Dutch winger Arjen Robben has launched a staunch defence of his Bayern Munich team in response to a wave of criticism following their humbling Champions League semi-final exit at the hands of Real Madrid.
Ahead of the quarter-final tie against Manchester United, Robben issued a warning to the rest of Europe that he felt Bayern had improved under the guidance of Pep Guardiola from the team that won the Champions League as part of the treble last season under Jupp Heynckes’ stewardship.
“Guardiola has turned us into the most dominant team in Europe. We have made another giant step as a team this season,” Robben told the Mirror.
“From the very first minute we put massive pressure on our opponents and are capable of keeping the ball and putting them under pressure for the full 90 minutes.”
There was little evidence of such relentless spirit over the eventual 4-1 victory over United as Bayern and Guardiola were criticised in some quarters for accumulating possession without any real cutting edge.
Over the two legs against Real Madrid in the following round, Bayern averaged more than 70% possession but managed just eight shots on target as Real ran out comfortable 5-0 victors.
However, Robben feels the criticism that has accompanied the defeat is unjustified.
"After the 4-0 [second-leg] defeat to Real, everything was put into question," Robben told Bundesliga.com
"We were the best team in the world for the entire season, then we lose a match and suddenly everything's going wrong. In my opinion, people read too much into that defeat.
"We've been through so much as a team. We've had our fair share of disappointments, but we've also had plenty of fantastic moments. The most important thing in these situations is to stick together, remain positive and keep going."
Despite the humbling defeat against Carlo Ancelotti’s side, Bayern remain in the hunt for a domestic double having secured the Bundesliga title in record time and with the German Cup final against Borussia Dortmund to come on the 17th May and Robben maintains that the season has still been a success.
"Definitely, we've already had a great season as it is," the 30-year-old added. "I think our fans and all the experts agree."
Since the Champions League exit there have been growing murmurs of unrest in the Bayern camp.
Toni Kroos has publicly been eyeing the exit door at the Allianz Arena for some time now having been left unhappy with proposed contract terms, whilst Thomas Muller has become the latest player to be linked with an exit.
Meanwhile manager Guardiola has reportedly issued a 'back me or sack me' plea to the clubs hierarchy following the criticism of his approach in recent weeks including from honorary president Franz Beckenbauer:
"Bayern are not right," said the 68-year-old. "This is something that we have known for weeks. The disappointment is huge.”
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