Bayern Munich wins another Bundesliga title, but season falls short of expectations
Bayern Munich wrapped up the Bundesliga title with three matches to spare after beating Wolfsburg 6-0, leaving little in doubt.
“It was men against boys,” conceded Wolfsburg’s ex-Bayern forward Mario Gomez.
It was Bayern’s fifth title in a row, a domestic record. Its soon-to-retire captain Philipp Lahm led the celebratory songs with the away fans; in his 14-year career, the 33-year-old has won eight league titles, six German Cups and a Champions League final (his eight titles is a joint-record along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl).
And yet for all the celebrations after the final whistle–the red T-shirts with a white hand representing the five titles, and the social media hashtag #Mia5anMia–you could not escape the thought that Carlo Ancelotti’s first season in charge has fallen below expectations. In the last two weeks, Bayern was knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in the quarterfinals and lost the German Cup semifinal to Borussia Dortmund.
There was no great shame to the Madrid loss, although it could have secured a different fate. Bayern missed a penalty when 1-0 up in the first leg, and was later reduced to 10 men in the 2-1 loss; it recovered to take the European champion to extra time in the second leg, again with 10 men, before conceding three quick-fire goals. There were grumbles that two of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals were offside while Arturo Vidal’s red card was harsh.
The Dortmund defeat was another matter: Bayern was 2-1 ahead with 20 minutes left and failed to hold on at home, going down 3-2.
“There are big regrets about the last 15-20 days,” said Ancelotti. “I think we could do better. We could have been luckier. In some situations, it was our fault and we can learn from this to be better next season.”
The Italian, the first coach to win league titles in Germany, Spain, Italy and France, won backing from chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, but how Bayern approaches the summer transfer market will be interesting.
With Lahm and Xabi Alonso retiring, you would expect Renato Sanches and Joshua Kimmich to have more opportunities in the first team. With Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben in their mid-30s, the same opportunities could arise for Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa. But does Ancelotti trust these younger players to step up, and can they improve with him in charge? Against the likes of Wolfsburg, the answer is yes: Kimmich and Coman played well in the absence of Alonso and Ribery. But against Madrid, even Dortmund, it’s another matter entirely.
It could be a busy summer in Munich.