The 2019/20 Bundesliga season is already in mid-November. Bayern Munich have played in 11 league matches and four European games. In the Bundesliga, the German record champions are third, four points adrift of leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach, and top of their Champions League group. A dismal display last week against Eintracht Frankfurt at the Commerzbank-Arena saw Bayern lose 5-1, with the singular goal coming from Robert Lewandowski. Niko Kovac’s time as Bayern manager came to a subsequent end. The Munich side bounced back Saturday, comfortably beating Borussia Dortmund 4-0, with two of the four goals coming from their star striker. In fact, the Polish marksman is in the form of his life, having put the ball in the back of the net in every single Bundesliga and European match that Bayern have played in this season. That is 22 goals in just 15 matches, and we are only 12 days into November.
Robert Lewandowski Needs Help From Others at Bayern Munich
Lack of Leadership
Bayern’s thrashing of Dortmund does not solve the club’s root problem: a lack of leadership. If it was not for the brilliant form of Robert Lewandowski, Bayern would be much further behind league leaders Mönchengladbach than they are now. The Pole scored a brace in a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin on the opening matchday, a hat-trick to beat Schalke 3-0, the one Bayern goal in a draw with RB Leipzig, a goal to draw with Augsburg 2-2, and the would-be winners against both Paderborn and Union Berlin. That is a total of nine points rescued via goals from Lewandowski. Bayern have accumulated 21 points so far, but could only have 12, placing them between the two Berlin clubs in 12th, if it were not for the sheer brilliance of their number nine.
As FC Hollywood search for a permanent manager, Joachim Löw’s former assistant, Hans-Dieter Flick, took charge as interim manager before Saturday’s Der Klassiker. One has to wonder whether the problem in the squad was Kovac, or simply the fact that Bayern are far too reliant on Lewandowski. Besides Manuel Neuer, the squad is completely devoid of any leadership. Even Neuer is not what he used to be, as questions have been asked since 2018 about his position as the DFB team’s number one. Right now, Lewandowski is the only Bayern player capable of consistently grabbing the match by the scruff of the neck and grinding out a result.
Jerome Boateng has never been a leader, Thomas Muller is not the player he once was, while up and coming Niklas Süle will be out for months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against Augsburg. The squad has not replaced the leadership of its old-guard, the players that rescued it when things looked down and out, the others had something to aspire to; the Bayern legends, Champions League victors, and World Cup winners. The absence of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery is being felt. Robert Lewandowski is doing all he can to fill this void, but the true championship mentality of the iconic ‘Robbery’ cannot be so easily replaced by Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, despite their undeniable talent. The loss of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger was made easier by the continued presence of Robben and Ribery, but now they are all gone.
It is time for four of Bayern’s veterans to step up and help Lewandowski. David Alaba has been the starting left-back for eight seasons, playing an integral role in not just the club’s domestic dominance, but Bayern’s Champions League triumph in 2013. Being surrounded by Ribery, Robben, Mats Hummels, Lewandowski, Lahm, and Schweinsteiger for the vast majority of his more than 200 Bayern appearances, Alaba has never had to be a leader. He fit perfectly into the squad.
The same must be said of Joshua Kimmich. The 24-year-old right-back is a crucial piece to Bayern and the German national side’s future and is often thought of as Lahm’s natural replacement. The Baden-Württemberg native, in conjunction with Alaba, has to make the transition from taking orders from the Bayern veterans that have now left, to becoming one of those veterans that the newer squad members can look up to. Bayern Munich desperately need leaders in defence, and this leadership will have to come from Alaba and Kimmich.
In terms of the midfield, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez must assume leadership roles. Both have been at the club for more than five years, while Martinez was an ever-present in Bayern’s 2013 Champions League victory. Just as Alaba and Kimmich never had to lead in defence, the same can be said of Martinez and Alcantara in the midfield. The Bayern midfield is brimming full of youthful talent. Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso are in their mid-20’s, while Alphonso Davies and newly signed Mickaël Cuisance from Mönchengladbach are both 20. Let us also not forget about the most talented youngsters at Bayern: Gnabry and Coman. All of these players have massive potential at Bayern, and the leadership of Martinez and Alcantara will be vital in it being realised.
Robert Lewandowski Cannot Do it all Himself
At the end of the day, it does not matter who Bayern appoint as their permanent manager if Robert Lewandowski is the only current leader on the pitch. The defence will continue to leak goals while relying far too much on one man to move the side forward. Alaba, Kimmich, Martinez, and Alcantara have to provide the crucial leadership necessary in the midfield and defence to balance a squad that is so incredibly lopsided. Lewandowski might well be the best striker in the world having the season of his career, but no player, not even Lionel Messi at Barcelona, can win a title by himself.