Malaise in Mainz
Thomas Tuchel went into the match today with a very different lineup featuring Yann Sommer, Josip Stanišić, Dayot Upamecano, Matthijs de Ligt, Joāo Cancelo, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Alphonso Davies, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Müller and Sadio Mané.
The match started off reasonably comfortably for the Bavarians as they had very little difficulty controlling possession and keeping Mainz pinned well into their own half.
However the all too familiar issues with creating real chances and converting them to goals continued. Until the 29th minute when Cancelo played in a very nice cross to Mané, who managed to stay onside, for an easy head in 0-1.
This goal finally snapped the 519 minute drought of scoring from the offensive unit. More importantly, it looked at first like it might snap them out of their funk all together as the next phase was all relatively positive prior to the end of the half.
The second half however would ultimately take any positive gains that Bayern might have made and brutally smash them back to reality. In the 65th minute, Mainz leveled through a poorly parried ball by Sommer that fell directly to Ajorque who easily headed the rebound past the goalkeeper 1-1.
From there it was all Mainz. In the 73rd minute Barreiro hit a low ball into corner to make it 2-1 and just six minutes later Caricol would put the match to bed with a nice strike to the bottom right hand corner 3-1.
This match saw Bayern reach a new low. This was alway going to be a bit of a tough match given the disappointment of the last couple weeks and especially Wednesday. It’s hard to maintain focus and energy under these circumstances.
The way in which they lost however was disconcerting. This match didn’t feel like a stumble, it felt like a finishing blow. It was almost as though Mainz toyed with Bayern letting them go up, start to feel comfortable and maybe a little more confident before pulling the rug from underneath them and absolutely destroying them.
After the first goal went in, things completely fell apart. You could see it in the reactions from all the players. You could see it in their body language and expressions. This was a team that had reached their limit in demoralization.
The remaining half hour seemed inevitable. This side is no longer filled with players who believe when things aren’t going their way. They don’t react well to adversity.
Which leads to the inevitable question of leadership. Who exactly are the leaders within Bayern right now? Not just the team, but the entire organization.
Leadership and stability start at the top of any organization. The actions of Kahn, Hainer and Salihamidžić on March 24th destabilized every part of Bayern. At the time, nearly every supporter was baffled by the timing. In hindsight that bewilderment is more than justified.
Bayern look like a team scrambling, trying to figure out who they are and what their identity is. Just a little under a month ago, this was a team that were the clear favorites in two of the three competitions they were still in and one of the teams capable of winning the third.
But that’s what happens when you create chaos and that’s exactly what they did. And now a team that is already without its captain is forced to deal with a coaching change at the most critical point of the season.
In the team, the problems have been simmering for a long time. Neuer is a stable presence but they have lacked a clear on-field leader since Lahm retired. Müller has done his best to fill that role but his personality is really suited more to a support role behind another leader.
I had hoped that Kimmich might be that person, but even I’m starting to question whether that is the best long term option. There are seemingly too many cliques and factions within this squad and they desperately need someone who can bring them all together, at least on the pitch.
Perhaps de Ligt can eventually become that player. His performances have at least been stable throughout this run of misery. He has been one of the few players who has kept his cool, played well and never really looked completely dejected by circumstances.
But whoever it might be, Bayern have to recapture that mentality and leadership that they’ve had for most of the club’s existence. Until they do, it’s hard to see them keeping up with the elite teams in Europe and maybe even some of the better ones domestically.
Finally, one thing that has become abundantly clear over recent weeks is that this is no longer a team. This is a squad filled with very talented individuals, but with no cohesion.
I think some of this is new, but the vast majority I think is not. We’ve been aware of the growing differences between certain players for quite some time. It’s just that their individual abilities largely masked the fact that things were getting as bad as they were.
Especially in the attacking half, there seems to be massive problems in communication and connectivity. Worst of all, not only do the players not seem to trust the others any more but they also don’t trust themselves.
Every player that has been on the pitch recently has world class talent. They all have the ability to play at nearly any club in the world. Yet very few of them consistently show that ability on the pitch and the teamwork is almost nonexistent.
So what we’re left with is yet another dimension that the Board and Tuchel need to solve in the summer. As talented as all these players are individually, if they are not working together it’s completely irrelevant.
They need to try to make sure that whichever players are sold, kept and brought in all make sense together. That the players compliment each other. That there is a clearly defined hierarchy. And maybe most importantly, that there is consistency and stability.