Dortmund brought out the worst in the self-destructing Bayern

Bayern Munich
Photo: BTA

The hegemon of the last 11 years in Germany, Bayern Munich, officially abdicates from the title race in the Bundesliga, although it was already lost. This happened after the defeat against their major rival Borussia Dortmund with a score of 0-2 in the midst of the Allianz Arena, combined with Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim. The gap at the top is now 13 points with only seven rounds remaining in the season. Whatever glimmer of hope Bayern might have had for a 12th consecutive Bundesliga title has now been extinguished.

But Bayern’s defeat against an opponent they easily defeated in the title race over the years showed how fragile this team has become. The loss was very painful and grim. However, it was entirely deserved and brutally honest.

However, Dortmund is unlikely to celebrate this success too much because they are not having their best year either. Nevertheless, they needed the three points to secure their place in the Champions League zone. However, it’s worth noting that Edin Terzic’s team was better in almost every aspect: they were more dangerous in front of the goal, more stable in defense, faster, and more lethal on the counterattack. Bayern wasn’t just chasing their opponent; they seemed to have surrendered.

This was the evening that revealed just how massive the reconstruction in Munich needs to be. While Leverkusen under Shabi Alonso is making history in Germany this season, Bayern fans are already talking about how it won’t be long before the Bavarians are all-powerful again, and their rivals will have to reckon with them. At this moment, that seems extremely naive. It’s easy to imagine Bayern winning the Bundesliga again, but their dominance and status built across Europe seem hardly attainable. In the Champions League, they’ll face Arsenal in the quarter-finals, a team they’re accustomed to humiliating. But now, at the Allianz Arena, they’ll go into this clash infinitely more concerned. Anything other than a victory for the Gunners would be a surprise, showing just how worn out Bayern has become…

This isn’t a sudden decline but rather the culmination of a fading team. In each of the previous four seasons, Bayern’s points tally in the Bundesliga has been on a downward trend: 82 in 2019/2020, 78 in 2020/2021, 77 in 2021/2022. Against the backdrop of the events of the final day of last season – Dortmund’s collapse against Mainz, the sackings of Hasan Salihamidzic and Oliver Kahn – it remained somewhat sidelined that with 71 points, Bayern recorded their lowest result since 2011 when they finished third.

For some time now, things have been getting worse and worse. Like a boxer facing off without a worthy opponent, Bayern’s standards are slipping. The chemistry that made them so great, that gave them the energy of the Milan of the 80s or the Manchester United of the 90s, is slowly dissipating. Poor decisions across various issues are also at the root of these problems. This has left them exposed to the impact of their aging core, and ultimately, they yielded their place to perfection in Leverkusen under Alonso.

This year will be quiet in Bavaria. There’s no other alternative but to face the decline of this team and acknowledge that the same shortcomings repeat themselves in every big match Bayern plays this season. The Bavarians are infinitely vulnerable when put under pressure and against offensively oriented teams with a lot of energy. The inability of their midfield line to secure the loose defense, especially against fast counter-attacks, seems like an indelible weakness.

It’s hard to imagine that at the start of the season, anyone would have said we’d see such a serious decline, especially after the record purchase of Harry Kane. The England captain might be one of the few bright spots for Bayern this season, and while the top scorer is close to improving Robert Lewandowski’s record in his first season in the Bundesliga, it would hardly be accepted in the manner it deserves.

Bayern has shown its weaknesses in the biggest matches this season so far. This was evident in the shocking 0-3 loss in the Super Cup to RB Leipzig in August, as well as in the two league matches against Leverkusen. In the first match in Munich, where they were outplayed but managed to scrape a point, and in the second at the Allianz Arena, where they were not only outplayed but also brutally humiliated.

The only exception was their 4-0 victory over Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park in November. But again, we have to note – an exception! This was the only moment that soothed Bayern’s ego this season. The match showed that the Bavarians can be strong despite their flaws.

But the defeat at the Allianz Arena last Saturday sent that assertion straight to the bin. Yes, the result could have been completely different. For example, Kane should have scored with a header early in the second half, and in his press conference, Tuchel condemned the decision not to award a penalty for a handball shortly after. Kane’s late strike was then ruled out for offside.

But it’s hard to close our eyes and not acknowledge how easily Karim Adeyemi managed to evade Matthijs de Ligt for the first goal of the match. The youngster is one of the fastest attackers in the Bundesliga, and a defender with the stature of De Ligt should never be left one-on-one with him.

We had to wait a bit longer for the second goal. Sven Ulreich had already made an excellent save before Dortmund transferred the ball into Bayern’s penalty area, where the defenders failed to react, and the forgotten Julian Rierson simply slotted the ball into the net.

Certainly, Dortmund has not been outstanding this season. But the fact that the “yellow-blacks” left with three points and 7,000 traveling fans echoed through the packed Allianz Arena truly tells the story of the evening.

The road back for Bayern is not as simple as some may think. It’s not just about finding and rectifying mistakes by attracting new players. While making the right decisions in this regard is still imperative, they are relatively easy. The more troubling questions require more serious answers. How do we reconcile Joshua Kimmich’s desire to play as a number “6” with his best role in the team, which is at right-back? What should happen with Leon Goretzka? Should Bayern keep Dayot Upamecano, De Ligt, and Kim Min-jae, even though it seems unlikely they can play together?

One of the signs of Bayern’s dysfunction in recent seasons is that, in several cases, the club missed the right moments to sell players. Huge sums could have been obtained for Kimmich and Goretzka a few years ago. The same goes for Goretzka. Now Bayern may part ways with them, but the amount they will receive for them will hardly be laughable compared to what they could have gotten years ago. This only characterizes both the nature and the scale of the upcoming challenge.

Great personalities and leaders age. Others approach the end of their careers at the club for various reasons. There will certainly be significant transfers with the idea that this will be the beginning of a long-term but delicate project. It’s not surprising that it’s far from certain who the right candidate is to replace Thomas Tuchel, who is leaving this summer. Only now is it clear how big and responsible such a position can be in a team like this…

Krasian Mitev
Krasian Mitev
Krasian Mitev is a Bulgarian sports journalist and analyst. He has worked for a number of sports media, including Topsport, Boets, Sportnamasa and many others. Krasian is responsible for a number of football analyzes and previews, as well as the verification of some bookmakers.

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