Big clubs need to have the mentality befitting of their stature to be successful. Tough decisions, ruthlessness when handling squad building, and no time for sentiment so often are the hallmarks of achievable empire building in the football world.
Once more, Bayern Munich have shown they can make a difficult decision regardless of the circumstances. The severing of ties with Niko Kovač should really come as no surprise to anyone in the wake of a 5-1 thrashing courtesy of Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Despite sitting fourth in the table and level on points with Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig and just four points off table-topping Borussia Mönchengladbach, the nature of the on-pitch product, inconsistent performances, and growing issues amongst senior players dating back to last season culminated in the Croat resigning from his post.
There is no need for an inquest, either. Bayern’s defensive record in the Bundesliga at current is the worst they have posted since being under the tutelage of Jurgen Klinsmann during the 2008/09 season.
Though injuries to key first-team assets certainly has not helped, Bayern – despite the results overall, many of which were manufactured by individual brilliance in the mold of Robert Lewandowski – have not produced the level of performance commensurate with being one of the biggest clubs on the planet.
It did not take long for the list of potential successor candidates to make the rounds in the aftermath. José Mourinho is keen to take charge of the Bavarian giants and Massimiliano Allegri is still occupying the unemployment office. Both present interesting but perhaps not ideal fits for the club.
Perhaps unsurprising to some, however, was the news that former Arsenal chief Arsène Wenger was linked with the vacancy, potentially lining him up for a return to the touchline operations.
Per multiple sources, the Alsatian headmaster had already held preliminary talks with the Bayern brass. Flashbacks of in Jupp Heynckes riding over the hill with his personal guard to save the day spring to mind. Recent developments have – for the moment – squashed that notion.
In a statement released by the club, it was confirmed that Bayern would pass on the opportunity to work with the current beIN Sports pundit; “Wenger has called Rummenigge on Wednesday afternoon and basically signaled interest in coaching at Bayern. Bayern appreciate Arsène Wenger very much for his work as a coach at Arsenal, but he is no option as a coach at Bayern Munich.”
Similarly, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic levied temporary support for caretaker boss Hansi Flik, stating “We will calmly, without pressure, choose the coach, who in our opinion is the right one. I think Hansi is the right coach for us at this moment. He is now a coach until further notice and we will see everything else.”
While it remains unclear if Wenger will persist with his interest or if Bayern decide to reverse their stance, many wonder just how the Arsenal legend would have fared at Säbener Str.
In Wenger, Bayern would get a manager of unquestionable class. Regardless of how bad the criticism, inquests, and downright vitriol from some sections of the Arsenal fanbase got during the final years of his reign in North London, he remained stout and unwavering.
Not only is he accustomed to expectations of being successful at the very highest level, he will also understand the pressure that comes with the Bayern role, particularly the remit of playing the Bayern way on the pitch; successful on the pitch while looking the part. Butter to the footballing palate.
This was perhaps one of the biggest criticisms levied in Kovač’s direction in the final weeks of his time at the Allianz Arena, with a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge salvo unleashed in his direction questioning the manner in which Bayern were performing.
With reputation comes a responsibility to play a certain brand of football – this was the keystone of Wenger’s philosophy whilst at Arsenal, and something he undoubtedly will be able to deliver the minute he takes charge should he sign on.
But what if Wenger not only succeeded but secured an extension? One of the biggest criticisms he suffered in the waning years in England was his inability to be adaptable; stubbornness to the point of it becoming detrimental to the product on the pitch.
As football evolves and continues to reinvent itself, it can be postulated that Wenger would struggle to compete with younger, fresher, and more progressive footballing minds that are in-tune with the current landscape. Julian Nagelsmann, Florian Kohfeldt, and Marco Rose are just a few names of managerial adversaries who bring the above qualities to the table.
Despite the nature of the staunch defence he maintains regarding his beliefs, it is difficult to think Wenger would be unable to get a tune out of the current chorus.
Bayern are blessed with a first-team squad dripping with quality, and, in the right system, proper balance. The only notes missing from the required hymn sheet is end product, and a manager who has the gravitas to reign in the biggest personalities in the room and get them on board.
Arsène commands the utmost respect in every corner of the footballing community, is a fluent German-speaker, has a history of dealing with big egos with tact and grace, and can ask the right questions of his players when it matters most.
Beyond the veteran presence that commands power inside the club, Bayern currently have several talented young players in need of nurturing and guidance; something Wenger indeed excels in.
It would not come without risk, but the potential rewards both in the immediate future and the long-term picture outweigh any potential apprehension. Wenger and Bayern could well be a match made in footballing heaven.
By Andrew Thompson.