Bayern Munich are the six-time defending champions of the German Bundesliga. They are a team full of talent with names like Robert Lewandowski, James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben, Thiago, Thomas Muller and many more. They are also a team with a new head coach, Niko Kovac; the man who beat Bayern with Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Cup final.
Bayern Munich: Europe’s Quiet Giant
Setting the Stage
Last season was a strange season in Bavaria. Bayern fired their coach, Carlo Ancelotti, in October, replacing him with club legend Jupp Heynckes. Club captain Manuel Neuer played only three league games all season and no one else from Bayern’s first team gained more starts that Joshua Kimmich (26).
Their season seemed to come to an end when they were knocked out of the Champions League; once again to Cristiano Ronaldo & Real Madrid. The league had already been wrapped by then, and they didn’t show up at all in the German Cup. Pillars of the last decade Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben looked like all those years had finally caught up.
Their Transfer Strategy
Plenty expected a summer shakeup at the Allianz Arena. There were rumours about Robert Lewandowski, Thiago, Jerome Boateng, as well as Robben and Ribery all leaving. But in the end, the only player to leave Bayern this summer was Arturo Vidal, who joined Barcelona. But he had already been replaced by Leon Goretzka, who signed on a free transfer from Schalke.
Bayern Munich last won the Champions League in 2013; they are the last non-Spanish side to do so. Their dominance over German football is unquestioned, but their place amongst Europe’s elite is coming into question. They do not spend money like the Premier League sides do, or like Real and Barcelona, or PSG, or even Milan and Juventus in Italy. They’ve tried to stay out of that game, but it’s time Bavaria was brought into the fold.
It’s a game they can no longer afford to sit out. Their squad has aged, their best players are all at the end of or already past their primes. But there are still great players in their primes. Bayern continue to boast two of the best full-backs in world football with David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich. Niklas Sule, Corentin Tolisso and Goretzka, as well, all look like world-class players in their respective roles.
The place where they’re lacking, though, is up front, where their youngest starter is presumably 28-year-old, Thomas Muller. Their bench will hinge on youth development. Guys like Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry need to take the next step. Muller hasn’t been the same player since Pep Guardiola left Bayern but there is hope that new coach Niko Kovac can return some of these players their form of before.
Much like Heynckes and Guardiola, Kovac is an intense coach that employs a high press and encourages his teams to get after opposition. That style translates perfectly to this squad of players, which should pave the way for them to dominate in the Bundesliga, a league which is historically weak. This will not prepare them for the Champions League, though.
However, a weak league will give Kovac plenty of time to experiment with this squad. At Frankfurt, Kovac was extremely successful using a 3-5-2 formation. While that may be usable at Bayern, early indications are that he will go with a more traditional 4-3-3, despite employing 4-2-3-1 with the Croatian national team. He’s certainly adaptable.
The question becomes, then, is this squad still good enough for Kovac to reach the heights he needs to? It starts with a domestic double; winning the Bundesliga & DFB Pokal should not be a hard task for this lot. But the Champions League is a different story. Depending on the Ronaldo effect, on both Juve and Madrid, Bayern could be the fourth or fifth favourite to win the competition.
And that might be generous. Does anyone expect peak performance from Robben and Ribery come April? It might be time for their Chinese Super League swansong. Would a domestic double and European quarter-final knockout be enough for Bayern to bring the band back again? Perhaps not.
Maybe it would act as the impetus they need to enter into the transfer market. There are always rumours around the club that they’re interested in someone like Paulo Dybala or Anthony Martial. But those rumours don’t fit what Bayern do. A move for someone like Malcom would have been what Bayern do.
It looks like Kovac will have this season to determine what needs to be changed about the squad, assuming it doesn’t go too poorly. A domestic double coupled with European failure could merit Kovac the reinforcement this squad badly needs.