Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal on Monday claimed that his team is playing "much better than last year", despite having made their worst start to a league season for 33 years.
"I'm not going to reproach anyone," said van Gaal, as reported by the SID sport news agency. "I've analysed the season and I can't say we're playing badly. We're playing much better than last year."
After four matches of the Bundesliga season, Bayern are in ninth place with five points -- seven points behind leaders Mainz -- and have a goal difference of -1. At the same stage last season, Bayern were in eighth place, with five points, but a positive +2 goal difference.
They went on to win the Bundesliga and the German Cup before losing 2-0 to Inter Milan in the final of the Champions League. Bayern's next three matches will be crucial as they bid to re-launch their season. On Tuesday they visit in-form Hoffenheim, currently second in the table with 10 points from a possible 12, before hosting surprise leaders Mainz at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
The following Tuesday they visit Swiss outfit Basel for their second Champions League group stage match, having begun their campaign with a hard-fought 2-0 win at home to Roma last week. Victory against Basel would put them in a strong position to qualify for the last 16 ahead of a double-header with Romanians CFR Cluj.
Van Gaal, however, says he will not put extra pressure on his players and believes it is down to them to correct the Bavarian giants' stuttering form.
"It's all in the head," he said. "The players know what happens when we win so few points. The pressure comes from the outside; from the media, the directors. It's normal. We're a big team and we should be right at the top.
"The season still has a long way to go. In March, April, May it will be crucial, and that's when we'll have to make sure we're there."