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FEATURE | Niko Kovač’s Bayern Munich future hangs in the balance

Matthew Marshall – Waldstadion, Frankfurt.

Eintracht Frankfurt thrashed 10-man Bayern Munich 5-1 at the Commerzbank-Arena. Jérôme Boateng’s early red card was the catalyst, Filip Kostic and Djibril Sow giving the hosts a 2-0 lead before Robert Lewandowski pulled one back before the break.

Second half goals to David Abraham, Martin Hinteregger and Gonçalo Paciência completed the rout that heaps further pressure on FC Bayern manager Niko Kovac. The focus will be on Kovac for the foreseeable future, but that shouldn’t diminish what was a clinical performance from Adi Hütter’s side.

Eintracht evolving

Adi Hütter and the Frankfurt board deserve praise for rejuvenating their squad and continuing to compete on multiple fronts. Filip Kostic has remained a key player while the strike force of Gonçalo Paciência, Andre Silva and Bas Dost complement each other and are producing the goals and assists we became accustomed to in the Haller, Jovic and Rebic era. 

Djibril Sow has found his feet, Sebastian Rode continues to take a leading role in midfield and who doesn’t love Martin Hinteregger’s game? Eintracht’s superb Europa League campaign ultimately ruined their chances of achieving a top four finish last season but it was there for the taking.

There are many games to be played and concerns about their away form, but Frankfurt can stay in the discussion for the top four as long as the Bundesliga remains so competitive and Bayern continue to stumble.

Kovac tactics come up short

The main criticism of Niko Kovac has been his tactics and if they are sufficient to get Bayern Munich within touching distance of winning the Champions League. It’s never easy when a player is sent off after nine minutes, but FC Bayern supporters still wouldn’t have expected their side to receive their biggest defeat since a 5-1 loss at Wolfsburg in April 2009.

It seemed clear that Kovac thought Philippe Coutinho and Thomas Müller wouldn’t work in the same team, but in Frankfurt he persisted with Coutinho and Müller again despite having Kingsley Coman and Ivan Perisic on the bench. Javi Martínez, Corentin Tolisso and Leon Goretzka also warmed the bench with David Alaba selected in central defence and Joshua Kimmich in midfield. 

He was the one posing questions in the post-match press conference, asking: “What do you want to know? Before offering the perfect answer: “We got a red card and lost.” It’s the manner of the defeat that is most concerning however, and there are many more questions to be asked of the Bayern boss who may not be able to answer them for much longer.

Speculation sky high

Niko Kovac has been under the pump since taking over at FC Bayern, constant gossip surrounding his tenure one of the unfortunate aspects of the role at a high profile club. He recently praised the Frankfurt supporters when he said: “What I have seen in those three Europa League games was great. The choreography was unique. I don’t think we have a Bundesliga club that have done something like that.”

Such comments are unlikely to endure him to the Bayern hierarchy or supporters, many of whom had already turned after becoming unconvinced he is the man to lead their club forward. Winning the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal isn’t enough for the Bavarians and Kovac knows it now more than ever. 

His comments could have been calculated to hasten an inevitable exit, a break from the spotlight, a handy payout and a holiday in the sun before returning to manage a less demanding club.

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