Can an aging Bayern side keep up its dominance?

The Bundesliga started with a bang on Friday, August 24th as an impressive Hoffenheim side made their way to the Allianz Arena. For Bayern Munich fans, that bang would have been the sound of backfiring and spluttering as the German champions toiled against Hoffenheim but were able to come away with a 3-1 win in the end.

All things being equal, it was a scoreline that flattered the Bavarians and if it wasn’t for a rather flamboyant dive from Ribery to win a dubious penalty in the 78th minute, a draw could have well been on the cards. Amazingly, VAR didn’t intervene when Ribery was judged to be fouled in the area but it did twice afterwards as Lewandowski’s missed penalty was bundled in by Arjen Robben, only to be cancelled out as the Dutchman was seen to be in the box before the penalty was taken.

Lewandowski made no mistake from the spot the second time around and Bayern went three one up after Muller deflected the ball into the goal but VAR cancelled it out for deliberate handball. Robben finally got his goal after some calamitous defending saw the Dutchman run through on goal and finish easily. It was hardly a vintage Bayern performance and even the most ardent Bavarian would admit to having seen a few cracks beginning to show.

For almost ten years Bayern have had the luxury of Ribery and Robben on their wings and the duo have been virtually unplayable over that time. They share an incredible 280 assists between them and have weighed in with 256 goals from the flanks. The unprecedented success Bayern Munich has enjoyed has been largely down to the Frenchman and the Dutchman and the role they play in getting the team going forward.

All good things come to an end and for one of football most iconic double acts, the end is in sight. Ribery is now 35 and Robben 34, during the season opener against Hoffenheim it was evident that their legs had gone and now are relying on their nous and passing to keep effective. There was an over-reliance on the help of the wingbacks once they had the ball to make the runs they couldn’t and this left Bayern vulnerable to any sort of counterattack Robben didn’t even start the game and was only brought on when Bayern Munich’s latest star on the wing Kingsley Coman limped off just before the break with an ankle injury. Coman will now be out for several weeks and manager Niko Kovac will have to turn to the elder statesman of the side to keep Bayern going forward with fluidity.

It’s hard to say how effective Ribery and Robben will still be but Bayern should make good headway domestically and that’s backed up with the Bavarians at 1/10 to win the league in Bundesliga betting. The problem may become a bit more noticeable in the Champions League with Europe’s best defenders finally able to easily deal with the threat of Ribery and Robben.

This season will be a struggle at times for Bayern and it’s unlikely that they will steamroll every team in their way like they have been doing for the past six years.

There’s no doubting the fact that Bayern Munich are still the odds-on favourite to win the league but one can’t help but notice that their powers are beginning to wane. The winds of change are blowing and Kovac will be hoping it is more of a light breeze than a gust with Bayern relying on an aging side to repeat their heroics of yesteryear.

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