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Bayern’s problems start at the top

Niko Kovac has come under scrutiny as of late due to the current “crisis” plaguing the squad, but blame has largely been misplaced.

SSC Napoli v FC Bayern Muenchen - Audi Cup 2017 Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images for Audi

Whether you are Kovac-in or Kovac-out, what cannot be ignored is the reality that Bayern Munich has been papering over the cracks for years now. The Croatian manager cannot be blamed for the failures of upper management, but unfortunately, the levy looks like it is about to break and he may be swept away as a result.

In an interview with kicker, Bayern legend and former captain Stefan Effenberg has taken issue with the amount of attention (blame) being paid to Kovac and has taken it upon himself to call out his former teammate and current Sporting Director Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidzic for what he deemed as a lack of support.

No support at all is coming from Brazzo. But he’s the sporting director! I don’t mean Brazzo any harm, but in such a phase I would have expected him to stand his ground. I would have said, ‘I have to protect my coach here.’

Salihamidzic’s lack of support comes in contrast to the unequivocal backing granted to the manager by club president Uli Hoeness. The former Bayern star’s silence on the matter is not all that has garnered attention during the “crisis” in Bavaria.

In a recent report from Bild, the role of the Bosnian sporting director has been put under the microscope and their findings are less than flattering. Bild alludes to the positive image he puts on for photographers, but uncovers a broader lack of respect for Brazzo from the players.

The sporting director is with the team every day, often holding one-on-one conversations with the players. According to Bild’s information, he is not taken seriously by all the stars. He’s more of a buddy-type than an authority figure.

The fact that most players view Salihamidzic as a buddy doesn’t bode well for the reception of his speech to the team on Sunday in which he attempted to rally the squad around successes from early in the campaign, much less he and Kovac’s vision for the squad.

BFW Analysis

Rumors of Bayern’s demise are absolutely, undoubtedly premature, per usual. They are one of the biggest clubs in the world and they will figure it out, but that does not mean this stumble is insignificant, or that this season will bring about the silverware expected at the club. Rather than assigning blame to the manager during this abysmal run of form, it is about time Bayern fans identify the root of the problem. The arrogance and possibly even ignorance of Hasan Salihamidzic, Karl Heinz-Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness have brought the Bavarian giants to this point and a course correction is vital moving forward.

Brazzo is a fan favorite, while KHR and Uli are Bayern legends in their own right, but their involvement in the sporting side of the club has started to take its toll. Their loyalty to the core from the 2013 treble-winning side has proven costly the last few seasons with the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez proving a liability at times due to injury or poor form. This loyalty has manifested itself in a subversion of the authority of the manager. The lack of playing time from this core among others led to the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, who they thought it was a good idea to hire in the first place, and has already given Kovac headaches as he attempts to navigate the transition from the old to the new.

This loyalty has also justified a lack of activity in the transfer market, despite glaring weaknesses and improvement by rivals, including Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is not to say that there has been an absence of activity, but the frugality of the transfer dealings and a belief in the depth and experience already at the club has panned out the same way the last three years: a Bundesliga crown, an injury crisis and a disappointing Champions League defeat.

Instead of learning this lesson, the Bayern brass have criticized big money transfers and insisted new managers like Niko Kovac had more than enough to succeed, despite the fact that the former Frankfurt man was hired knowing he would bring a new tactical approach to the club. This new tactical approach and the glaring weaknesses and lack of depth at the club saw the record champions linked with the likes of Ante Rebic, Benjamin Pavard, Kevin Vogt and Anthony Martial, who were rejected by the Bayern hierarchy in the name of financial responsibility and belief in the options available.

The modern game is a squad game. If you don’t believe me, look at Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and even Borussia Dortmund. Depth is the name of the game as teams compete across three fronts and operating with ONE back up fullback just doesn’t cut it.

So, what have they done well? For starters, the investment in youth is a vital step along the way to world domination, bringing in youth prospects and continuing the search for the next great academy product is an imperative along the long-term path to world domination, but it doesn’t fix problems in the short term. Bridging the gap between the old and the new with the likes of Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Corentin Tolisso, Serge Gnabry and Kinglsey Coman is also a good start, but not quite enough.

But, where do they go from here? Bayern need to look to Borussia Dortmund as a model (yeah, I can’t believe I just typed that). BVB have been in shambles the last few years after losing a majority of their core players from the Jurgen Klopp sides of yore. Hans-Joachim Watke and Michael Zorc continued to fail to address the shortcomings in their squad and make poor managerial hires, but that changed this summer. Watzke and Zorc brought in former Bayern Sporting Director Matthias Sammer, and club legend Sebastian Kehl to pull some of the strings behind the scenes. Lucien Favre was hired as the new manager and the roster transformation commenced.

Dortmund cut dead weight despite entrenched loyalties, including Nuri Sahin and Sokratis, while also addressing glaring holes in their squad, bringing in Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney to provide steel in the midfield, Acraf Hakimi and Abdou Diallo to shore up the backline, and Paco Alcacer to fill the Aubameyang-sized void up top.

The black and yellow hierarchy was able to identify their weaknesses, swallow their pride, and set aside their emotions during a defining moment for their club. Now, they sit in first and Bayern in sixth.

The figurative chickens are coming home to roost for the Bavarian bosses. If they can’t reflect on their own shortcomings, this may turn into a long campaign regardless of who is at the helm.

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