Bayern needing 'wake-up call' after run of slow starts
DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Bayern Munich has been providing plenty of entertainment for the fans, and plenty of anxiety for the team.
Bayern has conceded the opening goal in each of its last eight Bundesliga games before coming back to win or draw every time. There was an even bigger hole on Sunday when Bayern went down 2-0 at halftime against relegation-threatened Mainz before winning 5-2.
“At the moment we always need a wake-up call before we can go full throttle and score," Bayern forward Leroy Sané told broadcaster Sky. “That always ends up costing us some more energy. We have to be more awake.”
Bayern had ”not enough" in terms of attitude in the first half, said Joshua Kimmich, who dropped from midfield to right back at halftime, replacing Benjamin Pavard, and went on to score.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick said the team's approach was “negligent” when challenging for the ball.
Bayern leads the Bundesliga and qualified easily from its Champions League group, so it’s far from a crisis, but repeatedly having to come back after conceding early goals puts extra strain on a squad which already lacks depth.
It's not hard to see why Bayern players might find it tough to stay focused. Their schedule has been more punishing than for nearly any other club amid the coronavirus pandemic, with two games almost every week since winning the Champions League in August. Flick has previously highlighted how Bayern’s packed calendar means limited time to train and prepare for games.
Two weeks off for Christmas and New Year's brought some respite, but the upcoming weeks will be tough. There are five more Bundesliga games and a rescheduled German Cup match in January before the Club World Cup in Qatar next month and Champions League knockout games against Lazio.
Most of those opponents will be tougher than Mainz, which has one league win all season and had a temporary stand-in coach on Sunday.
Flick has spoken of the need to rotate the squad this season after Bayern's Bundesliga and Champions League wins in 2020 were accomplished with a small group of core players. Fringe players haven't stepped up, however, and young talents like Jamal Musiala and Joshua Zirkzee have yet to really break through.
Bayern relies as heavily as ever on its key players. Take the immense scoring form which took Robert Lewandowski to the FIFA award for best player. He has scored nine goals in the last eight Bundesliga games to fuel Bayern's series of comebacks. Thomas Müller has started every league game for 11 months when not suspended.
By contrast, none of the four players Bayern signed to add depth just before the October transfer deadline have made much of an impression.
Forward Douglas Costa was seen as a reliable backup when he rejoined Bayern from Juventus, but has scored only once in 15 games. The plan in signing striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting — a Paris Saint-Germain player last season — was to help Lewandowski get more rest but he has yet to score a Bundesliga goal. Right back Bouna Sarr has been left out of several recent matchday squads and midfielder Marc Roca was sent off in his Champions League debut.
Bayern, which has a two-point lead over second-place Leipzig, plays Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday. Gladbach has had an inconsistent season, reaching the last 16 of the Champions League but struggling in the Bundesliga.
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