Stung by Joachim Löw’s retiring of three of their Germany players, Bayern responded with a 6-0 win over Wolfsburg
“Anger is an energy,” John Lydon famously sang on Public Image Limited’s ‘Rise’. The line has had a fair airing in the past week, used in attempts to sum up the on-stage essence of Keith Flint after The Prodigy frontman’s untimely passing. Flint himself frequently laughed off the perception that he was an angry man but this weekend, Bayern Munich took the phrase – which Lydon later also used as the title for a memoir – and showed themselves to be more than happy to embody it.
By the time the clock ticked 17.21 in the Allianz Arena on Saturday afternoon, as an overwhelmed Wolfsburg team stood dazed on the turf having taken a thrashing that could easily have been worse, it was tricky to work out which scenario should have been the most obvious to us two hours beforehand. That Wolfsburg, who had never won in 21 previous visits to Bayern, were never going to change that? That Bayern’s relentless pace of late, seemingly reaching a familiar crescendo as they entered this match with 11 wins from their last 12 in the Bundesliga, showed no sign of faltering? Or that having been piqued by the treatment of Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng and Thomas Müller from Germany national team coach Joachim Löw during the week, that Bayern would react with extreme prejudice.
On reflection, we might go with the latter. Niko Kovac did call the performance “a good continuation of the Gladbach match” and that’s what it felt like, with Bayern at their most dominant, impressive, ruthless and cruel with barely a discernible break from their systematic dismantling of Dieter Hecking’s team seven days before, with the 11-1 combined scoreline enough to finally nudge Borussia Dortmund off the top on goal difference. Yet the context added something else, with Löw having publicly retired the long-serving, aforementioned trio from international duty on Tuesday. In a season of indignant statements from the club the response of the following day, co-signed by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hasan Salihamidžić, simmered with rage.
While acknowledging picking a squad was “solely the responsibility” of the coach, it went on to criticise “the timing and circumstances” of the announcement, made after “an unannounced visit by Joachim Löw and Oliver Bierhoff to FC Bayern at Säbener Straße,” their training centre. It also suggested that coming before the Wolfsburg game and the Champions League return with Liverpool, it was potentially disruptive at a crucial stage of the season.
There is every reason to sympathise with the trio, part of a phenomenally successful era in the history of German football and now cast off unequivocally and definitively, seemingly to make the point that Löw is making some changes after a poor 2018. He has every right to pick his team, of course, but he should also have an obligation to handle personnel issues with care and sensitivity, especially after the botch made of relations with Mesut Özil last year.
The idea that Bayern would react to the affront in any other way than using it as fuel to their fire is an amusing one, however. Did anyone really think that this would damage confidence or bow heads held ever higher in recent weeks? Bruno Labbadia and Wolfsburg players would have been forgiven for a collective gulp on reading the Bayern statement from midweek. By the end of it, they might well have felt they were ripe for a collective thrashing.
Müller, Hummels and Boateng were all included in Kovac’s XI for kick-off, which is not a given these days. “That could certainly be interpreted as a message,” wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Tim Brack. “At Bayern, they stick together.” It could be argued that Müller and particularly Boateng were playing with the likelihood that they might not when Jürgen Klopp and company visit on Wednesday, but it did feel like making a point, and Bayern bristled with a collective malevolence, as they tend to at their best. Franck Ribéry, who wasn’t involved in the events of midweek but rarely needs a reason to get hot under the collar, got into the spirit of it as well, coming on 10 minutes into the second half and setting up all three second-half goals.
Given that in September 2015, Robert Lewandowski scored five in nine minutes against the same opponents after coming on as a second-half substitute, there was the sense that it could have been more, as the Poland striker passed his former teammate Claudio Pizarro as the Bundesliga’s highest-scoring non-German, now on 197 goals. Yet if Müller, Boateng and Hummels were happy enough to do their talking on the pitch (Müller told journalists that he had “a lovely time” on his way out of the Allianz, while the other two stayed silent), there were others more than happy to speak for them.Understandably captain Manuel Neuer toed a diplomatic line, while Leon Goretzka concentrated on paying tribute to their contributions for Germany, especially towards the 2014 World Cup win. “Even now, it gives me goose bumps thinking about it,” the midfielder said. Joshua Kimmich, on the other hand, was considerably more forthright and, given Bayern’s reaction, more on message with the mood at Säbener Straße.
“Judging it from a player’s perspective,” he said, “the way [in which the news was announced] is not OK.” Given that Kimmich and Löw will meet again in 10 days’ time when Germany reconvene for Euro 2020 qualifiers, he struck a bold tone. “I totally understand how disappointed the boys must be,” Kimmich continued. “I know how special it is to play for Germany.”
Source: The Guardians