Bayern Munich’s dream of winning three competitions this year is over, falling victim to some misfortune, poor refereeing and then some dreadful penalty kicks. And by dreadful we mean going 0-for-4 a shootout, slipping and missing the goal on the first two before having the next two saved.
All of that condemned Bayern, even with Borussia Dortmund 1-1 at the final whistle, to a German Cup (DFB-Pokal) semifinal loss. It condemned it to the death of a dream. It condemned the team to taunts from Dortmund. And it condemned Pep Guardiola to questions about his management.
Things have gotten a bit bumpy for Guardiola. He yelled at some Porto groundskeepers three weeks ago, his trainer quit after being blamed for that loss in Portugal, and now Jurgen Klopp got the best of him in a semifinal.
That may be the extent of the list of Guardiola’s problems, but he is Guardiola, and this is Bayern Munich. It requires some big stretches to drum up any sort of bumpy paths.
If Guardiola had a high bar to clear at Barcelona, he’s finding the bar at Bayern to be a few miles even higher. Right now, the bar couldn’t get any higher. He took over a team that had won the league, cup, and Europe the year before he arrived and has added the likes of Mario Götze, Roberto Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso to the squad.
The standard at Bayern was literally winning every single competition. And then Guardola got to buy more players to push expectations higher. If there was ever a time when the phrase ‘impossible to please’ was apt, this is it.
So when Guardiola loses in the DFB-Pokal, the sky is falling. The idea that Bayern isn’t going to win a “treble” is legitimately surprising. We didn’t expect it. No one did. If anything got in the team’s way, it was supposed to be Barcelona in Champions League, and even that loss would come with some scrutiny.
But losing in the cup semifinal? And to Dortmund? Nobody wants to deal with the scrutiny coming to Guardiola now.
To say that scrutiny will be unfair would be an understatement. In nearly two years at Bayern Munich, Guardiola has won the Bundesliga twice, the DFB-Pokal once and made the Champions League semifinals twice, with a chance to win it this year. That’s pretty damn good.
A look at Bayern Munich’s past managers would be pretty flattering to Guardiola. Louis van Gaal, Jurgen Klinsmann, Ottmar Hitzfield and Felix Magath didn’t put together teams spectacularly better than Guardiola’s. Only one man, Jupp Heynckes, did. Well, he at least had his one dream season.
Heynckes’s team was amazing. It was a bulldozer, but it was also very lucky. It didn’t have players slipping on penalties, and referees’ calls went its way at the right time. Everything came together. That hasn’t been the case for Guardiola’s team, who are merely great but imperfect, and without the fortune.
Bayern Munich isn’t winning the treble. It’s only one of the two best teams in the world, which is plenty good enough as soon you get your mind off of the word “treble.”