BERLIN (AP) — Munich’s beer-swilling Oktoberfest is in full swing but Germany's most successful soccer club is in no mood to party.
Bayern Munich is in crisis after four consecutive Bundesliga games without a win.
Doubt, uncertainty, disbelief — and anger. They’ve all been evident at the club since Bavarian rival Augsburg defeated Julian Nagelsmann’s star-studded team 1-0 on Saturday.
There was muted enthusiasm from the team and officials as they donned their traditional Bavarian outfits to visit the Oktoberfest on Sunday — smiles for the cameras, but little cheer.
The 10-time defending champions had started the season brilliantly, clocking 15 goals and conceding just one in their opening three games for the best start any team has ever made to the Bundesliga.
Then it stopped.
Bayern hasn’t won since — being held to three consecutive draws by Borussia Mönchengladbach, Union Berlin and Stuttgart — before Saturday’s shock also brought an end to Bayern’s league-record of scoring in 87 consecutive games. Leipzig was the last team to hold Bayern scoreless in the Bundesliga on Feb. 9, 2020.
“In the first three, four or five weeks we didn’t allow the opponents any chance,” Bayern midfielder Marcel Sabitzer said, “but then suddenly everything was gone.”
It’s not the first time Bayern has endured a hangover before the annual Oktoberfest celebrations. Niko Kovac’s team lost before festival visits in 2018 and 2019, while Carlo Ancelotti was fired shortly after the team’s 2017 visit. Pep Guardiola was the last Bayern coach to oversee a win right before the Oktoberfest in 2015.
The event did not take place last year or the year before due the unpredictable development of COVID-19 infections and restrictions.
Nagelsmann, who had been expected to lead Bayern to more than “only” the Bundesliga in his second season in charge, appears stumped, struggling for answers amid his team’s slump.
“I need to think about everything, about myself, the situation, about everything,” a visibly peeved Nagelsmann said in the post-game press conference on Saturday.
Nagelsmann bristled when he was asked if the team missed Robert Lewandowski, who switched to Barcelona in the offseason and has continued his goal-scoring ways in Spain.
“It’s all the same what I say,” Nagelsmann said. “If I say ‘no,’ then everyone will say ‘he doesn’t know the problem,’ and if I say ‘yes,’ you’ll all write ‘he misses Lewandowski.’ The answer doesn’t matter.”
But it’s clear that Bayern has a problem converting chances. The team had 19 efforts at goal against Augsburg — two of those from Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer — but in the end it was Neuer’s counterpart Rafał Gikiewicz who was celebrating several outstanding saves.
Bayern veteran Thomas Müller said he was “angry” after the third draw. After the fourth game without a win, he said, “we’re standing here stunned and devastated. It matches the weather, it’s getting darker.”
Sadio Mané is being criticized for the first time since joining from Liverpool. The Senegal star scored three goals in his first three Bundesliga appearances, but none since.
There has also been speculation about Nagelsmann’s future, with some linking former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel with the club. Tuchel is available after he was fired by Chelsea earlier this month.
But both Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn and club president Herbert Hainer said they were backing Nagelsmann and were not even thinking of a change.
“We’re completely convinced by Julian Nagelsmann and our whole team,” Hainer told local newspapers Münchner Merkur and TZ. “The season has just started and we know we have the potential to achieve our big goals.”
While Bayern is struggling in the Bundesliga, the team’s Champions League campaign is off to a winning start after victories at Inter Milan and at home over Barcelona.
Inter defender Robin Gosens is surprised by Bayern’s domestic troubles.
“When we played against Bayern, we all sat in the dressing room after the game and thought: ‘Wow, what intensity they have in their game,’” Gosens said Monday after joining the rest of the Germany squad for upcoming internationals. “It’s already the absolute top level in Europe and in the world. They took us by surprise, overran us and showed twice the intensity we did.”
There were warning signs, however, in Bayern’s 2-0 win over Barcelona last week, when the visitors created more chances and were only caught out by quick-fire goals after the interval.
Then came the first loss of the season at modest Augsburg.
The international break is giving Bayern’s players and officials time to think about the situation. The next game, against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Sept. 30, will show whether that was beneficial or not.
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Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press