Not a question we often get after 10 consecutive titles, but – what about Bayern Munich?
Their relentless dominance at home had taken some eyes off Germany’s top flight. A procession. Bayern is always going to win, so what’s the point?
Well, look at the team’s eyes in Bavaria, but this time it’s a stream, rather than a party, that they’re in.
Here they sit, fifth in the standings, questioning their tactics, deciding to let Robert Lewandowski leave his wish, why do players already look so tired and what the heck is Julian Nagelsmann wearing?
Loaded from front to back and yet it doesn’t click and the German national team, dotted with Bayern stars, feels the domino effect.
Sports post takes a closer look at how Bayern’s free-scoring start gave way to a disjointed and lethargic run that saw bosses sweat over their championship monopoly.
Julian Nagelsmann criticized his Bayern Munich players after their 1-0 defeat to Augsburg
Club chiefs Hasan Salihamidzi (left) and Oliver Kahn (right) have both expressed concern
Nagelsmann in the picture – on and off the field
‘We have made a very intensive analysis. Julian is very clear. He and his staff know exactly what to do,” Hasan Salihamidžić told Sport Bild.
“Julian knows that he has the full support of FC Bayern, we don’t have to emphasize that again and again.”
A resounding approval – but it seems that not everything is completely harmonious, no matter how hard Salihamidžić tries to smooth things out in the papers.
A report in Bild claimed there were internal complaints at Bayern about Nagelsmann’s clothing.
Much more modern and a step away from the traditional suit or tracksuit that many managers gravitate towards, the Bild report argues that behind the scenes people at Bayern want Nagelsmann to see match days through a footballers and not a showbiz lens.
Julian Nagelsmann had a candid conversation with his bosses at Bayern during the international break
According to reports in Germany, some at Bayern have questioned Nagelsmann’s outfits
It should be emphasized that Nagelsmann wears clothing from adidas and Hugo Boss for matches and that they are both main sponsors of Bayern. He doesn’t break any rules with his clothing choices.
Bild has also claimed that his arrival at training, which has been on both a skateboard and a Harley, is seen as an “unnecessary show.”
Amid all the talk of Thomas Tuchel, who was brutally knocked out earlier this season by Chelsea waiting in the wings, all the talk in Bavaria is that there is no immediate threat to Nagelsmann’s job.
Behind the scenes there seems to be agreement that it is the players who are underperforming, but with the international window coming to an end, the patience with Nagelsmann will not last forever.
Less and less xG
Taking the first six league games as an example, Bayern’s creation slumped and slumped and slumped to the point that Nagelsmann may have checked whether his top scorer had taken some annual leave.
Disclaimer, a brilliant start – helped hugely by a 7-0 win over Bochum, Bayern are the top scorer in the Bundesliga, with 19 goals.
In the three games that followed, Bochum romped – 1-1 vs Borussia Mönchengladbach, 1-1 vs Union Berlin and 2-2 vs Stuttgart.
Nagelsmann is working his way through numerous staff changes and also a constant evolution of style, but with that he is still expected to deliver winning football and attractive football.
In the first three games – victories over Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg and Bochum – they averaged 3.1 expected goals per game. They scored 15 over those three games.
Bayern started the season quite scoring, but saw their expected goals diminish
Robert Lewandowski left Bayern in the summer and has already proven to be a hit at Barcelona
But interestingly enough, in the three games that followed, the vanguard has only scored an average of 1.7 expected goals – four goals in three.
To the surprise of very few Bayern dominate possession, but they don’t punish the matches as they did against Frankfurt (6-1) and Bochum (7-0).
They may be the best in possession but also top the Bundesliga for missed opportunities.
Fifth in the league table is an absolute disaster for Bayern, but they have a lot of talent and know they have to move some pieces to make it all fit.
There’s no getting around it at this point, the attack isn’t working close to its potential. Get that part right and the rest will follow.
Floating through games
One of the biggest criticisms that can be leveled against this current incarnation of Bayern is that it looks listless and, more than once, predictable.
Too often in games, supporters are left questioning both the effort and the application.
Bayern are looking for an 11th consecutive Bundesliga title and it can be seen where complacency has crept in.
But Bayern, so early in a season that will be like no other with a World Cup breaking it in two, isn’t looking good physically.
Allegations made against Bayern are that they are wandering through the games this season
With Serge Gnabry, Sadio Mane, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies, speed and energy should be the last thing to accuse this Bayern side of lacking.
This lethargic tendency had crept in towards the end of last season and it is still unresolved, only then did they have Lewandowski to rescue them.
Call it waning chemistry, call it fatigue after so many top-level seasons, it’s hard to pin down specifically, but Stuttgart, who took a 2-2 draw in Munich, and Augsburg, who won 1-0 at home, just looked more switched and less error prone in their approach game.
Even Nagelsmann couldn’t bite his tongue after that last defeat.
The German boss told Sky: ‘We’re just very, very laissez-faire in the last third. In training we don’t even have such a large majority.
Questions have been raised about Serge Gnabry (right) as Bayern look listless in matches
‘I think of everything. About me. About the situation. About everything.’
There was a big meeting during the international match and look, there is a belief that form is temporary and class is permanent and that Bayern will be okay in the long run.
“After the international break we will show a different face,” added Salihamidžić.
‘And I expect that too. Physical intensity, hunger and the willingness to push the limits in every game. We also need a much better, more targeted opportunity conversion.’
Mane struggles to settle
Three goals in his first three league games suggested Mane would go to German football like a duck to water.
That would, in retrospect, prove hugely premature if he cuts a dejected figure who is figuring out a puzzle that continues to confuse him.
In the defeat to Augsburg before the international break, Mane, as he often is by Nagelsmann, is deployed as the de facto No 9 in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Jamal Musiala usually takes on the broad role of the left, the role Mane really wants, and Mane now has just one goal in his last seven Bayern appearances.
That goal came in a routine 5-0 win against Viktoria Koln in the German Cup at the end of August.
“Sadio still needs some time, he also has to get used to the Bundesliga, but it will happen,” added Salihamidžić.
Sadio Mane is in a dip at Bayern Munich after a series of matches without a goal
“I know what it’s like to arrive in a team as a newcomer, in another country, in a different city, in a slightly different football culture.”
Much of Mane’s electricity and dynamism at Liverpool came when he could use his pace, steal a march on a player and build a lead.
But working as the de facto No. 9 in Nagelsmann’s system, things haven’t clicked so far and that, while not immediately alarming, as many in Munich are convinced he’s too talented not to find out, will be a concern.
Five goals in 11 games feels far from a disaster, but this is Bayern on their worst domestic run in 20 years with their former striker now giving an attacking clinic for Barcelona.
Bild himself added that his own form has not escaped Mane’s attention, in fact he “seeks no excuses” and “is annoyed” that he is not fulfilling his potential.
When Mane returns from international duty and starts to look like the player Liverpool wanted so badly, all this ‘crisis’ talk will soon disappear. Watch this drought extend to 10 or more games and the pressure will be immense.
Mane (right) doesn’t look comfortable in a central role and would rather be on the left