Did Bayern Munich make a mistake with Niko Kovac?
It's not often Bayern Munich sit sixth on the Bundesliga table. The last time the Bavarians stuttered was at last season's beginning. Carlo Ancelotti was soon dismissed with alacrity even though things were not as bad as now.
The Italian manager had collected 13 points from the campaign's first six league games. Niko Kovac has required a match more to collect the same point total. Worse still, Bayern are without a win in last four contests under his watch.
Kovac's team struck only two goals in those games against Augsburg, Hertha Berlin, Ajax and Borussia Monchengladbach. This has left the Croat under pressure early in his reign at the Allianz Arena.
It was, therefore, understandable when questions were put to Kovac after the inexplicable 3-0 home defeat to Monchengladbach on Saturday. On his future, he replied 'I'm not the one to answer questions'.
Die Roten are no doubt below par at present. Their coach seems clueless about solving the problems. The Bundesliga champions are in unfamiliar territory concerning both tradition in managerial appointments and results on the pitch.
Kovac's arrival this past summer was a departure from the Bavarians' usual preference for appointing big-name managers. Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola and Ancelotti were the last four to man the dugout. Heynckes, at 72, was later recalled from retirement to take the reins for the fourth time.
With Kovac stumbling, what's next? Will Bayern's hierarchy toe the line as with Ancelotti? Was opting for the 46-year-old a mistake in the first place? Or should he be allowed to continue with hopes of coming good?
With no insurance of Heynckes returning for another rescue mission, Bayern's decision makers may have to stick with their man. Sometimes both managers and players need time to produce the right result.
Kovac's success at Eintracht Frankfurt, a side he led to DFB-Pokal triumph before switching allegiance, proves his credentials. Besides, having won three major trophies with Die Roten as a player between 2001-03, he knows it's too much to disappoint.
Perhaps this realization, among others, has informed Uli Hoeness' stand on the matter. The Bayern president stated in an interview: 'I will defend Niko Kovac to the blood. It's all totally calm here.'
Suddeutsche Zeitung also reported Hoeness as saying the manager will be backed 'no matter what happens in the coming weeks.'
From a club hierarchy which wasted no time in showing Ancelotti the exit, that support is huge. Such backing is often enough to bring out the best. Kovac's past successes, including captaining Croatia until international retirement, will serve him well in the bid to engineer a turnaround.
The Bavarians' patience is ultimately likely to pay off. Similar to how Real Madrid's did with Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman struggled in La Liga last campaign and was reportedly close to the sack on several occasions. Sticking to their man paid dividends. He delivered another Champions League.
Should Kovac bring about improvement, Bayern are capable of continuing domestic dominance this season. He could even lead them to conquer Europe.