Loss to Schalke in DFB Pokal and a consistently inconsistent run in Bundesliga more or less erased Bayern’s chances of repeating last year’s domestic success. The only talking point for the fans was to see how far they reach in this year’s Champions League. Defense, the achilles’ heel of the Bavarian club, did enough to ensure that the squad will be spared of putting extra effort for European games for the rest of the season. The players were eager to give an apt send-off to their manager who helped them reach the summit only last year, but fate had some other plans. With Van Gaal’s expulsion being the next agenda at the Allianz Arena, there are a few scratches in Bayern’s future chassis that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Champions League Qualification
The experience of playing in the Europa League is quite fresh for most of the Bayern players. They had to play in the Europa League in 2007-08 season when they reached the semi-finals of the tournament, eventually losing to the would be Champions Zenit St. Petersburg. Much to the despair of the players, they might have to relive footballing life in Europa League in the coming season. With 7 games in hand, Bayern are currently placed fourth in the table, couple of points behind Hannover and seven points behind second placed Leverkusen. It looks highly unlikely at this point that Bayern will be able to secure direct entry in next year’s Champions League. Earning the third place looks possible at the expense of Hannover, giving them a lifeline to qualify for the Champions League through the play-offs. This equation looks rosy but Bayern are yet to play Leverkusen, Schalke and Nuremberg. Finishing third should be Bayern’s first priority, come what may.
Holding Onto The Stars
With the shadow of Europa League looming large, some of the star players such as Robben and Ribery have already voiced their concerns. Top European clubs have already started circling around, trying to lure the stars by offering them Champions League football. Robben’s comment, “I cannot imagine that (playing in the Europa League), even winning the Europa League would not mean anything for me.” was duly echoed by that of Ribery’s, “The Europa League is rubbish and we have got to avoid that.” Rumour has it that Robben wants out of Bayern, possibly to Milan but Bayern has reacted promptly and nipped the rumour in the bud. Luring away players from Bayern Munich has always been a daunting task but this time it will be extremely difficult for Rummenigge, Nerlinger et al to hold on to key players like Robben, Ribery, Gomez, Schweinsteiger and Lahm. Assuring their stay has to be Bayern’s next positive move.
The superstars have to be retained.
Strengthening The Defence
The team was last restructured in 2007-08 season, shedding 70 million euros, to make it more competitive domestically and continentally. It is time for another retooling of the side. The good thing is that they do not need to tinker much with the midfield or attack. However, the defense needs complete renovation. Except for Lahm at right back, the entire defense is shapeless, spineless and clueless. Contento is not yet a ready product. Alaba has not shone as much as Bayern would have liked him to during his loan spell with Hoffenheim. Badstuber was last year’s makeshift left back and Pranjic is the current stop-gap left back. Bayern needs a left back. Last year they were in talks with Benfica regarding the services of Coentrao. They seemed to have lost interest in him and are now looking for other options.
Bayern needs a right back as a backup for Lahm. Under current scenario, it would be even more painful to see the Bayern defence if Lahm gets injured. There is not a single fullback in the squad to take up emergency duty if Lahm is unavailable. The centre of defence needs complete replacement. Badstuber is inexperienced but he has potential and is expected to get better with more games. He needs an able partner with whom he can make the defence tick. Surely, this is Van Buyten’s last season with Bayern. Breno has been good in his game reading and tackling but he is fairly immobile for a centre half. And of course, he would not like to see the replay of the final goal conceded in the Champions League game against Inter. The manner in which he gave the ball away to Eto’o is shameful. Bayern needs two new centre halves, one to partner Badstuber and the other one to play as a backup.
Moreover, they must start finding a new goal keeper as well. This is Butt’s last season. Kraft is good. But he needs more time to become the number one goalie of the team. Instead of paying for Kraft’s inexperience, they should get themselves an experienced goalkeeper. They have always been interested in the German number one, Manuel Neuer. The departure of Magath from Schalke has given this transfer a shape of possibility.
Clean Up The Mess
Bayern must get rid of a couple of otiose furniture, to bring some positivity in the side. Players like Van Buyten, Breno, Pranjic, Altintop and Klose have not added values to the team for some time now. Klose, though, has proved to be in rich form whenever he represented the national team. However, he has remained barren in front of the goal for Die Roten. These players must be released to make some fund available to get fresh legs into the side.
Find The Suitable Boy
Lastly, Bayern must think of the manager who will succeed Van Gaal’s vacant position after the season ends. Ottmar Hitzfeld was the last manager to have stayed for more than a couple of seasons, six years to be precise, at the helm with Die Roten. Since he left in 2004, no other manager was able to remain at the helm for more than a couple of seasons. So who is going take up the challenge to accept the managerial job at the Allianz Arena? Names of Guus Hiddink, Martin Jol, Rafa Benitez and even Joachim Low, have come to the fore. It is highly unlikely that Hiddink and Low, both of whom are very much devoted to the respective national teams’ cause, would take up this new challenge. Rumour has it that Jupp Heynckes, who has already managed Bayern in two spells, is in talks with the Bayern board with the possibility of managing the team again. Last time Heynckes was ushered to the team towards the end of 2008-09 season in order to manage the final 5 games in Bundesliga, following the sack of Klisnmann. Heynckes managed to help Bayern finish 2nd in the league and gain automatic qualification to Champions League. Heynckes, who has won a Champions League with Real Madrid (1998), has refused to renew his contract with Leverkusen at the end of the current season. Whoever it is, Rummenigge must find the suitable successor of Van Gaal for Bayern’s poisoned chalice to restore stability to the side.