As Bundesliga gears up for a return to normalcy, we equip you with an in-depth view of everything about Bayern Munich and their season so far
They are a club that do not need any introduction whatsoever. One of the giants of the game in Europe, Die Roten, based in Bavaria and playing out of the picturesque Allianz Arena, have carried the torch of German football in the continent for years now.
Founded by 11 football players, led by Franz John in 1900, it was not until 1932 that they won their first national championship. Fast forward three decades, and one would be shocked to learn that Bayern, now the record champions, were not a part of the first Bundesliga season in 1963.
Back then, at its inception, teams from different Oberligas were ranked on the basis of their records in the past 12 years following which the top five clubs from each Oberliga was granted entry into the newly formed Bundesliga.
Bayern narrowly missed out after being the sixth-ranked team in the Oberliga-Sud. To rub salt into their wounds, local rivals TSV 1860 Munich, ranked seventh, went into the top-flight on the pretext of winning the Oberliga-Sud the previous season. It would be two years until Bayern played their first Bundesliga campaign. Suffice to say, they have not looked back since.
The Bavarian giants are the record winners in each of the domestic competitions in Germany, winning the top-flight title a staggering 29 times, in addition to 19 DFB-Pokal Cups, 7 Supercups and 6 DFL-Ligapokal. Apart from that, they have also won 10 European trophies, including a German-record 5 Champions League honours.
With such a rich history, they almost always have a huge target on their back, with every club in Germany looking to outsmart them. So far this season, remaining on top has been quite a challenge for them, but Bayern did open up a four-point gap atop the Bundesliga table before football was halted due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bayern Munich’s 2019/20 Season So Far
They might be perched at the summit of German football at the moment but the 2019/20 campaign was not off to an ideal start for them. The reigning champions were nearly off to a losing start to the season before Robert Lewandowski bailed them out to earn a 2-2 draw at home against Hertha Berlin.
It seemed as if losing the experience and influence of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Mats Hummels, apart from the versatile Rafinha, was having a telling effect, even though they had brought in the impressive French duo of Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez.
Indeed, Lewandowski would be the saving grace for Bayern in a difficult first half of the season, wherein the highlight was a 7-2 decimation of Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League. Bar that stunning result, though, the Bavarians looked uncharacteristically average for large parts of the first half of the season, suffering shock defeats at the hands of Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt.
The abysmal performance in the 5-1 loss to Frankfurt, which dropped them to fourth in the table, would prove to be the last straw for Niko Kovac, who was shown the exit doors at the Allianz Arena. In his stead, former Bayern midfielder Hansi Flick was placed in temporary charge of the first-team.
The start to life as the Bayern Munich boss could not have been better for Flick, who oversaw a 4-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund in his first game. Fortuna Dusseldorf would be beaten by the same scoreline a week later, but Bayern then lost successive games to Bayer Leverkusen, who have enjoyed a decent season, and Borussia Monchengladbach would sap them of all the initial momentum.
Flick’s men, though, would subsequently soldier on, failing to win just one of their 15 subsequent games in all competitions – a 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig. In the process, they reached the top of the table for only the second time this season in February and have not been deposed since. Meanwhile in Europe, Bayern look well placed to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals, following a 3-0 win over Chelsea in the Round of 16 first leg.
The Manager: Hansi Flick
Hansi Flick has been one of the surprise packages in German football this season, after successfully overseeing a solid turnaround for Bayern Munich. Coming into the team as the interim manager following the dismissal of Kovac, not many would have given him much of a chance, seeing as this was his first job managing a top-flight club.
The 55-year-old’s previous experience of managing a side was with lowly clubs Victoria Bammental and 1899 Hoffenheim. Post a failed stint with the latter, he had been an assistant manager with Red Bull Salzburg and Germany before being appointed as Kovac’s deputy before the start of the season.
That Bayern suffered back-to-back losses by just his fourth match in-charge could have been a cruel blow to his position at the club, with doubts over his credentials only growing. However, Flick has shown immense resilience and tactical acumen to ensure Bayern’s return to the top of the table.
As iterated earlier, Die Roten have not lost even once in their last 15 games and Flick’s record as the manager now reads an impressive 18 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses, giving him a winning rate of over 85 percent. This record has convinced the Bayern Munich board of his abilities and Flick has now earned a contract till the end of the 2022-23 season, with Miroslav Klose now his assistant.
Tactics & Style of Play
One major change at Bayern Munich upon the appointment of Hansi Flick has concerned their style of play. Under Niko Kovac, they looked quite un-Bayern-like, for a lack of a better word, with the Croat’s pragmatic approach not really sitting well with fans and the board alike.
Flick, on the other hand, has brought back an attractive style of play which is based on maintaining possession and looking to stamp their authority on the game, helped by their intense pressing when off the ball.
At the same time, Die Roten have drastically improved on the defensive front since Flick was placed in-charge of the team – Bayern have the joint-best record in the Bundesliga. The secret behind this defensive transformation can be seen in the following video:
In a style that somewhat resembles the one that Pep Guardiola implemented when he was the Bayern boss, Flick’s system has reintroduced some of the excitement that had been missing under Kovac. This has also helped them get goals from all quarters and take some of the burden off Robert Lewandowski.
The proof is in the pudding, with Bayern scoring three or more goals in a game 10 times in the 15 games that Flick has overseen. And, the swift turnaround has seen Flick get a nod of approval from Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge himself.
Speaking with Kicker, Rummenigge said, “For many years now, FC Bayern have stood for possession, dominance on the ball, a strong positional game and lots of goals. Hansi Flick has brought that philosophy back to the team.”
“Tactically, the team is like it was under Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes or Pep Guardiola. Flick is key to that. He has a clear game plan, a very good connection with the players, and deals with the press very well.” A happy board only means that good things are in store for Flick & co.
As iterated earlier, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mats Hummels and Rafinha all departed at the end of last season, with Bayern Munich also choosing to not sign James Rodriguez on a permanent deal. In the wake of some big departures, 2019-20 has been a transitional season for the Bundesliga champions.
Talking about the signings, in came World Cup winners Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, while Mickael Cuisance and Jann-Fiete Arp were signed with a view to making them long-term solutions in their respective positions. Meanwhile, the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic and Alvaro Odriozola (January signing) joined the club on loan deals till the end of the season.
The incomings and outgoings have paved the way for one of Bayern’s youngest squads in recent years. At the same time, they also have quality experienced players in the form of Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martinez and captain Manuel Neuer, who has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance this season.
The most pleasing of resurgence, though, has been Muller’s. In recent seasons, the 30-year-old had looked a pale shadow of the player who had taken both club and international football by storm in his early years at the senior level. However, this season, Muller has played as key a role as talisman Lewandowski, having become the creative focal point for Bayern Munich.
In 36 games across all competitions, Muller has a superb record of 10 goals and 19 assists. 16 of those assists have come in Bundesliga, which means he sits atop the assists charts in the league, with Kevin De Bruyne’s all-time record of 21 assists in a season in sight. By the way, only De Bruyne has more assists than Muller among players in the top five European leagues this season.
Apart from Muller, the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies (more on him later) have shone bright this season. Kimmich, in particular, has been mighty impressive after practically becoming a full-time midfielder. Bayern’s new midfield general has been the ace in Flick’s pack, using his sublime reading of the game to good effect.
All in all, though, the versatility shown by Kimmich has been the trademark of the side under Flick, with the likes of Muller, Javi Martinez, David Alaba and Philippe Coutinho all performing decently at the very least in different roles this season. A quality that holds the champions in good stead.
Marquee Player: Robert Lewandowski
Who else but that man? There has been absolutely no stopping Robert Lewandowski, who just continues to age like fine wine. He might be on the wrong side of 30 now, but the Polish striker still remains, by far, the best striker in the game and a player that literally any club would want in their squad.
Early on in the season, it looked like every time Lewandowski aimed at goal, he’d score. By the end of Matchday 2, he had already scored 5 goals and in a couple of months, he had become the first player to ever score at least one goal in each of the first nine games of a Bundesliga campaign.
Now third in Bundesliga’s all-time top scorers list, only the legendary Gerd Muller and Klaus Fischer are ahead of him. Before March even began, he was on the cusp of scoring 40 goals for the season (in all competitions), truly remarkable numbers to say the least.
In the Champions League, he has been unmatched, finding the back of the net 11 times in just 6 games at an astonishing rate of 48 minutes per goal. With the forced break due to COVID-19 giving him enough time to recover from an injury he sustained in February, a rejuvenated Lewandowski can now set his sights on breaking Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 goals in 1971/72 (the most by a player in any Bundesliga season).
It has well and truly been the activation of Beast Mode for Lewandowski this season. Recent history suggests he is not done, far from that, in fact. The goal machine would be aching to return to the pitch.
One For The Future: Alphonso Davies
The likes of Lewandowski, Muller and Kimmich have rightly stood out for different reasons. But, if there is one player who deserves a lot of spotlight himself (to be fair, he has received his fair share of attention), it is Alphonso Davies.
Signed as a promising winger, Davies has surprisingly enjoyed his breakthrough season as a full-back. At the start of the season, the Canadian teenager was not getting much of a look-in up ahead in attack, especially with Serge Gnabry running riot.
However, an injury crisis in defence has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Davies, Flick and Bayern Munich. With Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez out on the sidelines, it was then-manager Niko Kovac who turned to Davies. Flick, taking note of the 19-year-old’s abilities continued keeping faith in the youngster, who has featured in every single game under the new boss.
What helps him in both phases of the game is his immense pace. Going forward, he can beat any and every defender with his electric change of pace while at the back, he can make incredible recovery runs on the off chance that some winger manages to beat him.
His decision-making in the final third has improved drastically as the season has gone forward, which is reflected in the 8 assists he has provided this term. In Flick’s own words, Davies has been nothing short of “phenomenal” with his development this season. A gem at the Bayern manager’s disposal.
Bayern Munich are a side that have rediscovered their swagger under Hansi Flick, who has proven himself on a personal level as well. If the upwards trajectory is anything to go by, Flick is here to stay for quite some time after initially being an unheralded pick.
As far as the current season is concerned, Bayern seem to have a daunting fixture list ahead of their remaining nine games. Their clash later this month against Borussia Dortmund could be a potential six-pointer, and they should fancy themselves to do the double over their rivals.
If they do win, another Bundesliga title triumph might be but a formality, although the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach and the relegation battling Werder Bremen might look to mount a surprise towards the end of the campaign.