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Klinsmann: Staying Alive



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Even the highest dose of “Aspirin” from pharmaceutical giants Bayer AG will do little to “Aleve” the migraines of Bayern Munich.

What a difference a week makes. It was all bear hugs and high fives after Bayern Munich trashed Sporting Lisbon by five un-replied goals in midweek UEFA Champions league play. However, the euphoria was short lived when the bottom came falling as Bayer Leverkusen ran riot against Jurgen Klinsmann’s men.  The 4-2 win against Bayern Munich in the quarter final of the DFB-Pokal (the league cup) was “Neverkusen’s” or “Loserkusen’s” first win over the Bavarian giants in five years in all competitions.

To make matters worse for Klinsmann, his team has four points in its last five league games, sit fifth place in the Bundesliga and its best player Frank Ribery is doing his best impersonation of Cristiano Ronaldo as he seeks a move away from the club. Needless to say things are not going well for “the Golden Bomber” – “Golden” for his blond hair, “Bomber” is anyone’s guess.

After last season’s double, Bayern were supposed to ease to consecutive league and domestic cup titles. The appointment of former national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was supposed to bring about a new dawn in the club’s storied past. To paraphrase German football encyclopedia Raphael Honigstein:

“The 43-year-old and his half an army of specialist coaches will transform Bayern with a highly-individualized training regime and computerized tactics coupled with high-impact motivational speeches featuring buzzwords from American self-help books… the new Bayern family will be less like The Simpsons – dysfunctional, but entertaining – and more like The Waltons, extremely tight-knit if not a little creepy.”

The sad fact is that Klinsmann’s “Simpsons and Waltons” gag was lost in translation as the squad have become a lot more like The Simpsons and a lot less like The Waltons.

While Bayern have become a lot more interesting to watch, they have gone about it wrongly –  the Tottenham Hotspur way. The team play a very entertaining yet nervy style of football and like her beloved English bastard step-brother Tottenham, have become rather unpredictable. In 22 league games this season the club have the second best away record, conceded a league’s best 11 away goals and  staged 8 second half wins when drawing or losing by half time – a certain mark of champions. What’s more fascinating is how Bayern have managed to keep pace in the league for so long under Klinsmann’s “revolutionary style of football”.

Playing without an adequate defensive midfielder whilst employing a very attacking tactic is sure to raise a lot of questions. Moreover, playing with NO defensive cover  whilst employing the same attacking tactic is suicidal.

At Bayern Munich, Klinsmann is employing the kind of tactics our granny’s would refrain from. Klinsmann’s preferred 4-4-2 formation of Rensing – Lahm, Demichelis, Lucio / Van Buyten, Oddo – Van Bommel, Ze Roberto / Borowski – Schweinsteiger – Ribery – Toni – Klose / Podolski has failed to live up to expectations. Attacking wise, this formation is great as overlapping fullbacks Lahm and Oddo provide width along the flanks which allows Ribery and Schweinsteiger to play more as wingers than midfielders and thus creating more space for prolific strikers Klose and Toni.

Defensively, the team is quite suspect; actually who am I kidding,  it’s shit.  Center midfielders Ze Roberto and Van Bommel are very good offensively but lack any defensive mentality.It seemed things could not get any worse.

With Oddo and Lahm playing as attacking wingbacks, one would expect preferred center back duo Demichelis and Lucio to stay put in defense but for some odd reason the latter is often seen marooning further up the park leaving Demichiles with the very abject goaltender Michael Rensing as the last line of defence.

To Klinsmann’s credit, he has tried to remedy the situation by playing with a 4-1-3-2 formation with Demichiles employed as the defensive midfielder but the problem is that while Demichiles is quite adept defensively, he simply cannot pass a football which makes it almost impossible for him to link defense into attack. On the other hand, Van Bommel is very slow and more worryingly, woeful at tackling. Tim Borowski and Altintop like to bomb forward at every opportunity where as Andreas Ottl is inexperienced, relatively bad and young – and will only get worse as he gets older and gains more experience.

Klinsmann has not been helped by the lack of transfer funds. After last season’s Blitzkrieg of new signings which included Ribery, Toni, Klose, Ze Roberto, Altintop, Jansen, Sosa and Schlaudraff to the tune of â‚¬70 mil, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned the club would not be spending frivolously this season.

After a less than stellar first half to the season, Klinsmann had the opportunity to seek defensive reinforcements as the club were linked to Zenith St. Peteresburg holding midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuck. While the Ukranian wouldn’t come cheap and Zenith St.Petersburg aren’t the easiest club to deal with – i.e. the Arshavin  saga –  Klinsmann could have pressured the board to negotiate a deal in which Bayern would pay Zenith to take Tymoshuck on loan with a clause stating the club would have to sign him permanently in the summer.

That scenario never materialized and instead the Bayern manager decided to bring in Donovan from the L.A. Galaxy. That’s Landon Donovan, the American wonder kid who has twice tried his luck in Germany and twice returned ego bruised who along with David Beckham could not bend the Galaxy into a MLS playoff berth.

Sources close to the club suggest the club might seek a “Top Gun” to replace the “Golden Bomber” in the summer if team performances fail to improve. Other sources not so close to the club believe Klinsmann could get the sack if Bayern fail to beat Hannover this weekend.

The pressure is on Klinsmann and his army of specialists to bring the best out of the 21 time Bundesliga champions. Should he fail to do so, he might not survive the ides of March and will likely be accompanying Landon Donovan back to sunny Los Angeles.