Last Season’s Result – Bundesliga: Runners-up. DFB-Pokal: Runners-up. UEFA Champions League: Runners-up.
Any other club in Germany, with the exception of the Werkself, would have taken the past season, under the impression of the aforementioned results, as their belle époque. But walking the Neverkusen Trail was, is and will never be in the agenda of Die Roten. Failure to overcome their stymied opponents in Black and Yellow on the domestic front could have still been accepted. But failure to win their fifth Champions League trophy, in front of their home crowd, against a team that had supposed to have gotten there through so-called epic benevolence of luck and anti-football, could hardly be appreciated.
The defeat in the Champions League final ensured back-to-back barren seasons at the Allianz Arena, a bitter pill the inherent swagger (read arrogance) in the Bayern management found hard to swallow. The innuendo of the trophy-saken seasons has helped the bosses realize that Bayern is no longer considered as the best in Germany. The voice of Hoeness rang the alarm bell loud and clear. So, what have they done to prepare for the reparation? How have Bayern addressed the exigencies to tame the Borussian shrew, if at all?
For appetizers, Sporting Director Christian Nerlinger was replaced by Dortmund legend and former Ballon d’Or winner, Matthias Sammer. Hans-Jörg Butt, who stepped down from his responsibilities as the head of Bayern’s youth development project, was replaced by Wolfgang Dremmler. For entree, CEO Rummenigge showed immaturity while lambasting former Bayern reserves’ coach Andries Jonker in public, when the latter questioned Bayern’s youth policy and philosophy over an email.
If such frivolities were not amusing enough, at the time when solidarity should be first thing to restore, Uli Hoeness had to share his point of view when he referred to Mario Gomez as, “He is good – but not very good”. New joinee Sammer somehow managed to squirm in his viewpoint to this futile discussion and hit back at the club president for the untimely and misplaced criticism. Interestingly, manager Heynckes and former manager Ottmar Hitzfeld were heard siding with Super Mario.
The fresh faces includes the likes of Tom Starke, Mitchell Wieser, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro, Mario Mandžukić, Dante. Starke had a good season with Hoffenheim, and with the retirement of Hans-Jörg Butt, Bayern wanted an experienced campaigner to deputize Manuel Neuer. Failure of their last two academy products to rise to the occasion, Kraft and Rensing, could have paved way for Starke.
Signing of Weiser is for the future. Weiser was one of the finds of Germany’s U-17 team that won the third place in the FIFA U-17 tournament. The ubiquitous right-sided footballer can play as a fullback as well as a winger and can prove to be a more than handy cover for Robben, Müller or Shaqiri.
Shaqiri, the two-time Credit Suisse Player of The Year award winner came to limelight following his cameo against FC Basel’s victory over Manchester United where he orchestrated both the goals of his side. The Kraftwürfel can play on the right-wing, right-wingback as well as anywhere in the attacking third, making him an ideal back up for Robben, Ribery and even Kroos in the hole behind the striker.
Pizarro, in his second stint with the Bavarian club, brings with him tons of experience. Last season Bayern struggled in the games when they missed Gomez through injury. Olic left for pastures new and greener, Petersen’s Bundesliga career never really took off, and career of Vastic and Jennings is still pupating. Pizarro, who has scored a hundred goals with Bayern, had a good season with Bremen in the last term when he netted 18 times in 29 games and looks the safest bet to play second fiddle to Gomez.
Bayern’s Achilles heel for some time now has been their defence. The centre-half pairing of Badstuber and Boateng is not intimidating, and they lack the understanding as well. Bayern decided to go for the defensive stalwart Dante who had a more than decent season with the Foals. This could mean that Lahm is going back to his left-back position, whereas Boateng replaced Lahm in right-back and Dante forming a partnership with Stubsi with van Buyten as their back-up.
Even though rumours surrounding Olivier Giroud’s signing were ripe, Bayern took a detour and stole Mandžukić from Wolfsburg instead. Tall, strong in headers, comfortable on the ball and experienced with life at Bundesliga, the Croat had a decent outing with the national team in Euro 2012. It will be interesting to see how Bayern shape up with three decent strikers under their payroll.
With the signings made, it was clear that Bayern had identified that the team is not in need of an overhaul. Only the bench strength needed to be strengthened and signings of Starke, Pizarro, Mandžukić, Shaqiri and Weiser serves exactly that purpose. A comparison with last season’s bench strength that had Usami, Olic (injured), Petersen etc only tells that Bayern are in a better position as far as man-power is concerned.
However, the trickiest part is to see how Heynckes maintains harmony in the side that comprises of a few incendiaries (excluding Breno). Robben and Ribery are experienced campaigners and will surely expect to play if fit. Kroos had been one of the hors concours of last season. How will Shaqiri fit in, if he is promised a starting role? Much of Bayern’s success of this season lies in the answer to this question.
From The Grapevine
Bayern have been linked with de Jong, Pirlo and Sahin. Though, the club officials have rubbished any such reports, their pursuit of Lars Bender and Javi Martinez had been confirmed by the respective clubs as well as the players’ agents. While Leverkusen kept playing with Bayern as they did in the last season with an impending transfer of Vidal, the obscene asking price of Martinez stalled any possibility of the transfer of the Basque player.
Further drama emerged when Los Leones manager Bielsa threatened to quit the club if Martinez is cashed in. And amidst all this, Martinez’s agent kept hogging the limelight by first declaring his client’s interest in securing a Bundesliga transfer and then retracting his statement by following it up with his client’s desire to stay put.
The search for a holding-midfielder/deep-lying play-maker leaves both Gustavo and Tymoschuk’s future in a limbo. Gustavo had been brilliant in breaking-up opposition attacks in the last term and Tymo is a marquee squad player. Hot prospect Emre Can has also been promoted to the senior squad. Schweinsteiger is there too, he ain’t going nowhere! What could then be the need for Bayern to enter the transfer-souk?
Analysis Of The Pre-season
|SpVgg Unterhaching||0 – 1||Bayern Munich|
|FC Ismaning||0 – 4||Bayern Munich|
|Bayern Munich||11 – 0||Trentino XI|
|Bayern Munich||2 – 3||S.S.C. Napoli|
|Beijing Guoan||0 – 6||Bayern Munich|
|Bayern Munich||2 – 1||VfL Wolfsburg|
|Paulaner XI||0 – 15||Bayern Munich|
|FC Kaiserslautern||2 – 3||Bayern Munich|
|Werder Bremen||2–2 (4 – 2 p)||Bayern Munich|
|Hamburger SV||0–1||Bayern Munich|
Pre-season friendlies are a good rostrum to try out new tactics as well as to adjudge the métier of the talented academy products and knocking-on-the-first-team-door reserve players. Not too sure about Jupp Heynckes’ giving way to his side’s desiccating andante to incorporate a new stratagem, since there was no such thing as a tactical rejig. But the academy and reserves sides have presented with some hope for the future, the future where Bayern will not be letting out a miserere to Dortmund.
Out of the ten friendlies played so far, Bayern were defeated only once in normal time. Apparently, though, there is not much to read between the lines of the pre-season successes, let alone the astronomical margins of some of the victories. The ‘apparent’ is however important when the much criticized-yet-backed striker, who has scored five goals in one of these so-called irrelevant games, gets side-lined for six weeks.
The ‘apparent’ becomes even more important as Bayern could possibly miss out their second-hand fullbacks as Contento (hairline fracture on left foot), Alaba (stress fracture) and Rafinha (tearing ankle ligament) are likely to miss the DFL-Supercup clash against Dortmund. Even Schweinsteiger took a knock in a game in LIGA Total! Cup and there is no confirmation in his playing chances on Sunday’s final as yet.
A number of players from and youth and reserves squad were included in the pre-season test-phase. Among the players from the youth and reserves team who managed to get recognition were Emre Can, Mitchell Weiser, Kevin Friesenbichler, Oliver Markoutz, Daniel Wein and Benno Schmitz. Lukas Raeder, David Vrzogic, Patrick Weihrauch, Pierre-Emile Hojberg and Vladimir Rankovic were also given test-drives.
Before the senior squad flew to China, the shooting stars practised with the team and 17-year-old Markoutz and 18-year-old Friesenbichler were amongst the unheard names who won the rapt attention of the senior squad boss. Markoutz scored once against Ismaning, and scored twice and provided one goal in the game against Trentino. Fellow Austrian, Friesenbichler netted a hattrick against Trentino, after scoring once against Ismaning, earning him Heynckes’ encouragement.
He’s a good lad with huge ability in front of goal. Although obviously, he has a great deal to learn about team play outside the box.
Shaqiri and Mandžukić seamlessly integrated with the team’s chorale and even put up impressive pre-season outings, scoring several goals in the process. Shaqiri and Weiser had been instrumental in setting up several opportunities as well. The signing of Mandžukić and Pizarro is likely to be put into test with immediate effect as Bundesliga’s third most hattrick-scorer erstwhile Super Mario, will be missed in the Supercup final as well as in the first couple of Bundesliga games.
Supercup is a good test for the lads who will be facing their nemesis for two years for the first time in this season, and a victory will definitely sweeten the contretemps created by the injuries to as many as four players during the pre-season. This will be their fifth Supercup victory if Bayern manage to beat Dortmund.
Bayern play their first Bundesliga game against newly promoted side Greuther Fürth, away from home on 24th of August. The Cloverleaves, who have three German league championships under their belt (all won prior to the foundation of Bundesliga), could expect a disastrous start to their first ever Bundesliga outing, even more so if Bayern fail to win against Dortmund for the sixth consecutive time. Come what may, Bayern will look forward to win the Golden Jubilee Bundesliga season.