In September, the start under Niko Kovač looked very good. A victory against Augsburg would have resulted in a new record start for a Bayern coach and after almost 80 minutes the reds were in the lead 1-0 after a partially dominant performance. But then there was a corner for Augsburg and of all the people the world, Neuer let the ball sail through his hands. Curiously, it was the ex-Bayern player Felix Götze who reacted the fastest to make it 1:1. It would mark the end of the good phase.
Squandering Leads as a Hobby
From the next three games, the Munich team scored only one point, and that in the Champions League. Against Berlin and Mönchengladbach they even suffered heavy defeats without scoring a goal of their own.
Including the game against Augsburg, Bayern have already failed to win six games this season in which they were leading. Three times aginst Augsburg, Freiburg and Düsseldorf – the clear underdogs equalized in the last ten minutes. In their home match against Ajax in the Champions League, they ceased their attack after their early goal and were satisfied with the draw. In the return match they lead twice yet still failed to get the win due to a 95th minute equalizer from the Amsterdam team to make it 3:3.
In the big game against Dortmund they again managed to take the lead twice, conceding equalizers shortly after and ultimately losing. However, the real low point came after the international break when they managed to blow a two goal lead at home against Düsseldorf.
Only on the third matchday were the Reds able to turn a deficit into a victory when Wendell’s early goal for Leverkusen was turned into a 3-1 victory. Another two times, the record champions managed to take home the victory after an equalizer from their opponent, most recently against Bremen.
Close games as a Trademark
Michael Karbach (@BStat) compiles various statistics on the Bundesliga on Twitter and in his blog. Most recently, he has been looking at and compiling especially close games. A close game is defined as a match in which the difference of the expected goal values is below 0.75.
The graphs show for the last three seasons as well as for the current season which team scored how many points in the close games. This value is compared to the maximum points that can be achieved. The bar length in the picture represents this percentage.
If you take a look at the graphs, you will immediately notice that FC Bayern’s performance this year is significantly worse than in previous seasons. FC Bayern were clearly in the top group in the last three seasons with 63% (15/16), 63& (16/17) and 79% (17/18).
In the current season, on the other hand, as of the 12th matchday Bayern were at just 33% or 11th place. The current leader of the table, Dortmund, leads the list at 83%.
In addition, it is striking that Bayern had played the least amount of close games in previous years. Only nine, eight and eight close matches over the entire season or 23% of the matches, which speaks to a dominant football with many goal chances and clear victories. Under Kovač on the other hand, the Bavarians have already played four close games after twelve matches. This corresponds to 33% of all matches.
Chance of a Turnaround
But what can be derived from these statistics? The entire team seems to lack the self-confidence and dominance of recent years. The individual errors that lead to conceded goals can unsettle players, parts of the team or even the whole team.
While in earlier years the team radiated a self-confidence and certainty of victory that made opponents freeze in awe, today even underdogs still believe they have a chance. Those who annoyed Bayern under Heynckes or Guardiola often had to go home with a heavy thumping. Anyone who has been annoying to the Munichers under Kovač so far can realistically hope for points.
After so many years full of titles, is there a certain level of satisfaction in the Bayern squad? Do the players lack a nagger, who even after tight games, puts his finger in the wound instead of praising the players exuberantly?
Attempting to judge things happening behind the scene from the outsides is always difficult. Nevertheless, the picture that the public has built certainly allows room for criticism of the leadership. They missed their chance to build something new this summer with a more systematic upheaval. They missed the opportunity bring in someone who at time, when appropriate, addresses uncomfortable truths in public.
Nevertheless, Kovač is now faced with the task of mentally rebuilding the team. The willingness to do so exists in the team, as Robben proved in his interview with us or Kimmich did after the match in Bremen. The team and certainly also the coaching staff are waiting for a liberating performance, which this team is of course still capable of. One dominating performance could herald a much needed turnaround.
Links of the Week
An indepth examination of Bayern’s financial accounts | The Swiss Ramble
Who are the best finishers in contemporary football? | Barça Números
Remembering Giovane Élber, Bayern Munich’s Rampant Brazilian Legend | Jon Radcliffe | thesefootballtimes
When a Rampant Bayern Munich Tore up the Script at Cruyff’s Ajax Farewell | Dan Billingham | The Set Pieces
What happened to the Bundesliga? | Dan Altman | North Yard Analytics
Allianz Arena introduces innovative systems | FC Bayern
A mad, mad night in the ‘Dam: Bayern share the spoils in six-goal thriller with Ajax | Rick Joshua | Red Ramblings
Club Crawl: Bayern Fan Club India | Maurice
Mailbag Special: Governance of Clubs | Christian | Sam