Bayern Munich’s Champions League failure will accelerate recruitment drive up front – The Athletic

A few hours before the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City, news broke that Bayern Munich had made their first key signing for next season under Thomas Tuchel — groundsman Peter Sauer will move from Wolfsburg at the beginning of May. The 50-year-old won’t immediately solve all of the team’s issues, but as a multiple winner of the Bundesliga’s Pitch of the Year award, he is expected to provide a much better playing surface in the Allianz Arena.
Wednesday night brought the need to address the issue into sharp focus. There were plenty of slips on the greasy surface, including one fateful tumble from Dayot Upamecano that effectively killed all hopes of a comeback when the Frenchman allowed Erling Haaland to score the opener. “We played well but had problems with the 12th and 13th man,” Thomas Muller said after the final whistle, referring to the pitch and referee Clement Turpin, a focal point of Bavarian anger.
Amid his disappointment, the Bayern forward was focused enough to recognise the real reason his side hadn’t converted one-and-a-half decent performances into a better result. “We simply don’t score enough goals,” Muller said. “We put a ridiculous amount of effort into creating chances, we made some really great moves again today but the efficiency and the punch in front of goal are missing.”

For the fifth game in row, no Bayern forward scored. Midfielder Joshua Kimmich was the only player to find the net, scoring from the penalty spot.
There was once again much talk about a lack of confidence and rhythm from the players in the forward line, but those things only become relevant when you don’t have a goalscorer who delivers irrespective of what happens behind him.
For eight seasons, Bayern had Robert Lewandowski scoring goals in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. The marriage had broken down last summer, necessitating a divorce. Bayern have now realised their attempt to fill the void with a collective of hybrid forwards has failed. “We have eight world-class players for four positions,” said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, reminding reporters that the previous coaching staff had signed off on the setup, but he also conceded that there was a need to “reconsider” the decision to go without a proper centre-forward. “We will sit down together and see who’s available, then we’ll see what we can do.”
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, back from injury, did well in the build-up, but the 34-year-old’s movement was limited and his finishing was poor. The contrast with his opposite number couldn’t have been starker. Bayern’s odds of avenging the 3-0 first-leg defeat without an elite centre forward weren’t quite as low as fourteen million six hundred five to one but it was painful for them to find that Iron Man was battling for the other side on the night. In a different reality, Haaland would have signed for Bayern after being shown around the club a year ago. The German champions had earmarked the Norwegian as Lewandowski’s natural successor but couldn’t match City’s offer.
Oliver Kahn admitted the experiment with a more fluid system, supposedly spearheaded by summer recruit Sadio Mane, was not just a tactical wish of Julian Nagelsmann but also a necessity of the club’s financial limitations. “We tried everything to replace Lewandowski, including with the No 9 we saw today,” Bayern’s executive chairman said. “But how many strikers are like Lewandowski in Europe? Those who are at that level are incredibly expensive.” Asked if Bayern were prepared to break the bank this summer, Kahn was evasive. “We are always working on improving the squad. We will see what’s possible.”
There’s been speculation they will buy their first €100million (£88m, $110m) player to try to guarantee more goals, but even that might not be enough to lure Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, their preferred option, across the Alps. Competition for the Nigerian will be fierce. France international Randal Kolo Muani from Eintracht Frankfurt is another option under consideration and the 24-year-old should be more affordable. He, too, however, will have plenty of other suitors, including some who don’t have to generate their income quite as organically as Bayern do.
After a golden decade in which the club has repeatedly made up for a relative lack of resources, the pressure is really on Kahn and Salihamidzic to deliver the next top-class finisher who can bring all of Bayern’s nice play to fruition. As Muller alluded to after the 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim on Saturday, that much-vaunted inconsistency is just another word for not having a reliable goalscorer up top.
(Top photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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Munich-born Raphael Honigstein has lived in London since 1993. He writes about German football and the Premier League. Follow Raphael on Twitter @honigstein







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