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Five things that could go wrong with Niko Kovac’s Bayern

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Niko Kovac can look to lessons learned under Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola to stave off disaster and lead Bayern Munich to new titles.

Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

It’s a good thing that football fans are eternally optimistic, because otherwise we’d be the most insufferable people on the planet. Of course, there are exceptions to the norm. While everyone else is out there speculating about how Kovac will set up the squad he inherited from Jupp Heynckes, I decided to wrack my brain and think of things that are likely to go wrong and why they could happen.

Of course, if you think hard enough, literally anything can become a disaster at any given point. Therefore, in this article I’ve chosen to limit myself to actual problems faced by our last three managers — Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola, and Jupp Heynckes. Since the core of the squad has remained virtually unchanged over the last five years, it’s likely that Kovac will face some (or all) of these problems over the course of his first year.

Without further ado, here are five things that could go wrong with Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich:

#1: Kovac’s tactics don’t fit

This was a problem that Carlo Ancelotti faced in his first season — a problem that eventually killed his tenure at the club. Ancelotti liked a system in which Bayern’s wingers pushed inside during the game, instead of staying out wide and cutting inside as they did under previous managers. This, combined with an ill-suited 4-3-3 formation and Ancelotti’s inability to give Thomas Muller a productive role in the team, spelled doom for the Italian.

Niko Kovac has said that he values speed over possession. This might sound refreshing to fans, but there are some concerns. Bayern Munich has been a possession-heavy team since the Louis van Gaal era, and our current squad is technically gifted but slow. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery lost their pace long ago, leaving only Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry as the squad’s true speedsters. Meanwhile, reports indicate that Kovac may want to try a 3-5-2 at Bayern — despite the fact that we have only three proper center-backs and Javi Martinez.

As the squad currently stands, Kovac is in no position to do anything but copy his predecessors. He will need some serious backing in the transfer window to have the players to field a real 3-5-2. Also, even if Kovac receives the backing he needs, there’s always the chance that he could still get it terribly wrong. Ancelotti was a well-respected coach, and he got it wrong. Although we might all be optimistic, there’s really no telling what might happen to Kovac.

#2: Some/all players don’t buy his methods

This is something that was prominent in later games under Ancelotti, but it also happened under Pep Guardiola. In 2014, the Spaniard caved in to pressure from his players (as related by Philipp Lahm) and allowed them to play a system that they would be comfortable with in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid — a formation similar to the one that had won them the treble a year ago. It failed spectacularly. Despite the fact that Pep’s Bayern had an overwhelmingly positive record up to that point, the players still felt uncomfortable with Guardiola’s style and wanted to switch back to what they were familiar with.

Under Carlo Ancelotti — well, you could write a book about it all. However, player power was what ousted him in the end, and this was a manager famed for his man-management skills. Kovac seems to want to bring a no-nonsense attitude to his new club — but at the same time, he will have to be an exemplary diplomat if he wants to implement his system at Bayern.

Avoiding friction is key, but it isn’t easy at FC Hollywood. Kovac has to succeed where other, more experienced and more decorated managers have failed. For a man who has just won the first piece of silverwave in his coaching career, this is a daunting task.

#3: A bad start

A bad start can kill a manager’s job — just ask Carlo Ancelotti. Even if preseason results can be ignored, league and Champions League results cannot. In fact, it’s not even about the results themselves. The fans and media expect Bayern to deliver a dominating, attractive performance in every game. Failure to deliver poisons the very atmosphere around the club.

Kovac comes to Bayern lacking the pedigree of his predecessors to protect him. He also bears the “stigma” of being Bayern’s second (or third) choice for the position (pace Brazzo). As far as we can tell, Bayern wanted Tuchel but waited too long, and Tuchel said no. Kovac is under immense pressure to perform right out of the gate. While fans may be optimistic and supportive now, no team in the world demands a higher standard than Bayern Munich.

#4: Wilting under pressure

A few weeks ago, Pep Guardiola said this:

My time in Munich will not be judged by the fact that I did not win the Champions League. It’s a brutal club, with players who are all my friends. We all wanted the title, but there were so many factors that influenced that.

Niko Kovac is stepping into a pressure cooker. No coaching job he has had so far can have prepared him for what he is about to face in Munich. In the last 10 years, this club has seen 9 different managerial tenures (including caretakers). While there is really no way to know how Kovac will handle the pressure, he at least has some idea of what he’s dealing with — he played for Bayern after all. For once in this article, I’ll be a bit optimistic and say Kovac can handle it, provided nothing else goes wrong.

#5: Injuries (again)

Well, this one is kind of self-explanatory, and it’s not really Kovac’s fault. Injuries happen, and for some reason they happen more often to Bayern. Luckily, our new coach has instituted an array of new measures to combat preventable injuries. Whether this will help Bayern Munich remains to be seen. Looking at our recent record, I am anything but optimistic.

Poll

How do you feel about Kovac’s upcoming season?

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  • 23%
    I’ve already bet my house on Bayern winning the Champions League
    (280 votes)
  • 61%
    Maybe a good thing will happen? Please?
    (721 votes)
  • 14%
    *Klinsmann flashbacks*
    (166 votes)
1167 votes total Vote Now