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Pep Guardiola must battle complacency to achieve goals at Bayern Munich

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Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has a genuine problem to deal with in Bavaria for the first time this season, after failing to win either of their Bundesliga matches since returning from the winter break and a now heavily-scrutinised break in Qatar.

Guardiola's side still retain a handsome eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, despite a 4-1 defeat at Wolfsburg and a 1-1 draw at home to Schalke, so there's no need to exaggerate the extent of their problems just yet.

Their march to a third successive domestic crown will likely not be affected by a bout of mid-season complacency mixed with winter blues, but rather more pressingly there could be knock-on effects when the business end of the Champions League comes calling in May.

What's up with Bayern?

Bayern's thrashing at the hands of second-placed with Wolfsburg would be written off as a strange anomaly by some coaches, particularly as it came off the back of a six-week break from competitive action. 

Throw in the absence of key players such as Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery and summer signing Mehdi Benatia and there's plenty of mitigating circumstances to do just that.

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Don't expect Guardiola to be so hasty though, because its pretty much the first time Bayern have been deservedly beaten all season long.

Defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup came just a fortnight after the World Cup, the Champions League collapse at Manchester City with safe passage to the already secure.

The collapse at Wolfsburg had the feel of something different though, one that Guardiola must address head-on to ensure his star-studded squad are in prime shape when they're back to facing the best from across the continent when it truly matters most.

Complacency has to be viewed as an issue

Guardiola's biggest problem is that his side can play in second gear for the next two months and still stroll to the Bundesliga title and the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Troubled Shakhtar Donetsk are highly unlikely to provide stubborn resistance in the competition's last 16 over two legs, while Wolfsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke and co. lack the consistency required to match their hated rivals for 10 games let alone 34.

Motivation therefore has to be questioned, how does Guardiola keep the vast majority of his team on task when they're all too aware that most weekends a performance well below 100% will still deliver short-term success?

Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson and his treble-winning heroes of 1999 will be the first to tell them that they benefitted hugely from being pushed by a very strong Arsenal side, who forced them to fight for the title until the last minute of the final match of the season.

Bayern don't have that monkey on their back, with closest challengers in the recent past Borussia Dortmund in free-fall. That situation is of course a domestic blessing, but also a curse with wider continental implications.

Expect tinkering to remain a constant theme

You can expect Guardiola's primary weapon against a general malaise in standards at the Allianz Arena to be constant tinkering, in search of that elusive perfect performance to match results.

The wonderfully-insightful Pep Confidential book by Marti Perarnau provides an account into just how big a perfectionist the former Barcelona tactician is.

Trusted backroom staff refer to the 'Law of 32 minutes' when it comes to Guardiola, the maximum length of time he can be kept from discussing tactics, team selection or another pressing issue bubbling away under the surface.

A turgid, rather sluggish effort at Wolfsburg followed up by a spirited but hugely flawed effort at home to Schalke last night must have driven Guardiola mad, particularly at a club when even wins are sometimes dismissed as below the required standard.

For better or worse Guardiola will be judged on the strength of results in just a handful of matches over the entire course of his reign in Bavaria, which is very tough for such a perfectionist and idealist to take.

The charismatic Spaniard knew what he was signing up for though, so let's hope he has a plan to stave off complacency before inevitable showdowns with Barcelona, Real Madrid and co. roll round in potentially the defining campaign of his entire managerial career.

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Topics:
Football
Bundesliga
UEFA Champions League
Bayern Munich

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