After winning six straight games, then promptly going 0-2-2 in his next four, the Bavarian Twitter-verse has gone all in on the #FireKovac hype train. I can understand why. Bayern Munich has not looked like the German champions we all expect them to be, after going through a wretched string of form and falling to 6th in the table.
This team needs some change, but I would argue that firing the coach is not the best way to go about it. I believe that Kovac has not been given much of a chance as a coach, and amidst a summer of major coaching hires, Bayern didn’t make much of a splash in the pond. Despite this, he is our head coach; the man tasked with leading our boys to glory. Even though he hasn’t impressed lately, these are my three reasons why we should be keeping him here.
1) Niko Kovac is different, and that’s valuable
Bayern Munich made a gamble when hiring Kovac, and they knew it. His long list of senior sides managed goes like this: Croatian national team, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern. The only trophy to his name is the Pokal last year, with Eintracht.
Why did we do this? Well, Niko Kovac wasn’t hired because of his resume, he was hired to bring a new system to the club and to win football games.
Jupp Heynckes may be known for his pragmatism, but in essence his playstyle is still possession-based football, which is what Bayern has played since the Louis van Gaal days of yore. Kovac on the other hand is a manager who prefers speed and direct play. He had the players to do this at Eintracht and it showed during the Pokal Final as all three goals came from long balls from counter-attacks.
Up until now, Kovac has tried to run Bayern as previous managers did, with an emphasis on possession and wing-play. However, with the current crisis, it’s not too late to change.
For precedent, look at Luis Enrique’s first season at Barcelona. In 2014, he won his first four matches, and then went 3-1-2 in his next six. After having his job called into question and reports of a falling out with the likes of Leo Messi, he turned the club around, changed tactics and won the treble.
Similarly to Lucho, I believe that there is room for Kovac to change Bayern’s system and play the football he wants. If he manages to pull it off, then the club may finally break through the glass ceiling that has held them back for so long. Isn’t that worth the gamble?
2) He’s only been here for one month
Let’s go back to Carlo Ancelotti for a second. Not only did he bring his Championship winning pedigree, he brought his system and staff. In order for it to work, the club needed to give him time. And so they did. Even though he did not meet expectations, he was given a year and two months to work it out before being sacked. Was it a premature move? It’s impossible to say, because even Jupp Heynckes couldn’t do better than Ancelotti’s success the previous year.
So, here we are with a new manager — only he’s been at the head of the club for a little over three months — hitting a rough patch of form after an incredible start. Three months is not enough time to implement a system or tactics. We football fans know this.
Despite it all, Bayern fans are asking for Kovac’s job. This may be because of the list of potential managers that could come around to the Allianz, as reported in yesterday’s Schmankerl. However, the club and its fans need to be patient.
In 2015, Juventus had one of their worst starts in years. Despite being defending champions, they went 3-3-4 in their first ten games, dropping as low as 17th in the table. Despite their terrible start, Massimiliano Allegri stayed. He managed to rally the team and change tactics, despite reported grumblings from the Juve old guard. Over their next 27 matches, they only lost and drew one more time each, on their way to another Scudetto.
Sacking a manager this early will not solve anything. Bayern needs to do what Juve did, and back the coach to fix the issues that plague the team.
3) Bayern’s results are not entirely Kovac’s fault
We can talk all day about which players need to be taken off the field and which players should be started. I’ll probably agree with some of them. But, Kovac isn’t playing all 11 spots on the pitch.
Yes, Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez have been playing like bulls in a china shop. But, they are international football players with starts for their respective national teams. They train with, and play against, some of the best footballers in the world and therefore should be playing at a high level.
Niko Kovac starting them shows he has belief in them, but he is not responsible for their poor performances. Injuries have moreover been piling up, with Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman, Rafinha and now David Alaba on the injury list. This has restricted Kovac’s matchday selection and forced him to start tired or out-of-form players.
And yes, the transfer market might easily solve these problems. Bayern might have bought more than one player who won’t be on the roster until 2019. But the team needs to find a way to make things work for now.
Yes, there are problems at the club that need to be solved. The team looks uninspired, they haven’t been getting results and part of that is on Niko Kovac. However, to blame him for all of the club’s issues would be mistaken. We have on our hands a young manager who has had little time at the club while important players have been injured or are underperforming. Instead of firing Kovac, Bayern should be targeting specific flaws and working as hard as they can to fix them.
I would liken Kovac to an orchid. With the right amount of care and attention, he has the potential to bloom and be magnificent for this club. But, if we give up on him, then you just bought yourself a pot of dirt that will do nothing and continue to disappoint you. I haven’t given up yet. Have you?