'A dampener amidst all the sunshine': The reaction in Germany to Bayern Munich v Arsenal
Arsenal won 2-0 on Munich but Bayern progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League on away goals
"The game has thrown up big questions in our ideal world," remarked Thomas Mueller, ever the blunt interviewee, "I hadn't even thought it would be possible to lose 2-0, but maybe that was our mistake. Maybe it's good to have a dampener amidst all this sunshine."
Mistakes, questions, shattered idylls – those are the buzzwords around Munich today, as FC Bayern celebrate their passage into the quarter finals of the Champions League last night. Celebrate, though, is the wrong word. Even a sense of relief after yesterday's woeful performance against Arsenal was barely tangible in the Bayern camp. Despite the aggregate victory, this game was a defeat for Bayern in that it confirmed the first cracks in what was set to be a flawless season.
Perhaps the best indicator of how things are going at Bayern is the rhetoric of Uli Hoeness. Last night, the Bayern president was a long way from the gentle smugness which peppered his interviews after the first leg in London: "This game was a timely warning," he grimaced, "after the weak performance in Hoffenheim and the lucky win against Duesseldorf, and now to go through by the skin of our teeth and a 2-0 defeat. The team has to start playing like they were three or four weeks ago."
He made it sound so easy. And that is probably because his current team's problems are all too familiar for the man who has spent nearly his entire working life since 1970 at FC Bayern Muenchen. It was a problem which German football has been waiting to see emerge from the moment Bayern took a stranglehold on this season. Arrogance. Fatal complacency in the face of an inferior opponent.
It is a problem which has seen many Bayern sides of the past fall short of their invariably extravagant goals. It is also one which the current side had appeared, up to this point in the season, to have avoided. There had been fears that the excitement around the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola and the increasingly difficult departure of Jupp Heynckes would have an effect on the team's psychology. But they carried on winning. No amount of arrogance could stop the Bayern juggernaut.
And yet, in the words of Jupp Heynckes, they still came out of the first leg in London all too naively. Their own brilliance, and their own refusal to give in to arrogance, has seen Bayern relax a little too much. On German TV after the game, Franz Beckenbauer was quick to point out that not even the performance at the Emirates had merited such a readiness to rest on one's laurels. "You can't play football like Bayern did today," he said "there was no concentration, no application."
It is a rare occasion that a team reaches the quarter finals of the Champions League in a wave of disappointment. But it is a reflection of the optimism around Bayern's season, and of their age old psychological paradox. When they win, they become more and more confident, until it reaches the point where they think they can take their foot off the gas.
So far, it has only very nearly cost them. Against all of Hoffenheim, Duesseldorf and Arsenal, Bayern waltzed into the game expecting a win, and stumbled out having only just got one. The relentless optimism about this season has been replaced by a nagging feeling that, in one competition at least, Bayern are in danger of seeing their season explode in the manner it did last year. If they are to stop that from happening, then they must get their heads back in the right place. As they have shown over the vast majority of this season, this Bayern team have a greater quality and a more destructive brand of football than any in the last decade. They must now consolidate that with a stronger mentality.
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