The season is a month old and already it feels like the plates of Bavarian football are shifting. Bayern Munich's 3-0 win against Anderlecht in their Champions League opener was a perfect start to the club's endless quest for European glory, but inconsistent performances and increased public murmurings of discontent have shaken the foundations of Germany's record champions.
Three games into the 2017-18 Bundesliga season and Bayern have yet to deliver a convincing performance. Even though it was a case of job done against Anderlecht, the performance left more questions than answers.
This has been building too. Bayern may have won the Bundesliga for a fifth-consecutive time last season, but the number of impressive displays could be counted on one hand. Not winning the Champions League remains a mark on head coach Carlo Ancelotti's card, but his inability to take the team forward was a far graver concern.
Struggling despite a man advantage
Despite new summer signings and more than enough talent, Bayern played with a man advantage for nearly 80 minutes against Anderlecht, but didn't manage to put the contest to bed until just after the hour mark. Before then, Anderlecht had two good chances to equalize - one of which hit the post.
"With all due respect, after the red card we should have shot them off the park... The spectators deserved more," Arjen Robben told German pay-TV broadcaster Sky afterwards in a flurry of frustrated comments.
The Dutchman's distain was the latest in a line of public discontent. Two games into the new season, Thomas Müller questioned whether or not his qualities were needed by Ancelotti. The Italian's inability to get the best out of him leaves the club in an awkward position.
Defeat to Hoffenheim didn't helpas Bayern failed to convince onlookers that the team was in fact playing as a unit and not just relying on individual talent.
Robert Lewandowski then spoke out in the press, telling Spiegel that he wasn't sure of Bayern's transfer policy or marketing methods.
The club's chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and the president, Uli Hoeness repsonded with their best good-cop-bad-cop act in an attempt to calm the situation, with the former saying anyone who publically criticized the head coach, the club or their teammates would immediately have a problem with him. The latter appealed for a calm which has not yet arrived.
Bayern coach in-waiting
A day before the Anderlecht game, Hoffenheim head coach Julian Nagelsmann added flames to the fire by saying in an interview with Eurosport that although his happiness doesn't depend on Bayern Munich, becoming the club's coach one day would make him a little happier than he already is. Ancelotti palmed off Nagelsmann's flirtation with his usual class, just days after labeling Mario Basler's suggestion that he would be on his way to China in the winter a joke.
Franck Ribery throwing his Bayern shirt onto the bench in disgust after being brought off against Anderlecht (pictured above) was just the latest piece of evidence of the rumblings at Bayern. Ancelotti said he didn't understand the reaction. While Ribery's frustration can be interpreted as just being part of the Frenchman's extremely motivated personality, the timing suggests more.
"That can't happen at Bayern Munich. That is not okay. We will talk about it," newly appointed sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said of the incident afterwards. The former Bayern player, appointed to help Hoeness re-establish the "Mia San Mia" (we are who we are) feeling around the club, has so far struggled to keep everyone happy and in line.
Turning up late comes at a cost
Affectionately known as "FC Hollywood," the drama has certainly returned to Bayern this season and the show goes on. The morning after the victory against Anderlecht the players attended their annual "Lederhosen" photoshoot. At the same time, SportBild reported that a new list of fines was to be introduced - with a tardy arrival for training costing €1,000 ($1,197) for every minute that a player is late.
It has been an unsettling month for Bayern and the season promises more of the same. At the heart of it all, lies a Bayern team that is stagnating not improving. Torn between world domination and a Bavarian dream factory, Bayern Munich are wrestling with who they are. It has always been the Bavarians' aspiration to be the very best, but the process needs be as beautiful as the result. And right now, not enough of the beauty in the state of Bavaria is coming from the record champions.Jonathan Harding