Blundering Bayern collapse to first home defeat against clinical Mönchengladbach

We keep hoping for a turnaround, but it is not happening. After the dire Champions League display against Ajax, a feeble FC Bayern München were outclassed by a clinically efficient Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Allianz Arena. For coach Niko Kovač, things go from bad to worse.

After four Bundesliga match days, all was running smoothly. Three further weeks in, and things cannot be more different. For some, the wheels are starting to come off in Munich. Once again, the Bavarians dominated possession and piled up the passes, but drew a blank in front of goal. Meanwhile, opponents Borussia Mönchengladbach made the most of every opportunity to claim their first away win since February.

Strong starting XI

Niko Kovač has always shown that he is his own man. The policy of continuous squad rotation has been a feature of his tenure so far, and he has always stood by his selections. However, there is a strong argument to suggest that today’s starting eleven was a direct response to criticism following the 1:1 draw against Ajax in midweek.

Jérôme Boateng, error-prone against both Hertha BSC and Ajax, was replaced by Niklas Süle. Javi Martínez, described by many as ponderous and ineffective, was benched in favour of summer arrival Leon Goretzka. Franck Ribéry, widely criticised for his performance in midweek, made way for James Rodríguez.

The coach would maintain his faith in Arjen Robben, meaning that there was a rather lop-sided look to the team. In choosing to start with both James and Thomas Müller, it might have made more sense to bench the Dutchman, and have the underused Serge Gnabry out on the left.

Nevertheless, Bayern started well enough. They were quick to establish a rhythm, and their passing was quick and purposeful.

A Pléa for help

Bayern’s early dominance did not last for long.

Despite their well-established woes away from home, Gladbach have been something of a bogey team for die Roten. It took just ten minutes for Dieter Hecking’s men to take the lead.

Collecting the ball from the industrious Jonas Hofmann after skipper Lars Stindl had robbed Süle, Frenchman Alessane Pléa danced his way into a shooting position, and his right-footed shot gave Manuel Neuer no chance.

In a sense, Gladbach’s opening goal showed Bayern just what they have been lacking in recent outings. There was industry from Hofmann, determination from Pléa to create the opportunity, and the finishing boots to find the back of the net.

Yet more errors

Seven minutes later, it got worse. An innocuous short goal-kick from Neuer was completely botched by Thiago, allowing Hofmann to steal the ball and set up another attack for the visitors. Hofmann found Stindl, who doubled his team’s lead with a typically ice-cold finish. For all Thiago’s talent, he continues to be careless on the ball.

The Bayern coach is under immense pressure already, and yet another slack moment of sloppiness from one of his star players was the last thing he needed. This was compounded by the lack of urgency and edge further up the pitch. Thomas Müller was guilty of trying too hard, while James and Robben were completely anonymous.

As for Robert Lewandowski, he might as well have not been there at all.

For a Bayern team that has struggled to turn chances into goals since the end of September, overturning a two-goal deficit was always going to be a tough ask. As the team headed off the pitch at half-time, the reception from some sections of the home crowd was far from encouraging.

Out of gas, out of luck

Changes were made at the break, but they were curious at best. Rather than balance things out, the coach swapped two right-sided players for two left-sided ones. Robben, one of Bayern’s better players, made way for Franck Ribéry. Meanwhile Serge Gnabry, replacing Müller, was shunted out to the right flank. The upside was that the 23-year-old was one of the few bright sparks for the Bavarians.

The coach’s problems were not helped by the withdrawal of David Alaba after 55 minutes with a suspected hamstring problem. The Austrian’s exit, apart from the obvious possibility of his being added to the long-term injury list, also meant that the already ineffective Ribéry was reduced to an inconsequential blob of rage. The Frenchman offered nothing, save for a yellow card for yet another gormless display of dissent.

Despite the enforced changes, Bayern did make a better fist of things in the final quarter of the match. Lewandowski even had the ball in the back of the Gladbach net, only to be flagged offside. The decision was tight, but correct.

At the end approached, Bayern were reduced to hitting and hoping. It was painful to watch. If the performance can be bottled down to one moment, it was when Goretzka was penalised for a foul throw after 76 minutes.

Two minutes before the end of the ninety, die Fohlen finally put the bruised and battered Bavarians out of their misery. There was more than a suggestion of handball from sub Patrick Herrmann before he curled the ball past Neuer, but the video referee saw no reason to rule out the goal.

Bayern had run out of gas, and were clearly also out of luck.

Negative reception

Not surprisingly, there was a negative reception from many home fans after the final whistle. Some players, such as Joshua Kimmich, were quick to fire back and back the coach.

Bayern have been dominant for the past six years in the Bundesliga, and fans that have been weaned on this long trail of success are always the first to turn their coats inside out. It is essential that this nonsense is quelled as quickly as possible. Either this, or they should take their leave and start following Plastic St. Germain.

Yes, the coach needs to sort things out. But the team that was picked today was more or less the lineup that had been suggested by many critics after the Ajax game. It is up to the players to deliver when they are out on the pitch, and there is little the coach can do once the whistle blows. For one, Kovač cannot possibly be made to foot the blame for sloppy mistakes.

Once again, Bayern dominated the numbers. 60% possession. 735 passes to 284. A pass completion percentage of 90%. If one pass among the errant ten percent results in a goal for the opposition, can the coach be blamed for that?

As for those who may be responsible for causing unrest in the dressing room, my best advice as a supporter would be for them to shut up and get on with the job. Many of those responsible for the moaning were out on the pitch today, and the collective performance was arguably the worst of the season so far.

Our duty as Bayern fans

FC Bayern München is far bigger than any player, and this should also apply to the fly-by-night Erfolgsfans who choose to jeer and whistle the team rather than offer encouragement.

This is what all of the other teams in the Bundesliga have had to put up with over the years. If we can dish it out, we have to learn to take it too. Rather than acting like spoiled children, the answer is to remain dignified. As fans, we are with the team. It is at moments like this where we have to stick together.

Weil wir in guten wie in schlechten Zeiten zu einander stehen – remember that?

There will be plenty of banter from Dortmund supporters over the next couple of weeks. If things continue as they are, this could last for even longer. We just have to take it on the chin.

I am far from happy doing it, but the only answer is to suck it up and give credit where it is due. In coming back from two goals down in Leverkusen and fighting tooth and claw until the very end against the same resilient Augsburg side that had carried out that late smash and grab in Munich, Dortmund have shown that they could be a genuine challenge this season.

Yes, we are all disappointed. Yes, we have a right to be concerned at what is going on right now in Munich. But allowing even more negative energy to filter down on to the pitch and straight to the players through social media is not going to help matters.

This has been one horrible Oktoberfest period for FC Bayern. If there is one saving grace, it is that we now have some time off with the international break.

Statistical Summary

FC Bayern München – Borussia Mönchengladbach 0:3 (0:2)
– / Pléa 10., Stindl 17., Herrmann 88.

FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba (55. Renato Sanches) – Thiago – Müller (46. Gnabry), Goretzka – Robben (46. Ribéry), James – Lewandowski

Mönchengladbach: Sommer – Lang, Ginter, Elvedi, Wendt – Kramer – Neuhaus (74. Herrmann), Hofmann – Hazard (83. Traoré), Pléa – Stindl (c) (66. Zakaria)

Referee: Frank Willenborg (Osnabrück)
Attendance: 75,000

Yellow Cards: Ribéry 56. / Hofmann 78., Zakaria 90.+1.
Red Cards: – / –

Shots: 14 / 7
Passes: 735 / 284
Completed Passes: 664 / 197
Pass Success: 90% / 69%
Possession: 60% / 40%
Fouls: 7 / 5
Offsides: 10 / 2
Corners: 1 / 3