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Nagelsmann is kidding himself - Bayern Munich's embarrassing Champions League exit should come as no surprise

13:00 BST 13/04/2022
Thomas Muller Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich 2021-22
The Bavarians have won just six of their last 12 games following Tuesday's costly draw with Villarreal - an appalling run for such a dominant side

It was approaching an hour after the final whistle had blown at the Allianz Arena and Julian Nagelsmann had still not appeared for his post-match press conference.

In the time that had passed, Villarreal had managed to spend time celebrating their famous Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich with their fans in the upper tier of the stadium, retreated to the dressing room for more partying, before again appearing on the pitch to the joy of their travelling supporters.

Man of the Match Raul Albiol had been part of the revelry, but had also found the time to hold his own press conference after marshalling a superb defensive display by Unai Emery's side.

Nagelsmann, though, had not been seen. When he did eventually appear in the press conference room, he looked decidedly grim but composed.

"I think we lost the tie in the first leg," he explained. "If you look at our performance today - tactically good by the way, defensively and offensively - it puts the first leg in a worse light."

The Bayern boss would later go on to describe his team's display as being "very good", but it is hard not to think that he is kidding himself; trying to put on a brave face and pass this failure off as being the result of bad luck.

In reality, this was not a performance to be proud of, nor one that came as a great shock given the Bavarians' recent form.

Tuesday's 1-1 draw means that since beating RB Leipzig on February 5, Bayern have won just six of their last 12 games - an appalling run for a team that has been so dominant both domestically and in Europe.

Despite dominating the game in terms of possession and territory, their expected goals (xG) total against Villarreal was 1.58. The only times it has been worse since the winter break were the first leg in Spain and Saturday's narrow win over relegation-threatened Augsburg.

Bayern may have a more talented squad than Villarreal, who currently sit seventh in La Liga, but they showed little creativity when trying to break their visitors down, and instead found themselves sending almost endless crosses into the box.

In total, they attempted 39 crosses in the match, few of which resulted in meaningful attempts on goal. They managed just four shots on target across the 90 minutes, with many of their efforts coming from distance.

They had some moments, with Kingsley Coman causing problems with his dribbling while Robert Lewandowski's finish for the opening goal on the night was excellent, but on the whole they lacked the ideas to get through the yellow wall that Villarreal presented them with.

And some of the blame for that has to be shouldered by Nagelsmann.

The 34-year-old has regularly spoken of his players not being at their "peak" in recent weeks, but it is becoming clear that the peak of Nagelsmann's first season in charge came back in the early weeks of winter.

When Bayern were playing well under the ex-RB Leipzig boss, the key for them in an attacking sense came down the left-hand side, with Alphonso Davies and Leroy Sane combining to devastating effect.

The 3-2-3-2 formation that Nagelsmann unveiled for the first time on Tuesday would, in theory, have been perfect for that duo, but circumstances meant that neither were on the left-hand side against Villarreal.

Davies was on the bench as he continues his recovery from the heart problem that ruled him out of action for over two months, while Sane was shunted out to right in the hope that a change of position could resurrect his season after an alarming drop in form.

That Nagelsmann would try such a system in the most important game of the season without the players he needed to make it work either available to start or playing at the required level is concerning, but hopefully something he can learn from.

In truth, other more senior players failed to turn up on the night. Joshua Kimmich lacked his usual presence in central midfield, while Thomas Muller and Lewandowski's connection seemed to be off, and not for the first time in recent weeks.

It was also telling that Nagelsmann waited until the 82nd minute to make a substitution, introducing Serge Gnabry from the bench in a sign that he is neither happy with the form of the ex-Arsenal man, nor the strength in depth of his squad.

That is a problem that may get worse before it gets better. Gnabry is one of a host of players whose contract has just one more year to run on it, and GOAL has learned that the winger is contemplating his future amid interest from Real Madrid and Liverpool.

Lewandowski is also out of contract in 2023, and while Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn insisted ahead of kick-off on Tuesday that the European Golden Shoe frontrunner is "definitely" staying at Bayern this summer, results such as this one on the biggest stage could prove decisive as the Poland international weighs up his future options.

And so while Bayern have all but wrapped up a 10th successive Bundesliga title, that will be the only trophy they win in 2022, having already been dumped out of the DFB-Pokal in embarrassing fashion by Borussia Monchengladbach, who beat them 5-0 in the second round.

That result came as a shock at the time, but Bayern's European exit was far more predictable, even if few from outside Munich saw it coming.

Nagelsmann will have plenty more time to reflect on what went wrong, but one thing is for certain: nothing about Bayern's elimination was "good".