, and to see him run onto the pitch with Thomas Müller still on the bench was, well, bizarre. Added to the fact that he added nothing.
When Müller was eventually brought on, it was for James Rodríguez – who had been one of the better players (relatively speaking) for the Bavarians.
The decision to switch goalscorer Gnabry for Leon Goretzka might have made sense against a stronger opponent, but here it smacked of negativity. Here was the scenario: FC Bayern, at home, against SC Freiburg. Not Dortmund, Real Madrid or Barcelona, but the mighty Breisgauer.
If anything, this was a white flag moment from Niko. Freiburg decided to give it a shot, and were duly – and deservedly – rewarded.