On the surface, a 3-2 defeat for Bayern in the first Der Klassiker of the season may appear surprising. The German side had lost only once in the league to Dortmund in the last four years. But Bayern’s problems have been evident all season
Since the departure of popular figure Jupp Heynckes in 2013, Bayern have struggled to find a manager capable of dealing with the heavy demands of the fans and the board. Even the enigmatic Guardiola, who lost nine league games in three years, never fully established himself as he had done at Manchester City. Bayern see themselves as the biggest club in Germany and as Champions League contenders every season, yet their record transfer of Corentin Tolisso (signed as a 22-year-old from Lyon for £37million) speaks volumes about their lack of investment compared to other European heavyweights.
German clubs are known for trusting young players due to their inability to compete financially with their English and Spanish counterparts. But where Dortmund, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig stand out, Bayern’s record with developing youth is comparatively poor. The careful use of stalwarts Arjen Robben (34), Franck Ribéry (35) and Jérôme Boateng (30) have kept Bayern ticking over domestically for several seasons, but clearly, they are no longer elite players. Manuel Neuer (32) is a legend, but his injury and rushed return has seen a massive dip in form for the captain. Age plays a big factor, but so does motivation; Bayern’s stars have been dominant in Germany for too long.
This campaign demonstrates this more than ever with the hungry youth consistently triumphing over seasoned professionals. Bayern’s serial winners seemed unable to match the intensity of a young Dortmund side, and injuries to Tolisso, Thiago and James have exposed their lack of depth. Bayern are desperate for an overhaul of personnel, and whilst manager Niko Kovač finds himself seven points behind first-placed Dortmund, his experience means he still could be the man to oversee a much-needed change.