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Reflections on Bayern Munich’s humbling loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal

Yes, it can happen to the best; yes, even the best team in Germany, Bayern Munich, can be beaten by a historic rival, 5-0

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Bayern München - DFB Cup: Second Round
Eberl, a Bayern Munich man, now building Borussia Mönchengladbach
Photo by Christian Verheyen/Borussia Moenchengladbach via Getty Images

The referee had mercy on Bayern Munich, yes, on mighty Bayern Munich, free scoring Bayern Munich on an 85-game scoring streak, and blew his whistle.

Borussia Park applauded their special team, a team so inconsistent that they have no choice but to love it in the hope that on a given day, they turn in a performance worthy of such love and support. They know that, if there is one team Borussia Mönchengladbach is going to turn up against, it is Bayern Munich.

And yet, it would never have happened had Gladbach not built themselves up over the past 15 years step-by-step.

In 2006/07, the Foals finished at the bottom of the table with 26 points from 38 games, suffering a humiliating relegation in their proud history. Bayern didn’t have a great season that year either. Yet, a poor season for Bayern equated to finishing fourth and missing out on the Champions League — the Bundesliga had only three Champions League spots at the time. A third or fourth placed finish for Gladbach to this day remains a rarity since the 80s. It is considered a success.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Bayern München - DFB Cup: Second Round
Consoling Bayern Munich after that debacle was no easy task.
Photo by Christian Verheyen/Borussia Moenchengladbach via Getty Images

All that being said, Max Eberl, their director of sport, a Bayern Munich youth academy product in his playing days, has managed to make the right moves to turn Gladbach into a club challenging for the top six in Germany. Look no further than Manu Koné, brought in from French side Toulouse, under the radar, running the show with another smart acquisition, Denis Zakaria, in the middle of the park for them.

Look at the back-line where they have stuck with the tried and tested Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi but have taken a chance on a young New Yorker in Joe Scally and a fiery Algerian, Remy Bensebaini. Look up front where Breel Embolo’s hard work, despite his inconsistency, has earned him starts.

A team in which Florian Neuhaus cannot walk in must be a worthy side.

They danced past a hapless Bayern who had no answers to their pressing game. Other issues clouded the Munich team including legal and vaccination issues. They looked like a team disheveled and never quite ready to compete against the heart (with the talent) facing them down. Before Bayern knew it, they were down by three goals.

From a Bayern Munich perspective, several lessons were learned. While the play of the wingers and Robert Lewandowski have largely masked the problems in midfield (Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka have not seemed particularly press-resistant or played with the highest of accuracies lately), Julian Nagelsmann now knows he must address them. Kimmich’s mind is not in the right place right now — may be he needs a few days off. No player is bigger than the team; if it Nagelsmann’s wish to rest the German, he should do so.

Dayot Upamecano is a consistent performer eight out of ten days, but, the other two days, he puts in shocking displays. Jerome Boateng had bad days but his consistency is forgotten by quite a few in the Bayern ranks. Boateng was about the same age as Upamecano when he joined Bayern and hence, the age argument cannot be made. Yes, Boateng became more consistent over time but I would argue that he was a better defender at that age. Niklas Süle, whom the board hasn’t given an extension yet, is largely deserving of one, if solely based on a few performances — called upon in the UEFA Champions League final in 2020, he performed solidly and he marked Erling Haaland out of Bayern’s DFL-Supercup match this season.

Thomas Müller hasn’t been his most consistent self perhaps due to the set up of the team by Julian Nagelsmann. Other niggling problems such as a problematic right back berth remains. Sometimes, Bayern seems to play a quasi back-three; we do not know if this is working yet.

A new coach, young and brash, looking to adjust the team, must now look back on a historic defeat, Bayern’s single biggest defeat in his lifetime and the biggest in this proud club’s history since 1978.

In order to bounce back, they need to look no further than the very proud club who beat them; Gladbach is after all the former home of Lothar Matthaus, Stefan Effenberg, Jupp Heynckes, Günter Netzer, Rainer Bonhof and to, throw in for good measure, one of our recent legends, Dante. They suffered the humiliation of relegation, built back up over 15 years or so, formed a team capable of qualifying for the Champions League and a team capable of dismantling Bayern Munich on its day.

Bayern can learn so many important lessons from this; they learned important lessons from a shock defeat to BATE Borisov in 2012, a shock defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg in 2007, a shameful defeat to Barcelona in 2008, a shameful defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final in 2012 and so on.

This isn’t the first hammering this proud Bavarian club has suffered — nor will it be the last.

They rose up after each shock.

You better expect them to do it again. Thank you for reading.