Bayern München are in not too bad a place at the moment. The iffy preseason shambles has already faded into the past, and Carlo Ancelotti’s men have started well enough.
A 3:1 win in the season opener against Bayer Leverkusen and the weather. A gentle walk in the park in the opening round of the DFB-Pokal. A solid if slightly workmanlike two-goal win against Werder Bremen.
Bayern are slowly building towards full strength. The team has clearly not hit top gear yet, but three wins from three as well as the Super Cup is not exactly a hideous start. If you were a fan of Hamburger SV, you would be shouting for the entire world to hear right now. First round cup defeat against ten-man third tier opposition notwithstanding.
Yet still some people are complaining.
Not enough against Bremen
Over the past seasons, supporters and followers of Die Roten have become rather accustomed to giving poor old Werder Bremen a hiding. After plenty of title battles in the 1980s and 1990s and then their having the temerity to get their fishy hands on the Meisterschale in 2005, the green-whites have since been subjected to what can only be described as relentless footballing torture.
Bayern’s last defeat against Werder was back in September 2008 (the less said about that, the better). Before the last encounter, they had gone seventeen matches unbeaten. The latest 2:0 win extended this spell to eighteen matches, and also made it fourteen wins on the bounce. An extraordinary run that has seen the Bavarians rack up scorelines of 7:0, 6:0 (twice), 6:1 and 5:0.
So you can understand why some people may have been a little hacked off with only a 2:0 win.
Frustrating and tedious
Yes, the game was not the best we have seen. Bayern were messy at times, lacking coordination in the midfield and punch up front. But this had a lot to do with Bremen’s approach, which was to pack everybody behind the ball. It was frustrating and tedious to watch, but games against teams that adopt this approach are nearly always frustrating and tedious to watch.
After going behind with eighteen minutes left on the clock, the home side had to open up a bit. Given more space, Bayern doubled their advantage within three minutes. Cue Bremen then deciding that a two-goal deficit was a little too much to overcome, and their putting the cork back in the bottle again.
With Alexander Nouri’s side happy to take a 2:0 defeat, the final fifteen minutes was just as tedious as the opening seventy-two. If I was a Bremen fan, I would have been happy with that. Especially with the 6:0 pummelling at the Weserstadion last season.
Apart from that lovely three-minute burst and two very well-taken goals from Robert Lewandowski, we could have been watching paint dry. Indeed, where I was, there were more people staring at their beer glasses than watching the big screen.
Tommy, Tommy, Tommy
Naturally, the discussion turned to the coach, and to Thomas Müller. Sparking another instalment of the ongoing debate about Tommy’s place in Ancelotti’s hard-coded system. Müller himself had a few words to say immediately after the match about his not being “100% in demand”, but it was not exactly signalling a move to Manchester United or Paris St. Qatar.
Fans will always have this discussion, and naturally the pundits and commentators will follow. It is true that the role of the flexible Raumdeuter is not a natural fit into Carletto’s more ordered approach, but by the same token it is not an outward rejection. Yet this is what we are seeing from some who have decided to throw their two Pfennigs worth in.
Many Bundesliga-watchers have been obsessing about Barcelona’s stitch-up job on Borussia Dortmund to secure the services of Ousmane Dembélé. Meanwhile, there has been little to gossip about in Munich. Apart from the ongoing chit-chat about the future of Renato Sanches, there have been few tales worthy of the attention of the yellow press.
Step in pot-stirrer in chief Lothar Matthäus, with more outlandish and unsubstantiated claims.
Matthäus: the empty vessel
In a story that has repeated by a number of outlets, Matthäus has foisted all of the blame for Tommy’s poor form on the coach. He even goes so far as the suggest that Müller “needs a coach who wants him”. In doing this, Matthäus is not only highlighting a problem that doesn’t exist; he is also ignoring the fact that Müller’s malaise actually started at the tail end of the 2015-16 season, kicking in to full effect at Euro 2016.
Before Carlo Ancelotti had even arrived in Munich.
The reality is that Müller is still wanted and needed at Bayern. This has been made clear by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Ancelotti himself and newly appointed director of sport Hasan Salihamidžić. Tommy clearly has to work a little harder, but he is far from being surplus to requirements. Being “not 100% in demand” is not quite the same thing as being “not wanted”.
Matthäus may have been a great player and a legend on the pitch, but as a coach he left plenty to be desired. As a pundit, he is little more than extraneous noise. He is the last person who should be telling an experienced title-winner like Ancelotti how to deal with his team. Yet, he commands a ridiculously disproportionate amount of media attention.
He is little more than an empty vessel.