Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac emphasized finishing above all at the press conference ahead of the team’s upcoming match against Ajax Amsterdam tomorrow. After drawing against Augsburg and losing 2-0 to Hertha Berlin this past Friday, Kovac is under pressure for the first time during his tenure at Bayern — a “mini-crisis” as the media call it.
Speaking prior to Kovac, Arjen Robben cited Bayern’s failure to convert any goal-scoring chances against Hertha Berlin as the single biggest factor in their loss. He said,
You can’t make it more difficult than it is. Augsburg and Berlin used their chances well. We also had enough opportunities to score more goals than our opponent.
Echoing Robben, Kovac likewise emphasized Bayern’s need to finish chances, while he also acknowledged how Bayern struggled to adjust to the fierce Gegenpressing that their opponents have used to disrupt their game. It is a tactic Kovac himself is intimately familiar with:
We did that last year at Eintracht similar to Augsburg and Hertha. But I repeat: We have to use our chances again. All that matters is how we bring our actions to completion.
As for how the team will realize that goal, Kovac emphasized training and repetition:
We are always working on finishing. We did that when we still converted our chances and we are doing it still. In the end, it’s always a matter of practice. “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
Jerome Boateng was singled out in the media for his particularly poor performance against Hertha Berlin. Boateng conceded the go-ahead goal on a penalty for an unnecessary tackle in the penalty area. Kovac defended the center-back, however, and stressed the broader picture:
It would be far to simple to say that only one player is to blame. We had already made mistakes at the halfway line before conceding the two goals. You just remember the last player in the series who made a mistake.
Kovac also appeared unmoved by criticism of his rotation policy, which some — including Stefan Effenberg — have blamed for Bayern’s inconsistent performances in the past two games:
I’m with the team daily and so it is easier for me to assess that. If I don’t rotate, people ask, “Why isn’t this player or that player playing?” After seven games with rotation with seven victories, everything was fine, and now it’s not anymore after two games? That’s too simple for me.
The two disappointing results against Berlin and Augsburg left Kovac unperturbed about the team’s overall prospects this season. The lesson he drew from the match is that the team must improve its finishing:
In principle we are very spoiled by success. The last game wasn’t very fun, but I don’t judge the season on the basis of the last two games. We’ve played nine games and won seven of them. It wasn’t all just empty sunshine when we won, and everything isn’t terrible now that we’ve lost. What’s important is that we convert our chances again. We’re processing everything professionally and objectively.
Hence Kovac doesnot expect “to lose the next ten games in a row. I can’t imagine that.” Given how well the team performed at the start of the season, Kovac expects the players to remember what they did well and “work on the little things”:
It really bothered my team that we lost. In training today, my team gave me the impression that they want to show a reaction. It’s all about little things that we have to do better.
Kovac anticipates a “good, talented team with great individualists” in Ajax. He described the Dutch as having “technically very strong players, who like to have the ball and dictate the rhythm.”
But we’re FC Bayern and playing in the Allianz Arena. So we want to put our mark on the game.
The ball rolls tomorrow, Tuesday, at 3pm EST / 9pm CET.
— Quotes taken from AZ’s liveticker.