From boring to absorbing, Bundesliga gets more interesting
BERLIN (AP) — From boring to absorbing in only two weeks, the Bundesliga has gotten a whole lot more interesting now that Bayern Munich is struggling to win.
The six-time defending champions started the season with seven straight victories in all competitions, leading many to think the title race was all but over. But Bayern hasn't managed another win in its last four matches. The latest was a 3-0 loss at home against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Apart from a goal by Robert Lewandowski that was ruled out for offside, Bayern failed to create chances in the second half. The team had started well in the first, but individual mistakes allowed 'Gladbach to score two early goals.
"Ten days ago we were unbeatable and the republic was dying of boredom," Bayern midfielder Thomas Mueller said. "Now we have a phase in which the others have overtaken us. We didn't want that."
Bayern had been toasting its dominance ahead of the traditional Oktoberfest celebrations. Schalke general manager Christian Heidel even said he couldn't imagine Bayern losing a game after watching his side lose 2-0 in Gelsenkirchen.
Niko Kovac, who took over from the retiring Jupp Heynckes in the offseason, was one victory equaling Carlo Ancelotti's record for the best start as a Bayern coach. But Bayern was held 1-1 at home by Augsburg in the next game, then lost 2-0 at Hertha Berlin before another 1-1 draw at home against Ajax in the Champions League.
Bayern, which was four points ahead of Dortmund after four games, is now four points behind the leaders in sixth place.
"We're in a bad phase in which we're making mistakes that are punished directly," Bayern forward Arjen Robben said.
A commanding performance against 'Gladbach was supposed to restore confidence ahead of the international break, but Bayern has instead been left battered and bruised.
Defensive lapses have spread uncertainty to the rest of the team. The team's previous speed in buildup play is missing, passes are going astray, the ability to create chances is diminished, and the few chances that are being created are not being taken.
Lewandowski, the league's leading scorer with 29 goals in 30 games last season, has only three goals in six matches so far. Eight other players have more goals in the Bundesliga so far.
And despite his strong start, Kovac appears to be overwhelmed by the situation. The former midfielder was unable to explain Saturday's loss and looked visibly shaken as the team paid its annual visit to the Oktoberfest celebrations on Sunday.
Kovac's job is on the line, even if he appears safe for now.
"I know the way football works in the Bundesliga," Kovac said. "I know that time goes differently at Bayern than elsewhere."
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and president Uli Hoeness declined to comment on the coach's future on Saturday, but the latter broke his silence the next day.
"I will defend Niko Kovac to the hilt," Hoeness told Kicker magazine. "Everything is totally calm here."