One of the biggest shocks in this season’s Champions League occurred on Tuesday night when Bayern Munich were stunned by Villarreal.
The six-time winners and 2020 champions were left aghast when Samuel Chuckwueze scored an 88th minute equaliser at the Allianz Arena to give the underdogs a 2-1 aggregate win, following their victory in the first leg in Spain.
The result means Bayern have exited at the quarter-final stage in back-to-back seasons but while last year saw them go down to a very strong Paris Saint-Germain side, losing to Villarreal is not something that would have ordinarily been expected to happen.
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Manager Julian Nagelsmann was highly sought after prior to his appointment last summer and was expected to keep the glory flowing in Bavaria, but this unexpected bump in the road might mean a rethink and reshuffle of both his team selections and tactical plans.
Eurosport Germany’s Marc Hlusiak talks us through the fallout from a disappointing night...
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Bayern are on course for a 10th league title in a row which could justifiably prompt a discussion about the level of competition they face domestically and whether that dominance can negatively impact the different challenges they face in Europe.
However, despite a healthy nine-point advantage at the top, Hlusiak says the team haven’t had it all their own way this season.
“In general, Bayern is currently in a phase in which they do not exude the usual dominance - not in Europe and not in the Bundesliga.
“But yes, against Villarreal they should have progressed anyway.”
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Despite another ridiculous haul of 47 goals in all competitions so far this campaign, Robert Lewandowski was unable to help his side progress against Villarreal and Hlusiak believes the failure to get the most out of their star man over two legs was the reason for their exit.
“Bayern failed to get Lewandowski into the game properly in both legs. He did score a goal yesterday, but to be honest he was pretty much out of the game.
“In Villarreal they had a really bad evening and could actually be happy that they only lost 1-0. The fact that this result was not corrected in a full Allianz Arena is a real blow.”
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Tactically, Naglesmann has tried to imprint his own style on Bayern. The former RB Leipzig boss has moved to a back three and is trying to make best use of players in wide positions in attack. However, it still appears to be a work in progress according to Hlusiak.
“It's not as effective as it could be. Ideally, Bayern have a fit Alphonso Davies on the pitch. With him on the wing, Bayern are much more effective.
“In addition, Leroy Sane is currently struggling on the right.”
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Image credit: Getty Images
Bayern expect to win the Champions League pretty much every season, so how disappointing is this result?
Anyone who has seen the Amazon Prime documentary ‘Behind the Legend’ will know how highly Bayern values itself.
Everything is tailored and geared towards success, with Bayern refusing to see themselves as anything other than among the elite. The desire and determination to win Europe’s top football prize is a way of highlighting this.
“Maybe they don't expect to win the Champions League every year,” says Hlusiak. “But the belief is that no club is any more likely to win the Champions League than Bayern. The probability is just as good at many clubs, but nobody is seen as ‘clearly’ better.
“So the Villarreal result hurts especially because they were knocked out by the supposedly smallest name in the quarter-finals. Like I said before, it’s a huge blow!”
Will this be considered a minor blip for Nagelsmann or will there be some more pressure on him now?
Bayern are not quite as ruthless with managers as the likes of Real Madrid or Chelsea for example, but that doesn’t mean they are willing to tolerate underperformance.
For some, Pep Guardiola's tenure is considered something of a disappointment for his failure to win the Champions League despite three dominant league title wins.
Carlo Ancelotti was sacked for not meeting expectations and the club wasted little time dispatching Niko Kovac when it was clear things weren’t working out.
Nagelsmann is unlikely to face the same fate anytime soon according to Hlusiak, but improvement will be both expected and demanded going forward.
“Nagelsmann doesn't have to fear for his job - no way. But his first year is now being seen as an ‘apprenticeship’ year.
“He was eliminated early in the German Cup and now also in the Champions League.
“The grace period is definitely over, there are no more excuses.
“From next year the pressure on him will be much greater and you will look much more closely at any mistakes."
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Where should he look to improve the team, particularly with the speculation over Lewandowski's future?
How Nagelsmann builds his team is key and the summer could be crucial for Bayern with major changes a possibility.
“First and foremost, Bayern must be clear about whether they want to use the summer to make major changes to the squad,” says Hlusiak.
“Should Lewandowski really go, would it make sense to rebuild more extensively or not? The priority is currently to keep Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Lewandowski. They are the most important pillars, alongside Joshua Kimmich, at Bayern.
“If they succeed, the squad should be strengthened selectively. On the wing, in central defence and at right-back.”
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