Why sacking Niko Kovac might not be the best solution for Bayern Munich
For the last few years, Bayern Munich have been strolling through most of the teams in the Bundesliga and thus have collected six consecutive titles. But this season, they have struggled for the majority of the season and also were knocked out by a Liverpool side who weren’t even at their best over the two legs. There’s a new man in the dugout, Niko Kovac, and he certainly isn’t enjoying his time in Bavaria.
While most of the people believe that he must be replaced and is not the correct man for Bayern, let’s look at the reason why Bayern even appointed him in the first place. After sacking Ancelotti, the men in suits, Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, requested Jupp Heynckes to take over and save their season. Jupp as an act of friendship accepted the job with the promise of being just an interim manager.
While he was in charge, the board had almost one full year to decide and look for a new coach. Instead of working together and make most of the time, Hoeness was more interested in persuading Heynckes to stay for another year. Rummenigge meanwhile was looking at other options and was particularly interested in bringing Tuchel to Munich.
But because of miscommunication between him and Hoeness, it was too late and Tuchel went to PSG. And Heynckes, as he was saying all season, stayed for only that season. As a result, there were not many options left, and the board now turned to Niko Kovac.
Kovac has been having a hard time since the start of the season from all sorts of angles. He definitely has not had backing from the club in the transfer window, who did not sign any player for him. When Pep came to Bayern and said ‘Thiago or nothing’, they brought him Thiago, and when Ancelotti asked for James, they fulfilled his wish. Although it is risky to place full faith in such an inexperienced manager, it does not mean you don’t have to sign anyone.
While Kovac settled for the squad, he struggled to find balance between the younger players and the older players in the squad. The core of this team, Muller, Robben, Ribery, Boateng, Martinez, all are quickly fading. Neuer, after suffering an injury for almost a year, isn’t the same as before. The average age of Bayern squad this year has never been so high in the last decade. This is clearly not a team that can compete at the high levels as they did under Guardiola.
On the other hand, the younger players are flourishing under Kovac. Gnabry and Goretzka are having an excellent debut season. Sule has become an undisputed starter for Bayern as well as for Germany. Kimmich is also having an amazingly consistent season.
The demand for success is always high at Bayern, and the bar has been set very high following the success of Guardiola and Heynckes’ treble season. But it is not easy to emulate that every season. Every club goes through the cycle of success and rebuilding the team. It is happening with Real Madrid, it is happening to Bayern Munich, it happens to every club in the world. But to put all the blame on the coach does not do justice to anyone.
Who knows what might happen if he is actually given the signings he wants to help in implementing his tactics? If he is able to execute his back three system at Bayern, there is every chance that this team will again get back to its original level. Kovac has shaped his strategies based on the previous coaches’ philosophies, rather than employing his own philosophy. If the squad is in the need of upheaval, what’s the harm in the changing the style of play and therein bringing fresh ideas?
Surely, Kovac does not possess the best footballing brain and there are also places where he has faltered. His stubbornness and inability of changing the tactics during the match was clearly evident against Liverpool. But if it comes to replacing him, there is not any big-name manager available. Zidane has gone back to Real Madrid, there is some uncertainty regarding the future of Allegri, and then there is Mourinho. But hiring him would only invite more trouble. Other than them, there’s really no one around.
It remains to be seen what the board does at the end of this season. If Kovac somehow manages to win the double, it would be a very good achievement given the situation. But if he doesn’t, then the doubts over him will increase further. These final weeks of the season might be the most important so far in Kovac’s coaching career.