Two years ago, Bayern Munich took on Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena, and were 1-0 down at half-time. Pep Guardiola opted to bring on Robert Lewandowski, and less than 10 minutes later, die Roten were 5-1 up.
The goal-scorer? Lewandowski. All five of them. Flash-forward two years, and there would be no such heroics from the Polish international at the Allianz Arena. Rather, Bayern would have to settle for a 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg in a game that felt more like two points dropped rather than one gained.
Lewandowski got his customary goal, but overall, it was a rather frustrating and disappointing showing from the reigning Bundesliga giants. The absolute shock and joy that had permeated Guardiola’s face in seeing the scoreboard had been replaced by a grim and dour Ancelotti who remained rooted to the bench. Both Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben reacted in anger when being subbed off – a common theme, it seems around Bavaria these days in a dressing room that appears to have gone awry.
In short, it’s still early in the season, but Bayern aren’t exactly in cruise control. They’re in third spot, three points behind Borussia Dortmund, and have already lost one game so far this season. Now that’s no reason to sound any alarm bells or anything, but in a league that they’re so used to dominating, it’s a bit unusual to see them struggling to get off the mark early on. That, and coupled with the reports of player dissatisfaction certainly gives further credence to the notion that not all’s peachy for die Roten these days.
But that’s not a bad thing, really. In fact, to be honest it’s a good thing, even for Bayern. You see, familiarity breeds contempt. Or rather, complacency causes an overall lack of sharpness. Specifically, one thing that has hurt Bayern is the fact that they are not challenged in the Bundesliga whatsoever. It has all become rather routine for them, winning in week in, week out, without putting in much effort. Last season, they won the league title by a 15 point margin over upstarts RB Leipzig. The season prior to that, it was a 10 point lead over perpetual rivals Dortmund. In the 2014/2015 term, again, ten point, this time, with Wolfsburg finishing in second, and die Schwarzgelben had to settle for a runners-up spot as Bayern pipped them to the title by 19 points during the 2013/2014 campaign.
And the year they won the Treble? 25 points was the gap between them and Dortmund during the 2012/2013 season. So, curiously enough, the gap has been gradually shrinking in the years since, meaning that perhaps the league has been getting more competitive (in theory at least). Of course, the results haven’t shown this, as Bayern have won each and every Bundesliga title since then, making it five on the trot and are still the heavy favorites to make it an unprecedented sixth in May. Still, PSG were expected to win it last season…and then along came Monaco, so really, anything is possible in football. Just ask Leicester City.
In any case, Bayern’s so-called “struggles” certainly have motivated their competitors to believe that indeed it’s still worth it to fight; after all, Wolfsburg didn’t throw in the towel this past Friday after going 2-0 down. In the past, most had assumed that it was a done deal, especially after falling two goals behind inside the first 45. But not so much these days.
From Bayern’s perspective, it will (and should) be the driving force for them to get their act together, as their competitors certainly are not afraid of taking them on – whether it’s on their home turf or traveling to battle them at the Allianz Arena.
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