FC Bayern Champions League away jersey 11/12 ROBBEN # 10
My first project as an MMSports Contributor was a review of FC Bayern Munchen’s 11/12 Home Kit. In it, I discussed how design cues in the kit were meant to emphasize Bayern’s illustrious past and underscore their aspirations for further glory.
“After a disappointing finish in last year’s Bundesliga campaign, and a heartbreaking exit from the Champions League, questions are being raised by pundits and fans alike: how can a team with so much history and so much talent fall short? “
Believe it or not, this paragraph wasn’t written to sum up Die Roten’s most recent campaign – it was written nearly ten months ago. With history repeating itself in disappointing fashion, it’s clear that Bayern’s demons remain undispelled,; rather than raising silverware, Bayern have only managed to raise more worrying questions .
How could BVB, robbed of Nuri Sahin and without wunderkind Mario Goetze for much of the season, so easily stride past Bayern for their second consecutive Bundesliga crown? How could prolific returns from star men Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez fail to propel the team to success in any of the competitions in which they competed?
And perhaps most perplexingly, how could Bayern throw away a Champion’s League title which a mediocre Chelsea side all but invited them to win? Despite outshooting, outpassing, and altogether outclassing their opponents, the typically steel-nerved Germans squandered a late lead, missed a penalty, and finally succumbed in a shootout – all in front of a packed Allianz Arena crowd.
To be fair, not all of these occurrences can be attributed to Bayern’s mediocrity. BvB have an amazingly potent attack and could potentially have outperformed many of Europe’s top clubs; Chelsea’s outrageous fortune and bus-parking tactics may have stifled even the legendary Bayern of the early seventies.
Still, a second consecutive year without a major title is an alarming situation. As seems to have become standard procedure of late, Bayern have flattered to deceive. There may not be any player that more aptly represents Bayern’s predicament than Arjen Robben. Most members of the footballing community agree – Robben has all the makings of a world-beater. Indeed, Robben’s name often seems to surface whenever people start formulating their “best footballers” lists. In spite of long bouts on the bench with typically frequent injuries, Robben managed a solid return of 19 goals in all competitions. The issue with Arjen, and indeed with the current iteration of the club is not in the numbers – what seems to be lacking is the ability to express all the reputed brilliance when it really matters.
Take Robben’s performance in the Champion’s League final. As one would predict, Robben spent the game lurking on the right touchline looking to cut in on his intimidating left peg and threaten Cech’s goal. The strength of Robben’s game is certainly not subterfuge. In fact, the “strength” of Robben’s game seemed to have deserted him entirely. Sure, he kept Ashley Cole busy. He pouted and blustered and blazed shot after shot into the cheap seats. Finally, after Ribery had won an extra time penalty which should have finally put the final to bed, Robben stepped to the spot and fired a dismal effort straight into the clutches of Petr Cech.
Now for a bit of a perspective. When it comes to abysmal performances in the final, Robben certainly wasn’t alone. Mario Gomez in particular managed to conjure one of his worst performances in a Bayern shirt at the worst possible time.
If Robben had put the penalty away (or if Gomez had bagged any of his chances) we would likely be praising German nerves of steel and buying Robben merchandise faster than Abramovich buys top prospects. Let’s not forgot that Bayern, despite their high-profile stumbles still managed to put together an impressive overall campaign. In the grand scheme of things, two cup finals and a Bundesliga runner’s up medal are nothing to sneeze at; in fact, most European teams would be thrilled with such achievements.
Robben and Bayern each have portentous decisions to make. They can either shake off their disappointment and steel themselves for another title challenge, or succumb to past fragilities and resign themselves to second best.
Can the failures of the past be redeemed? Can promise be fulfilled when stakes are at their highest? The Munich Final seems certain to become a watershed for Bayern, and their black Champion’s League kit has become, at least temporarily, a symbol of mourning. With eight Bayern players taking the field for Germany at Euro 2012, Die Mannschaft’s performances should provide answers to some important questions. Just how long will Germany’s new golden generation mourn, and how will Bayern move forward?