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Bundesliga Review – Week 10

“FC Bayern Munich and head coach Niko Kovač part company,” read a statement released by the reigning Bundesliga champions on Sunday evening. The Bavarians had fallen to a 5-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt’s Waldstadion in a display reminiscent of a team with disjointed ideas, ultimately resulting in the sacking of Kovač after just 490 days in charge.

It’s the worst start Bayern Munich have had defensively in the Bundesliga in the past decade, conceding 16 goals in ten Bundesliga games for the first time since Jürgen Klinsmann’s 2008/09 campaign. Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge explained that “there was a need for action” following the poor performances in recent weeks.

Narrow wins against Paderborn, Union Berlin and Olympiacos by a one goal margin and a 2-2 draw to Augsburg isn’t good enough for a team of Bayern’s ability. Their 2-1 defeat at Hoffenheim highlighted numerous defensive mistakes whilst their record this season shows that teams are no longer frightened of Bayern Munich.

After just nine minutes at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, Bayern found themselves down to ten men after Jerome Boateng was shown a red for bringing down Gonçalo Paciência just outside of the box. Filip Kostić capitalised on a wicked deflection 15 minutes later before Djibril Sow doubled Eintracht’s lead. Robert Lewandowski gave Bayern some hope with his 14thgoal of the season just before the break but whatever Kovač said at half-time, it clearly didn’t work.

David Abraham added a third for Eintracht just four minutes into the second half whilst Adi Hütter’s side looked like scoring at every given opportunity. Martin Hinteregger headed in Die Adler’s fourth on the hour mark before the ever-improving Paciência added a fifth late on.

“When we play like we did today, we shouldn’t fear anyone at home,” said Kostić after the game. That victory puts Eintracht to within one point of Bayern Munich, who now sit four points behind leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach. 

The tactical side of Kovač’s game has been under scrutiny from Bayern Munich bosses and players for several months now, particularly after last season’s exit to Liverpool in the Champions League. “You can’t lose 5-1 here, even with ten men. That’s disappointing,” said Kovač. At 3-1 down, Bayern looked down and out, clueless, and lacking any tactical prowess. 

His tactical decisions are just one of several aspects that contributed to Kovač offering his resignation, with his incapability to motivate the Bayern players another reasoning. Coaching for the foreseeable future is Hansi Flick, a coach who knows the Bayern players well through his time as Joachim Löw’s assistant manager in the Germany national team whilst his five years as a Bayern Munich player instils a Bavarian mentality.

Christian Falk for The Guardian penned an article on Monday suggesting that Bayern Munich are looking at four names as a potential replacement to Kovač: Ralf Rangnick, Arsene Wenger, Max Allegri and Erik ten Hag. The former being the frontrunner for the now vacant job may prove difficult to lure to the Allianz Arena despite initial interest being there.

Rangnick, 61, holds the current role as the head of sport for Red Bull, following his time as sporting director and manager of RB Leipzig. The German was discussed by Bayern bosses at the end of last season as a replacement for Kovač had they chose to dismiss the Croatian during the summer, instead showing confidence that Kovač could deliver.

Ten Hag is a name that has also been discussed in recent weeks with Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars welcoming Bayern Munich’s interest in their head coach. However, the Dutchman won’t leave last season’s Champions League semi-finalists until the summer, meaning Bayern would need a stop-gap until then.

One of those is potentially former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. Fluent in German, the 70-year-old is held in high regard by Uli Hoeneß and Rummenigge while he could take charge until the end of the season until ten Hag becomes available.

For now, though, Flick will be in charge for the games against Olympiacos and Borussia Dortmund before the winter break, which gives Bayern Munich three weeks to find a new head coach. The reigning Bundesliga champions need someone in the short term, can add experience, expertise and earn the respect of the players.

1 | Borussia Dortmund fans went home happy on Saturday evening after hearing about Eintracht Frankfurt’s demolition of Bayern Munich. Borussia themselves recorded a third straight Bundesliga clean sheet and put three past VfL Wolfsburg, who boasted the best defence in the league. The visitors to the Westfalenstadion defended well and dealt with Borussia Dortmund’s attacking football sublimely in the first half. 

Lucien Favre wanted more urgency from his players in the second half with last season’s runners-up seven minutes into the second half. Thorgan Hazard found himself in free in the box to fire a low shot past Pavao Pervan. Marco Reus’s substitution in the first half through injury helped BVB, allowing Julian Brandt play his favoured role with Mario Götze playing as the No. 9. Brandt’s movement allowed Raphaël Guerreiro find space six minutes later to double Dortmund’s lead before Götze added a 90thminute penalty.

2 | In Europe’s capitals, you have mighty teams. Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Chelsea, but in Germany, you have Hertha BSC and FC Union Berlin. The weekend’s Toppspiel in Germany was the first top-flight meeting of the two clubs and while the football on the pitch perhaps didn’t live up to the standard, the atmosphere certainly did. Pyro created a fog that made the football on show difficult to see but inside FC Union’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei, there was hatred. 

Substitute Sebastian Polter scored a 90thminute penalty for FC Union, sending their fanatical support into a frenzy, but also provoking the travelling Hertha BSC fans. Away fans lit Pyro, throwing it at the celebrating Union players while Ultras donning balaclavas in the home end scaled fences to make their way towards the Hertha fans, only to be stopped by goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz. What could have turned out to be an all-out brawl, instead turned out to be a joyous day for FC Union fans.

3 | Borussia Mönchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram continued his fine form on Saturday at Bayer Leverkusen with a goal and assist to take Die Fohlen three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga above Borussia Dortmund. The 22-year-old has five goals and four assists in last six Bundesliga games whilst his transformation under Marco Rose is making him into one of the most feared forwards this season. 

By Daniel Pinder

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