It was hard for Bayern Munich to accept that a double winning season would be followed by a barren season, especially with no major changes in the side. Bundesliga’s most successful club, with its numerous stars (Ribery, Robben, Schweinteiger, Lahm, Müller, Klose and Gomez to name a few) and their recently concluded World Cup heroics –made them almost certain to continue their supremacy in the domestic competitions. But fate had other ideas. A semi final berth in the DFB Pokal was their only positive talking point of the season, if you discount qualifying for next year’s Champions League as an achievement!

It is difficult to explain whether it was complacency, over-confidence or underestimating the opposition that did the team in this time around. Collective and consistent sub-par performances, coupled with some rigid and faltering managerial strategies from Louis Van Gaal saw Die Roten, as well as his job, go down the drain. Despite a double winning season, it was for all to see that Bayern’s defense was not up to the standard. Their achilles’ heel, the centre half and full back position, remained a constant thorn in the team’s side but the manager never thought of any reinforcements.

Backing your players is important from a manager’s point of view, but it is all the more important to call a spade a spade for the sake of the team’s future. A few of the players did not have it in them; they still don’t and in the wake of the new season it is important to move on and do what best suits the team. The management has since then worked its socks off, identified the frailties and tried to address those ailments with authority. All the positions have been closely scrutinized, and the inevitable conclusion was that most required strengthening. So how much has Bayern progressed in their bid to address the frailties? And how much more needs to be done?

Goal Keeper

Confirmed Signing

Manuel Neuer

Thomas Kraft showed promise and was tipped to replace veteran keeper Butt in the long run. Those expectations came crashing down when Kraft was called upon at crutial junctures in this season in the absence of his much experienced colleague. The rookie failed to impress at a consistent level, committing fatal errors, (no) thanks to his lack of concentration and positioning sense. Bayern made swift progress and got their man, Manuel Neuer, for reportedly £16.5m from Schalke. Neuer’s abilities need no introduction. The German number one has convincingly kept Rene Adler out of Die Mannschaft. The much sought after goalie’s acquisition has given their fragile defense a huge sigh of relief and a huge positive step from Bayern’s point of view, en route to organizing their defense.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: A masterstroke!

The new Bayern Munich number one!

Defense

Simply put – this is Bayern’s weakest link. Points of contention – two. Centre half and fullback.

Centre Half

Except for Tymoshchuk, who is not a defender by any stretch of imagination although he was forced to play as one (A Van Gaal masterstroke (!)), none of the Bayern centre-halves deserve a positive mention. Van Buyten and Demichellis were two of the prime reasons for Bayern’s poor show in the first half of the season. Promising youngster Badstuber, in the absence of any cooperation from his defensive partners, embraced mediocrity and soon lost his place in a team that did not boast of too many defensive geniuses. Breno, whose talent was always talked about, did himself and the team no favors after a return from a lengthy injury. He is slow to react, slow in recovering, and has a poor sense of positioning. He will, of course, remember the goal that stopped Bayern from progressing in the quarter final of this season’s Champions’ League – where he conceded the ball to Eto’o in jaw-droppingly callous fashion. An effort to try winter signing Gustavo in the line of fire backfired as well. This is the area that needs immediate concentration.

Confirmed Signing:  None

Rumors

Jerome Boateng

Jerome Boateng has been looked at as a candidate for this role. Latest reports suggest that he has agreed to Bayern’s offer on personal terms and the only thing left is for the clubs to come to an agreement. Boateng’s British sojourn hasn’t been that eventful though. His tackling looked clumsy, and he hardly ever sticks to his player. A versatile defender who can play as a centre half as well as a fullback on either side could have proved to be an irreplaceable asset for his team. But his performances do not match half the worth of his true potential.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: Very high. If signed as a centre half, the defender may not be too different from the present lot of lacklustre and listless ones currently on Bayern’s roster.

Alex

With the signing of David Luiz, Alex may find it difficult to make it to the first team – this assumption has given Bayern a reason to bring the Brazilian to Munich. Alex has had a good spell with the London outfit. He is uncompromising in tackles, strong with his headers, possesses great presence in the air and can read the game well. He can also be dangerous with his drilling free kicks.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: Pretty slim. Hiddink, under whom Alex had performed really well, is tipped to play a major role in Chelea’s affairs next season. So it is understood that Chelsea might not be interested in talks with Bayern regarding this deal.

Fullback

This position deserves a lot of attention. The question Bayern needs to address is whether it ought to sign a rightback and shift Lahm to leftback or sign a dedicated leftback. Interesting prospects – Van Der Wiel and Coentrao. Last year Bayern were hot on the trails of both these players. Later, Bayern’s management decided to sign a leftback and went wholeheartedly for Coentrao. The only obstacle was his buyout clause, which Benfica held at 30m pounds. Bayern officials refused to accept the apparently too high amount and started looking for alternatives. A contract extension to David Alaba, which will keep the Austrian in the club till 2015, is a bit of positive news for the talented youngster.

Confirmed Signing

Rafinha’s signing came as a surprise. The former Schalke man had a very ordinary season at Genoa. In Rafinha’s defense, he was seldom deployed in his preferred rightback position. The signing was made solely keeping in mind Rafinha’s performance a couple of seasons back for the Royal Blues. Rafinha is aware of the predominant style in the Bundesliga, a fact that can work for him. Rafinha’s signing also means that Lahm could be deployed as a leftback in the coming season.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: A tricky signing.

Rumors

Ivan Obradovic

It seems signing Rafinha was not enough for the Bavarian giants. Ditto the presence of Contento and Alaba. Bayern are still in the hunt for a backup leftback and are rumoured to be after Real Zaragoza’s fullback Ivan Obradovic.  The Serbian had had a solid season with the Spanish outfit and has attracted interest from other Bundesliga outfits as well.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: Does not seem possible. With as many as three leftbacks in the kitty, Bayern look highly unlikely to pull this deal through.

Midfield

Following the offloading of Van Bommel, the strategy to bring in creativity in the middle of the park by signing Gustavo has so far backfired. Gustavo failed to live up to the expectations and more often than not was played out of position. It became obvious that Bayern might be in the hunt for another addition in the midfield for the coming season.

Confirmed signing: None

Rumors

Arturo Vidal

Vidal, the fulcrum of Leverkusen’s midfield, has scored 11 goals and provided 10 assists this season, making him irreplaceable for his team. Völler has although explained, “Our reasoning is: Arturo is so important to us that we want to keep him no matter what. Especially since, whether from [Bayern] Munich or Napoli, the offers are not high enough for us to reconsider.” This statement, however, makes one thing clear – Leverkusen want more money for this deal to go through, especially since the player himself has made it public that he is ready to look out for pastures new, “I want to go to Munich.I absolutely want the clubs to reach an agreement. One of the best clubs in the world wants to sign me. In addition, my old coach Jupp Heynckes is there.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: The possibility is high.

Can Bayern acquire his services?

Takashi Usami

The Gamba Osaka starlet has attracted interest from various European clubs. Bayern are, though, favorites to pick the cherry. Usami has standout technical abilities on the ball, he is fast and can shoot with both feet. Such is his talent that former German international Guido Buchwald noted, “Usami is one of the biggest talents around in Japan. He is a similar player as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, although he obviously is not of the same level just yet.” Bayern are targeting a year-long loan deal with an option to buy the player at the end of the spell for a fee believed to be between £1.3m – £3m.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: Highly possible.

Attack

The club officials failed to come to an agreement regarding a contract extension with Miro Klose, resulting in the latter’s departure to Lazio for the next season. Bayern needed to fill up that void. Of course, there is super Mario who has been in red hot form throughout the campaign and has also been able to emulate his club-level heroics at the international stage as well. There is the poacher Olic. But Bayern need that extra cushion in the absence of any of these strikers.

Confirmed Signing:

Nils Petersen

Little known striker from Bundesliga 2 side Energie Cottbus is the top scorer of the league with 25 goals. Though he comes from the second division, things could still go his way. He is not well known in the top flight but his record speaks for himself, “A contract with Bayern is the greatest reward which is available as a footballer. For me, this is a great encouragement for my services. I want to take Klose’s heritage, when my time comes.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: A bold statement of intent from Bayern’s point of view and a dicey one too.

Rumors

Nicklas Bendtner

According to the grapevine, Bayern seem to be interested in acquiring the service of Arsenal’s want away Danish prodigy Super Nick. Bendtner, over the past year or so, has not been satisfied with the way he was pushed down the pecking order and made his intention of leaving clear to one and all. Wenger is looking to cash in on this super talent but has held out for a price tag of around £12m.

TheHardTackle’s verdict: Super Nick is as wasteful as Super Mario, if not more. Probably more! But Mario scores goals too. As a Bayern fan one would prefer this deal rather not go through.

Disaster on the cards

Toni Vastic

Bayern have set their sights on Blackburn Rovers young attacker Toni Vastic. The versatile Austrian U-17 member can play in various attacking positions apart from the centre forward’s role. Vastic has scored six goals for Blackburn reserves team after coming off the bench on nine occasions in the last season. His agent has maintained, “The transfer is fairly certain, though still not a 100 per cent settled. We are still waiting for Blackburn Rovers to agree to release him.”

TheHardTackle’s verdict: Pretty high chances. The signing could be another tricky one, following that of Nils Petersen’s.