Niko Kovac only took over in the summer and was portrayed as a long-term leader after the venerable Jupp Heynckes had successfully steadied the ship for a season
Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac is already under pressure after four matches without a win and he is acutely aware that the German champions are not a club that deals well with failure.
Kovac only took over at Bayern in the summer and was portrayed as a long-term leader after the venerable Jupp Heynckes had successfully steadied the ship for a season on a temporary basis after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked.
The 46-year-old's reputation had risen after he won the German Cup with Eintracht Frankfurt in May, beating Bayern in the final.
Niko Kovac is already under pressure at Bayern Munich, but is his job at risk? pic.twitter.com/u2sewoWMwV— Goal (@goal) October 7, 2018
But Bayern's 3-0 home defeat to Borussia Moenchengladbach has left his team sixth in the table -- the last time the club went winless in four matches in the first half of the season was 2009.
"Kovac in the eye of the storm," Stern news weekly said on its website.
"A Bayern coach who looks shaky after just 11 matches. After winning the title for six seasons in a row, that seems unimaginable. But that is exactly what is happening to Niko Kovac," Bild newspaper said in its online edition.
After Saturday's loss, Kovac faced the inevitable questions about his future.
"I know how football works, and the mechanics of the Bundesliga and Bayern," the German-born Croat said. "And I know that you get less time at Bayern than elsewhere."
Kovac had moved quickly on Friday to defuse criticism from his players, with Colombian striker James Rodriguez telling reporters that the new coach's training sessions were insufficiently rigorous and his policy of rotating his team was angering some of the stars.
"We're not at Frankfurt here," Rodriguez jibed.
Kovac's response then was to deny that he had lost his players' support -- but that was before the Moenchengladbach debacle.
Pressed on whether he still had their backing now, Kovac said on Saturday: "I had their support after the first seven games (when Bayern were undefeated), so I assume I still have it."
He added: "But in the end, I am not the one who can answer that."
Bayern's bosses Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge left the Allianz Arena without saying a word. A year ago, the powerful duo removed Ancelotti from his job after Bayern lost 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Even if they decide that Kovac has no future with the club, their options seem limited -- finding a top-class coach at this time of the year is near-impossible and Heynckes has made clear he would not return again.
The bosses. 🍻🇧🇦🇭🇷 pic.twitter.com/bvCmcqAwYc— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) October 7, 2018
Bayern's winless run is all the more curious because it has come against teams they be would be expected to beat -- Augsburg, Hertha Berlin, Dutch side Ajax and Moenchengladbach.
Right-back Joshua Kimmich said a lack of creativity was to blame: "The defence is not a major problem. Against Moenchengladbach we hardly created a single chance.
"It's not that we have trouble getting it in the net, it's that we don't have a chance to! We're Bayern Munich, we should be scoring two or three goals every time."
Kovac has a temporary respite thanks to the two-week international break.
"It's my job to change that," he said. "I'm going to buckle down during the international matches. It's obviously a pity that so many players are leaving on Sunday to join up with their national teams.
"But that could be a positive thing too, it'll give them a change of scene."
When club football resumes, Kovac faces three away games in a row, Bundesliga trips to Wolfsburg on October 20 and Mainz a week later with a potentially treacherous Champions League visit to AEK Athens sandwiched in between on October 23.