Pep Guardiola has been left picking up the pieces amidst the fall-out from Bayern Munich’s historic 4-0 hammering at home to Real Madrid which dethroned the Champions League holders.
Bayern suffered their heaviest home defeat in European competition on Tuesday, losing the semi-final 5-0 on aggregate, with Guardiola admitting he made mistakes with both his tactics and selection in Munich.
“Debacle” was how chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described the defeat and most of the shell-shocked players expressed their “deep disappointment” in the mixed zone.
Germany’s media did not pull their punches.
Bild ran the headline “Real humiliate Guardiola” and Munich-based tabloid TZ echoed Rummenigge with “debacle Dahoam”, using the Bavarian word for ‘home’.
Bayern had never previously lost in Europe by more than two goals in Munich and the defeat made a mockery of their dream to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League title.
Even with their European crown now gone, Guardiola has still won three titles this season and the German Cup can yet be added to their league, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup triumphs.
But with their coveted Champions League hopes in tatters, Guardiola has already faced criticism of his fast-passing ‘Tiki-Taka’ football and over reliance on posession after Real hit them on the counter-attack.
Having cryptically questioned whether his players were up to playing his style of football, Guardiola then insisted he was “proud” of what they had achieved this season prior to the Real drubbing.
“We need to think if this is the best system for the players,” said Guardiola, who is under contract until June 2016.
“I made a mistake with the tactics, the trainer wasn’t good today.
“We played badly, that’s my responsibility.
“I made a mistake with our tactics.
“We are at the highest level in Europe where such errors are punished.”
Such talk can only come from a head coach who feels secure in his position, but that will change quickly should there be any challenge to Bayern’s position at the top of German football.
Guardiola has the chance to redeem himself on May 17 when holders Bayern face arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in the German Cup final.
A further defeat, or a similar repeat of the 5-2 drubbing Dortmund handed Bayern in the 2012 final, would only confirm Guardiola’s poor first season by Bayern’s lofty standards.
The Spaniard has admitted he has struggled to get the most out of his team since they wrapped up the Bundesliga title with a record seven matches to spare last month.
Bayern dropped just four points in the seven months of Bundesliga football before their 3-1 win at Hertha Berlin on March 25 meant they could no longer be caught in the league.
– Redemption chance against Dortmund –
Berlin proved to be a watershed as Bayern failed to win their next three games and in the five weeks since they have dropped eight points in insignificant matches with the title won.
But their alarming drop-off in form was highlighted by the Real drubbing as Bayern’s defence was found badly wanting as three of Real’s goals came from set pieces.
The Real defeat, when he insisted he was wrong to start Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos together in the defensive midfield, is not the first time Guardiola has admitted making mistakes.
He named three teenagers in his starting side for the league match at neighbours Augsburg ten days after the title was confirmed in Berlin, paying for it with a 1-0 defeat which ended their 53-match unbeaten run.
Rummenigge has called for calm in their three remaining matches this season and Bayern has the chance to bounce back at Hamburg, who are fighting to stay in Germany’s top flight, in the league on Saturday.
“We need to keep our nerve, we were a little spoilt by reaching the (Champions League) final twice in a row,” he said.
“Despite the anger one feels, we must remain rational and try to make things better.
“We need to quickly lick our wounds so we put in a better performance in the Cup final against Dortmund.”