Three years ago, fans of Bayern Munich were ecstatic as Jupp Heynckes managed to win the elusive treble, and that too in spectacular style. The League and Cup titles were reclaimed from the hands of Borussia Dortmund, whom they later edged out in the Champions League final, completing the three-trophy haul in 2013. Announcing his retirement soon after, Heynckes left Bayern on the ultimate high. Filling in Heynckesa shoes was never going to be an easy task for any manager.
Enter Pep Guardiola. The master tactician and Barcelona legend took over the reins last season, but it hasna t been smooth sailing since. For a team that is expected to do the domestic double and reach the Champions League finals practically every season, it was never going to be an easy task. And sure enough, criticism followed. The domestic double last season wasna t enough to convince the supporters of his possession based game, which was ruthlessly exploited by Real Madrid.
This year, they were knocked out in the Pokal semis by Dortmund and are now left on the brink of exiting the Champions Leagueas well. 2014-15 has been a relatively a disappointinga season for Bayern Munich. 8 goals conceded and none scored reads Pep Guardiolaa s semi-final record at Munich.
Injuries, for one, are perhaps the biggest weakening factor in the team. Having an average of 7 sidelined players per game has truly sapped the core of the squad. Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller are perhaps the only injury-free players this season, and it is no surprise that they were Bayerna s 3 best performers until now.
Pep Guardiola demands a high standard from his players. Not only are the skills in their individual zones needed, but also the willingness to adapt under different play styles is a strict requirement for the Spanish manager. Mario Gotze is the biggest loser because of this. The World-Cup winning goal scorer hasna t had a a bada season by all means, but has struggled to perform at the topmost level on various occasions. Normally a #10 who is deadly with his passing and dribbling in the final third, he has often found himself on the left-wing, not unlike Franck Riberya s role. Not the most physical of players, Gotze is often frozen out of games by a sturdy defence. The a next German greata has failed to live up to the hype simply because that he is the right player in the wrong position.
Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are at the end of their prime, and in the case of the Frenchman, recurring injuries could mean that he may no longer be a mainstay in the team. Further, Bayern heroes and veterans Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger seem out of sorts in midfield, both of whom no longer offer the same energy and quality as they did 2 years ago. Dante seems to be a shadow of his former self, Xabi Alonsoa s age is finally catching up to him and Claudio Pizarro has reached the end of his career.
All these players are vital cogs in the Bayern machine but now that their job is done, it may be time replace them, although Robben, Lahm and Schweinsteiger may have a couple of more seasons left in them. The heavy reliance on the old guard is a problem that has been solved to varying degrees. Thiago and Javi Martinez are some of the brightest Spanish players of this generation who have proven themselves time and again. Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller are radically different players from Ribery and Robben, showing the necessity for Bayern to start looking for new wingers in the transfer market. The veteran Peruvian Pizarro is still a decent option as a backup striker, but Bayern will need to fortify that position to have a Plan-B ready.
Rafinha has had a renaissance under Guardiola, but simply doesna t possess the consistency and quality to cement his place in the team. The talented Juan Bernat is still a bit raw, Mehdi Benatia still looks to be acclimatizing to Bayerna s style of play and the energetic Sebastian Rode is more than capable of filling the midfield or defence slots. The back three-back four hybrid Bayern defence relies on excellent ball playing defenders capable of matching opponents for pace as well. Boateng, Benatia and Badstuber are perfect fits in this system who ensure no reason for concern in the defensive department, should they stay fit.
A spell of rebuilding and careful planning should be Bayern Municha s priority and a very crucial transfer season lies ahead for them as they look to recover from this seasona s a disappointmenta . Pep Guardiola still has a year left in his contract, and will restart the attempt to deliver 3 trophies to Munich once again, come August.