Teams currently topping their domestic league and making serene progress in the Champions League just months after winning the Treble aren’t generally in crisis.
It was certainly a surprise to everyone to see them dumped out of the DFB Pokal on penalties by second-tier Holstein Kiel, their first cup exit to lower league opposition in 17 years.
Bayern Munich’s dejected players trudge off in the snow after their Cup loss to Holstein Kiel
Bayern Munich led the match twice but couldn’t kill off their second tier opponents on Wednesday evening and they lost on penalties after a gruelling period of extra time
That it came just days after they chucked away a two-goal advantage to lose 3-2 to Borussia Monchengladbach in the league only added to the sense that circumstances are catching up with them.
Bayern’s players certainly looked knackered as they trudged off in a blizzard at the Holstein-Stadion and extra time was the last thing they needed in an unforgiving schedule that is only going to get worse.
But they only had themselves to blame for the unexpected defeat. A strong side containing four World Cup winners were moments away from progressing when Hauke Wahl scored with his shoulder in the fifth minute of stoppage time to bring Kiel level for a second time.
Bayern also squandered endless chances – they had 23 shots, of which nine were on target, and Thomas Muller was guilty of an uncharacteristic miss from just yards out.
Yet that all points to the major problems here. At their clinical best, Bayern would have wrapped the game up inside half-an-hour. But they didn’t and their worrying defensive vulnerabilities were again easily exposed.
Manuel Neuer reacts after Hauke Wahl equalised for Holstein Kiel in the 95th minute of the tie
Thomas Muller missed from close range as Bayern wasted many chances to settle the contest
Coach Hansi Flick (right) wasn’t impressed and said there would be ‘no more excuses’
Bayern have the worst defensive record of the Bundesliga’s top six at present and you have to go back to 1981-82 for the last time they’ve been so leaky at this stage of the season.
The simple long ball that got the better of Niklas Sule and Bouna Sarr for Kiel’s first equaliser should have been easily dealt with and none of Bayern’s back line have covered themselves in glory this season.
David Alaba, with his future up in the air as his contract runs down, has been well short of his best, while untimely injuries to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, who usually shield the defence so effectively, have added vulnerability.
With Kingsley Coman out injured and Serge Gnabry short of goals, there are problems going forward as well. Muller, beloved by coach Flick, has now gone seven matches without a goal.
The jury also remains out on £40million summer arrival Leroy Sane, though he did curl home a lovely free-kick early in the second-half.
Leroy Sane produces moments of magic but has been criticised for his all-round game
Bayern’s exit from the Cup came after they threw away a two-goal lead at Monchengladbach
Monchengladbach’s Oscar Wendt celebrates with team-mates after momentous victory
Critics say the former Manchester City winger keeps the ball for too long and doesn’t make the simple pass, while also often neglecting his defensive duties when Bayern don’t have possession.
The result is absolute reliance on the goals of Robert Lewandowski, who was probably hoping for a night off in Kiel but was summoned from the bench with 16 minutes left as Bayern chased a match-killing third.
Lewandowski hasn’t skipped a beat from last season and already has 23 goals for the season – but he can’t do it all himself.
There needs to be more from Muller, Sane, Gnabry and others but also improvements at the back with too many easy goals being conceded.
Prior to the game against Gladbach last Friday, Bayern had fallen behind in eight consecutive Bundesliga games but on each occasion had managed to fight back to gain at least a point.
Bayern Munich do remain top of the Bundesliga, sitting two points ahead of RB Leipzig
Bayern only had 26 days of pre-season after winning the Champions League in August
Bundesliga unless stated
Sunday Freiburg (H)
January 20 Augsburg (A)
January 24 Schalke (A)
January 30 Hoffenheim (H)
February 5 Hertha Berlin (A)
February 8 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final (Qatar)
February 11 FIFA Club World Cup final/third place (Qatar)
February 15 Arminia Bielefeld (H)
Indeed, when they stormed into a 2-0 lead at the Borussia-Park, it was something of a surprise. But this time, they couldn’t hang on.
But the biggest problem is the inevitable effects of virtually no pre-season, a shorter winter break and an unforgiving fixture list.
Bayern’s players look exhausted and the campaign isn’t even half-way done.
From winning the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain on August 23 to their Bundesliga season opener against Schalke on September 18, Bayern had just a 26-day turnaround.
After giving their players a well-deserved holiday, that left barely any time to go over ideas on the training ground, let alone regain match fitness by playing friendly games.
The Covid-19 pandemic has squeezed the schedule to an unprecedented extent and it was always going to catch up with Bayern at some point.
They may have the best squad in German football and greater depth than most rivals but is it any wonder their sharpness has been lost?
Flick may have said ‘there are no more excuses now’ after the defeat in Kiel but his players are only human.
Worse still, playing every three or four days means zero time on the training ground to fix the team’s glaring issues. Any improvements will have to be done on the hoof.
Bayern celebrate a goal against Hertha Berlin in front of an empty Allianz Arena in October
They also had few problems in their Champions League group and face Lazio next month
While their cup exit was embarrassing, it does at least free up some room in the calendar for Bayern’s players to get some rest.
And things aren’t about to get any easier. They must play four more league fixtures before the end of January and are then due in Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup at the beginning of next month.
Being crowned champions of the world may look good on the club’s social media, but you imagine Flick and his squad could really do without the jaunt, especially during a pandemic.
Once back, a last-16 Champions League tie with Lazio looms and Bayern won’t want to surrender their European crown lightly.
Of course, they’re far from alone. Many of Europe’s top clubs find themselves strained to the limit by a packed fixture list, injuries and Covid concerns.
But such is the heavy weight of expectation to win every piece of silverware going, Bayern feel it more than most. They’re not in crisis yet but you sense it might not be too far away.