Friday, 11 March 2011

Are Bayern Munich right to let Louis van Gaal leave at the end of the season?

So, Bayern Munich and Louis van Gaal have agreed part company at the end of the season. Crazy. This time last season, Bayern had just knocked out Fiorentina in the Champions League, courtesy of the away goal rule. Arguably, that game was the start of Bayern’s brilliant adventure in Europe that season. Even though Bayern were hugely successful last season. As they won the German cup and the Bundesliga with relative comfort. But the success of last season wasn’t enough for the Bayern hierocracy to keep faith in their Dutch manager.

It’s fair to say, instant success was pretty much expected in Van Gaal’s first season at Bayern. Simply because the club had spent a shed load of cash on new acquisitions. In total, the club spent £72 million. Bringing in the likes of Arjen Robben (£21 million), Mario Gomez (£30 million) and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (£12 million). All of which are quality players who added to the array of talent already at Bayren.

The new acquisitions swiftly clicked into place as Louis van Gaal’s first season was brilliant. However, one must remember, the team only won 1 of their first 4 opening games. Maybe foreshadowing the shambolic second season. However, they managed to overcome their poor start and won the league with 5 points clear and only lost 4 games throughout the league season. A fantastic Bundesliga campaign. Van Gaal’s 4-5-1 system suited the Munich side perfectly. Bayern had Frank Ribery on the left side of midfield, while on the other flank, the new acquisition Arjen Robben occupied the right hand side. Robben had a fantastic debut season. The flying Dutchman was the team’s top goal scorer with 22 goals. While upfront Bayern played Mario Gomez. The team had absolutely no reason to fail. As they clearly had quality and depth running through the team.

Louis van Gaal’s European pedigree assisted Bayern on their Champions League journey last season. Bayern picked up 7 wins in 13 European matches. Including impressive wins such as hammering Juventus 4-1 in Italy, beating Man Utd 2-1 and smashing Lyon 3-0 in the second leg of the semi final. It’s a common criticism that the team were lucky to go through against Man United and Fiorentina. As they won by the away goals rule. But Louis van Gaal’s Bayern had it tough. They had to perform well in their first leg matches at home. This is something they did. But not in a satisfying manner. As the team conceded crucial away goals against Fiorentina and Man United. But Bayern’s quality attack proved the difference. As the team scored two or more goals in all of their away matches in the knock out stages.

Bayern had a tense rollercoaster of a journey on route to the Champions League final. Although in the semi’s against Lyon they comfortably beat them over the two legs. But the ties against Man United and Fiorentina were nothing short of scarped wins. But Bayern made into the final, their first Champions League final since winning the trophy in 2001. But, it’s fair to say Van Gaal’s men were nullified by a calculated Inter Milan side in 2010 final.

But has Louis van Gaal been fairly treated by Bayern Munich? The Dutchman offered the club instant success. Yes, it was expected. After all, the club spent over £70 million on new players. Plus they already had arrays of talent in their squad. But expecting something in football and something practically happening in the game are two different things. But Van Gaal proved he could manage the squad and find a system which would quickly reap success for the side.

But of course, this season has been nothing but a disaster. Bayern Munich are a massive 19 points behind the league leaders Borussia Dortmund. And are 5 points away from the Champions League spots. Munich are in huge trouble. There is no doubt about that. But does Louis van Gaal deserve the sack for this catastrophic season? One would have to say yes.

On paper, Bayern Munich are the best side in Germany. The team has quality running throughout the side. Furthermore, being a massive 19 points behind in the league leaders is absurd. Especially as Bayern won the league last season. Bayern Munich are the biggest side in Germany. The club generates a huge amount of revenue and has the biggest stadium in Germany. Yet, there is a strong possibility that they may not even qualify for the Champions League next season.

Louis van Gaal did an incredible job in his first season at Bayern Munich. His instant success was supposed to be one significant step towards the Bayern’s sustained domination of German football. But this season has been a horror show. The team were knocked out of the German cup at home by Schalke. This is something which is totally unheard of in the history and culture of Bayern Munich.

After it was confirmed Van Gaal was to leave at the end of the season. The club commented that Louis van Gaal and the Bayern hierarchy had ‘differing views on the club's strategic direction.’ In other words, the club doesn’t want to see another horror show like this season again.

When Louis van Gaal joined the club, he described Bayern Munich as being a ‘dream job.’ The first season was a dream season. Everything fell into place for the side. But that dream quickly turned into a nightmare in the second season.

No one can take away the achievements of Louis van Gaal’s first season at Bayern Munich. But the club haven’t just taken a step back this season, they have taken huge step in decline. Bayern Munich are the 4th richest club in the world. The club has it all. They have the stadia, the fans, the economic resources and the players. Challenging for the league and playing in the Champions League should be a minimal expectation.

And Louis van Gaal has had to pay the price for not being able to sustain the fierce expectations of a massive club.

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