Preview: What is the meaning of the game against Hoffenheim?

Justin Separator January 26, 2018

During the week I had the choice between a detailed analysis of a thoroughly exciting team – TSG Hoffenheim – or a commentary that questions the fundamentals. Already with the 4-2 against Bremen some thoughts came to my mind.

It has been a really entertaining and exciting game again since a long time. On the one hand because of a strong Werder Bremen, on the other hand because of a weak FC Bayern, who only made it back into the game through will and individual flashes of brilliance – at least.

But what was the significance of all this? The gap has meanwhile grown to absurd 16 points. In January. The blame is often attributed to FC Bayern. Leon Goretzka is the most recent example of the downfall of the Bundesliga.

In Germany, FC Bayern rushes from title to title. Here the record champion celebrates the Supercup.
(Image: Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images )

At least these voices are not entirely wrong. Once again, one of the country’s best footballers has moved on to play for the country’s best club. A natural process as it happens everywhere. Therefore, accusations are also inappropriate. FC Bayern did what they had to do.

However, all of this is becoming a growing problem that the record champion cannot escape. It is also one that does not offer an obvious solution. FC Bayern have escaped the race and there is no longer a natural opponent who can end the championship series.

This in no way diminishes the performance of FC Bayern in recent years. Especially championships with about 90 points and the extremely underrated triumph over Tuchel’s tough BVB filled every FCB fan with pride.

Boredom and no solution

But slowly boredom has reached me, at last. It is difficult to motivate oneself for a competition that is no longer real competition. Last season, the Bavarian team was no longer at the limit and certainly not so in this season. They no longer exploit their potential and yet it is enough. Clearly.

Under Jupp Heynckes, at least a willingness to perform has arisen, which leads to a fundamentally solid situation. But solid can’t be the ambition of a club that wants to be return or remain one of the top five in Europe.

Usually these times of transition, which Bayern has been in for two to three years, were also times of misfortune. Times when the Bundesliga was there to punish or exploit the big club from the south.

There’s really no one there anymore. Borussia Dortmund suffered major setbacks. This includes not only central departures but also a difficult change of coach. The money would at least be there to take the BVB back to second place, but the gap with FC Bayern is growing.

Leipzig was the beneficiary of the situation in Dortmund. But even RB is still far from stable enough to keep up. They are also not protected against drastic transfers. So Keita will leave the club and Werner’s future is not safe. Replacing them will be difficult even for this well-run club. It’s more of a symptom than a hope that they’re almost the last hope of an exciting league.

It would be possible to go through the whole nation, but asking a question of guilt is not the answer. Whether the stars go to Munich, Manchester, Barcelona, Madrid, Turin or London is of secondary importance. The Bundesliga can only keep its top players if they go to FC Bayern. In England, the road to the top involves three, four or five clubs. In Spain there are at least two or three.

The solution may be money. But is that enough? And where is it supposed to come from? Questions that always pose new problems. If one answers with the abolition of the 50+1 rule, fans are rightly anxious about their football as they know it here. Also and especially around their clubs, which could go through similar things like 1860 Munich or Hannover 96.

Would a better distribution of TV money be a solution? Here too, only a “maybe” can be the answer. Of course, the smaller clubs would be strengthened, but FC Bayern will probably be very much ahead of the national competition, even from this source of income.

The result would therefore be very likely that Bayern would continue to regularly win the championship and at the same time the gap to Europe’s leaders would continue to grow. This would mean that the last club from the Bundesliga would not be able to compete.

An interesting consideration is the setting of an upper limit for transfer fees and salaries. Of course, this should apply all over the world. However, there is currently no implementation in sight.

A playoff system has also been discussed several times. Perhaps this would help to find a new champion incorporating a bigger role of luck and the tension would certainly be greater. But the DFB Cup could then be abolished and the traditional league system would be incinerated as well as the notion “most honest title”. Moreover, it wouldn’t change much since FC Bayern would still have by far the biggest chances of winning the title. Does a little more coincidence improve the situation that much? Probably not.

What does FC Bayern care?

The longer I think about it, the more absurd the situation becomes. My club operates in its own league, which is becoming less and less important. For a long time now, the current lead is no longer only to be seen as an outstanding performance by FC Bayern. It is a bad testimony for many former top clubs in Germany, which could not keep their stars and made many mistakes.

At the same time, however, there is also an emphasis on the verb “could”. There was no way to keep them. They often had to watch without a chance. That’s what worries one about the future. Also as a fan of FC Bayern, to which such moments only occur in very few cases.

In an interview with “RTL Nitro”, Mats Hummels spoke indirectly about the fact that the Bundesliga is currently not competitive. He also mentioned tactical deficits. In possession of the ball, most teams couldn’t do much with it. A very accurate analysis of the Pressing League, which has been defending for years, but is not full of creativity.

A change in the playing culture would certainly be good for the league. But even that could disguise the departure of many good players only to some extent. But Hummels’ statements about his own team were much more interesting. At the moment he does not feel that FC Bayern are the absolute favourite for the Champions League title.

The path is extremely long and it is rockier than ever. In the Bundesliga, FC Bayern is not challenged enough. Here and there teams make life difficult for the Reds, but if performances like those against Bremen or in Leverkusen meanwhile suffice to win relatively confidently, then many things go wrong.

One could argue that important players are missing and the team didn’t get out of the winter break. After all, this is a point to be taken into account. But at the end of November and the whole of December things seldom looked different.

Only Bayern are celebrating in the league – most recently in Leverkusen. (Image: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In the last third, the team is more than ever dependent on the creativity of individual minds. Robben and Ribéry can no longer bear this burden and even James, who is outstanding at times, is not capable of doing it alone.

Thiago’s return will further improve Bayern’s playing culture and the increasing form of individual players will also lead to the Reds becoming part of the wider circle of favorites for the Champions League trophy.

But circumstances make it difficult. Week after week, the question of significance arises when FC Bayern plays a Bundesliga match. The result against Hoffenheim has long since become unimportant – a fatal sign. It’s all about getting yourself into the right rhythm for the Champions League round of sixteen to get a good performance.

It would be simpler if everything were already at stake. If Hoffenheim or another team would be sawing at the throne of Bayern. The league is a long way from that. And so the match on Saturday is one that can be interesting in its own right, but it is not a meaningful one and certainly not one that will force FC Bayern to perform at its best.

It is an increasingly greater dilemma for the FCB and the most obvious solutions only lead to further problems. On the one hand, you will have to keep buying the best players of the league in order to be competitive in Europe, and on the other hand you will need a strong Bundesliga to achieve this goal. And the worst thing about it is that the power of the people of Munich is severely limited in this case.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. I really like your articles. However, I must say this: The translations are weak… Most sentences don’t make much sense at all. I happen to speak German so I can switch to the German article. But for your international crowd I’d recommend working out a better system when it comes to translating…

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