2019 was a year full of emotions for Bayern Munich and we here at The Hard Tackle will take you through the top five highlights which defined the year for the Bavarians.
It was a year with stupendous highs and agonising lows, where the Bavarians again faltered in the Champions League knockout stage. With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery scripting the best farewell and also Niko Kovac’s sacking, it was a year of full of emotions. A year which promised exciting times failed to live up to the expectations of Bayern Munich supporters.
While Philippe Coutinho’s arrival and Thomas Muller’s revival under interim manager Hansi Flick has been the positives this season, lack of reinforcements in both defence and attack are worrying signs for the Bavarians. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Robert Lewandowski and company. But until then, we at The Hard Tackle take a look at the five most highlighting moments from the last year;
Another Champions League knockout stage departure…
Bayern Munich have not had much luck in the Champions League knockout stages ever since they won the treble back in 2013. The Bavarians have made it to the knockouts consistently in this decade but they have also stumbled mostly in the final hurdles of the tournament.
In the 2018-19 season Bayern were drawn against the high-flying Liverpool in the Round of 16 stages and Niko Kovac’s men had a golden opportunity to take the lead at Anfield with star defender Virgil van Dijk out suspended from that fixture. However, Kovac’s defensive mentality resonated on the pitch as the match ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
Liverpool were in great form and the only chance Bayern had they failed to take advantage of it and Jurgen Klopp’s men made them pay for it. The Reds were dominant over the home team at the Allianz Arena as Sadio Mane drew first blood in the 26th minute with Bayern reciprocating through a Joel Matip own goal.
It was level at halftime, but things started crumbling in the second half as a late surge from Liverpool resulted in goals from van Dijk and Mane. It was one of the lowest points from 2019 for Bayern when they were dominated at home in another European knockout fixture.
The domestic dominance continues
Bayern Munich have simply made Bundesliga a monopoly, although they won it the tough way last season. Seven successive Championships for the Bavarians was a momentous occasion. Ahead of their final league fixture of the season, Bayern were under pressure after their previous match against Leipzig ended in a 0-0 stalemate and Niko Kovac’s men had to win against Frankfurt to seal the title.
It will always be an iconic game at the Allianz Arena against Eintracht Frankfurt where Kingsley Coman started off with a goal in the opening five minutes followed by an equaliser from Sebastien Haller. However, strikes from David Alaba and Renato Sanches put Bayern in the driver’s seat as history unfolded thereafter.
In came Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben for one last time in Bayern’s red jersey at home in front of the passionate fans. Ribery piled up the misery as he dribbled past defenders at will and completed the move with an inch-perfect chip over the on-rushing Kevin Trapp.
Six Minutes later, his partner in crime, Arjen Robben calmly tapped in a square pass from David Alaba to make this match a forever cherishable moment for each and every Bayern supporter.
Serge Gnabry finally comes of age
Bayern had a rough year and fans were not convinced with Niko Kovac’s capabilities as there was hardly any consistency on display. However, amidst these topsy turvy phases and results, one player who made his name on the world stage was Serge Gnabry.
The Arsenal academy graduate was once considered ‘not good enough’ by Tony Pulis during his time at West Brom and now the German international has climbed up the ladder and has shown enough glimpses of carrying the baton forward from Robbery.
Gnabry performed well in patches but he wasn’t marauding or threatening like Ribery and Robben used to be. Then came the Champions League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur away from home and the former Werder Bremen man decided to announce himself at the world stage.
He was simply sensational on the night, as the Spurs defenders struggled to keep him in check. With Heung-min Son scoring the first goal things became tough for the Bavarians. Joshua Kimmich brought Bayern to level terms and then from there was just the Lewandowski-Gnabry show.
Gnabry was simply unstoppable in that match as everything he touched turned into gold. The 24-year old left the stadium that night after registering four goals and an assist to his name, leading Bayern to a resounding victory.
The Niko Kovac conundrum and revival under Hansi Flick
When the Bayern management appointed Niko Kovac as the club’s new manager, the fans had their doubts while some critics termed him as a panic decision. Fast forward to 65 odd matches for the club he was sacked even after winning the Bundesliga title which is considered a bare minimum when you are at the helm of this club.
His decision to play out a draw against Liverpool at Anfield despite the absence of Virgil Van Dijk proved his character and aversion to risk-taking. While the tenure had a scintillating 7-2 win over Tottenham away from home, a month later a 5-0 defeat against his former side, Eintracht Frankfurt, saw the end of his reign in Bavaria.
Bayern supporters expected a lot more especially because Kovac has already represented the club as a player. However, it was too early for the Croat to take so much pressure at a club where continental success acts as the primary objective. Kovac started having a rift with some of the players while the fans weren’t fond of his choices of words at multiple press conferences throughout the year.
In hindsight, Hansi Flick, who took charge from Kovac as an interim coach, has shown great promise and has also been instrumental in Thomas Muller’s revival and Alphonso Davies’ monumental rise in a new position. The players trust him with utmost honesty and he has brought that possession-based playing style which the supporters missed during Kovac’s tenure.
Robert Lewandowski ageing like fine wine
It was another great year for Robert Lewandowski as he transformed himself from being just a goalscorer to a leader. He was a prolific striker at Dortmund but he became one of the best in the world at Bayern. The Polish marksman had a flawless year and is currently sitting in the third position of Bayern’s all-time top scorer list just behind Gerd Muller and Karl-Heinze Rummenigge.
The 31-year old forward scored 54 goals in the calendar year for club and country and finished ahead of FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Lewandowski has taken the mantle of scoring goals consistently and leading the attack against tough oppositions. He has shown maturity this year and has not fizzled out under nerve-racking moments and has been integral to every success that came Bayern’s way in 2019.