At Bayern Munich’s press conference prior to their Saturday match against Borussia Mönchengladbach, head coach Niko Kovac addressed the criticism leveled at him in a recent report by Bild, alleging that several players were frustrated with the coach over his rotation decisions and unclear tactical concept. Kovac began by defending his deliberate calm despite three successive disappointments:
It has nothing to do with cluelessness if I don’t resort to lashing out right away after a game. That’s not going to happen under me, that I “blast” my players as it’s said so nicely. You won’t see that with me, regardless whether it’s a Champions League game or not. They’re my players; it’s my team.
[Ed.: “blast” translates betonieren, literally “to cement over” or “pave”; colloquially meaning roughly to “blast” or “throw under the bus.”]
Kovac also addressed criticism of his rotation policy, commenting particularly Bayern president Uli Hoeness’s remark that he would have to “stick his neck out” for his decisions, Kovac interprets the remark not as ominous criticism but as a positive statement: namely, that the coach is responsible for the lineup. As for whether too much rotation had affected the results, Kovac stated,
We have already been very successful with rotation; you can’t blame [recent results] on the fact that this or that one played or not. We have to see that we can start fresh players. We have three injured ones. And a game every three days.
Naturally, the media was also inquisitive about James Rodriguez, who reportedly left the Allianz Arena furious with Kovac after playing only half an hour against Ajax Amsterdam. Kovac responded,
Every player has his value. James is a very important player for the club and also for me. I can’t start twelve players, and James will play exactly as many games as the others.
Kovac dismissed Bild’s claims that the locker room was “boiling over”:
I don’t want to exaggerate it. It is not the case that it’s boiling over. Of course this or that player is dissatisfied. And of course lots of people want to read things into it, look at body language, and so on. We are stable.
Bild’s claims in general seemed ridiculous. “We were praised to the heavens; people said that we’d go undefeateed,” Kovac said. “I can’t take that seriously.” The alleged criticism that the players felt that Kovac had no tactical concept piqued him especially:
All of a sudden there is no game concept, no structure, no organization behind [our game]. I have to laugh.
There was no chance a player claimed “that we have no game concept,” Kovac said. “You have to look where the quotation ends and where the author continues.”
Kovac’s analysis of the draw against Ajax emphasized the team’s need to reestablish control of the game:
We have to bring that back. We’re making too many mistakes in the buildup ... Too many easy ball losses, not the compactness like in Gelsenkirchen. Too many long runs. If you are permanently playing catch-up, it’s hard to get back into the game.
Ajax also “played much better than I expected,” and Kovac acknowledged that the team may have been lulled into a false sense of security. In sum, Kovac promised to make adjustments, but he will not “toss everything out the window” and overreact to what he views as merely a temporary slump.