2015-16 Season Preview: FC Bayern München

The Basics

Nickname: Die Roten (“The Reds”), Stern des Südens (“Star of the South”)
Founded: 27th February 1900
Ground: Allianz Arena
Colors: Currently all wine-red
Rivals: Borussia Dortmund (reality), TSV 1860 München, 1. FC Nürnberg (historically)
Fan Friendship: VfL Bochum
Trophies: 25 x German league titles (including 24 Bundesliga titles), 17 x DFB Pokal, 6 x DFB Ligapokal, 4 x DFL Supercup, 5 x European Cup/UEFA Champions League, 1 x European Cup Winners’ Cup, 1 x UEFA Cup, 1 x UEFA Super Cup, 2 x Intercontinental Cup, 1 x FIFA World Club Cup

2014-15 Season Summary

Bundesliga: Champions
DFB-Pokal: Semi-finalists
UEFA Champions League: Semi-finalists
DFL Supercup: Runners-up

60-Second Dossier

Number of matches won by 2 or more goals: BL 18 / POK 3 / UCL 5
Number of matches won by 1 goal: 7 / 0 / 3
Number of matches drawn: 4 / 2* / 1
Number of matches lost by 1 goal: 2 / 0 / 1
Number of matches lost by 2 or more goals: 3 / 0 / 2
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in defeat: 1 / 0 / 2
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in a draw: 2 / 0 / 0
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 0 / 1** / 0
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 3 / 0 / 0

* Ended in penalty shootouts after draws in extra time.
** Draw after extra time; lost on penalty shootout.
(Source: Fussballdaten.de)

2014/15 Season Summary

In 2014/15, FC Bayern flattered to deceive, though, unlike in the year prior, there was at least the excuse of an ongoing injury crisis.

Pep Guardiola’s men were unbeaten in domestic competition through the Hinrunde. The opening game of the Rückrunde saw a disjointed Bayern side collapse to a 4-1 defeat in Wolfsburg, the first of five reverses in the second half of the season.

At times, it looked as though the stream of injuries would never end, and the crisis reached its nadir with the acrimonious departure of long-time team doctor and guru Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.

Bayern would have enough of an advantage to keep themselves clear of the chasing pack and wrap up a third successive Bundesliga title with four weeks to spare. A heart-breaking semifinal defeat on penalties to rival Borussia Dortmund, though, would put paid to a treble.

Despite the injury problems, Bayern were good enough to make the semifinals of the Champions League, falling to eventual winner Barcelona in the semifinal.

With another league title and semifinal finishes in the two cup competitions, it was, statistically speaking, a successful season . . . were it any other club.

Standards at FC Bayern have always been high, but the treble in 2012/13 has permanently raised the bar. These days, a Bundesliga title is not enough for the club’s demanding board and even more-demanding fans. Even a domestic double – as mighty an achievement as it may be – is somewhat passé.

Strengths and Weaknesses

When FC Bayern clicks, they really click. On their day, a full-strength FC Bayern is nearly unbeatable with the array of attacking talent at Guardiola’s disposal.

Injuries exposed defensive shortcomings last season. With a fully-fit squad and the additions of the nippy Douglas Costa and midfield hard man Arturo Vidal, Bayern should have more than enough up front and in the middle of the park. At the back, though, problems remain.

2014/15 Trivia

With their 7-0 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk in the second leg of their second-round tie in the Champions League, Bayern equalled their record of being the only side to register this big a victory in the knockout stages of the competition, equalling their defeat of FC Basel at the same stage in 2011/2012.

Incoming

Arturo Vidal (Juventus Turin, EUR 35.00m)
Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk, EUR 30.00m)
Joshua Kimmich (VfB Stuttgart, EUR 8.50m)
Sven Ulreich (VfB Stuttgart, EUR 3.50m)
Julian Green (Hamburger SV, loan returnee)
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (FC Augsburg, loan returnee)
Jan Kirchhoff (FC Schalke 04, loan returnee)

Outgoing

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United, EUR 18.00m)
Jose Manuel Reina (SSC Napoli, EUR 2.00m)
Mitchell-Elijah Weiser (Hertha BSC, free transfer)
Lukas Görtler (1. FC Kaiserslautern)
Rico Strieder (FC Utrecht)
Patrick Weihrauch (FC Bayern München II)
Claudio Pizarro (retired)

Der Chef

Having taken over from the treble-winning Jupp Heynckes at the start of the 2013/14 season, Pep Guardiola always knew that life at the Säbener Strasse was going to be a challenge.

A domestic double and Champions League semifinal provided an excellent start, but the nature of the team’s collapse in the Champions League semi-final at the hands of Real Madrid and a dramatic falling away in form lead many to question the coach’s approach, tactics, and at times bloody-minded determination to mould the Bayern team to his own particular style.

These same questions remain. With just a year left on his contract, there is more than a little concern about his position at the club. Guardiola’s excellent working relationship with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and the Bayern board suggest that there is a long-term plan, but there has long been plenty of media speculation about his future.

Guardiola is arguably one of the best coaches in Europe, and Bayern has been one of the leading clubs on the continent. Hopefully, we won’t be waiting long for that special moment when and where everything comes together.

Fixture List

Hinrunde

14.08.15 Hamburger SV (H)
22.08.15 1899 Hoffenheim (A)
29.08.15 Bayer 04 Leverkusen (H)
12.09.15 FC Augsburg (H)
19.09.15 SV Darmstadt 98 (A)
22.09.15 VfL Wolfsburg (H)
26.09.15 1. FSV Mainz 05 (A)
03.10.15 Borussia Dortmund (H)
17.10.15 SV Werder Bremen (A)
24.10.15 1. FC Köln (H)
31.10.15 Eintracht Frankfurt (A)
07.11.15 VfB Stuttgart (H)
21.11.15 FC Schalke 04 (A)
28.11.15 Hertha BSC (H)
05.12.15 Borussia Mönchengladbach (A)
12.12.15 FC Ingolstadt 04 (H)
19.12.15 Hannover 96 (A)

Rückrunde

23.01.16 Hamburger SV (A)
30.01.16 1899 Hoffenheim (H)
06.02.16 Bayer 04 Leverkusen (A)
13.02.16 FC Augsburg (A)
20.02.16 SV Darmstadt 98 (H)
27.02.16 VfL Wolfsburg (A)
01.03.16 1. FSV Mainz 05 (H)
05.03.16 Borussia Dortmund (A)
12.03.16 SV Werder Bremen (H)
19.03.16 1. FC Köln (A)
02.04.16 Eintracht Frankfurt (H)
09.04.16 VfB Stuttgart (A)
16.04.16 FC Schalke 04 (H)
23.04.16 Hertha BSC (A)
29.04.16 Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)
07.05.16 FC Ingolstadt 04 (A)
14.05.16 Hannover 96 (H)

Critical Stretch

Given FC Bayern’s domestic strength, at the risk of sounding a little like Stefan Effenberg in the 1990s, there are few opponents to really trouble them domestically. Only VfL Wolfsburg, a revived Borussia Dortmund, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and FC Schalke 04 look fit enough and ready to challenge the Bavarians’ supremacy. The fixture list has worked out nicely so that none of these potential challengers are lined up back to back.

Odds to win the league: 1/10 (Ladbrokes, as at 27.07.2015)
Five-year record: 3rd (2010/11), 2nd (2011/12), Champions (2012/13), Champions (2013/14), Champions (2014/15)

Q&A with a Bayern Fan

As a massive FC Bayern for close to thirty-five years, I could theoretically answer these questions myself. However I have plenty of other equally suitable candidates to choose from, and after some thought have decided to grill not just one but three of the members of my own FC Bayern fan club here in London – Red Dragons chairman Thorsten Lamberty, fellow board member Grzegorz Jaszowski, and Terry Faulkner – like me a long-time British fan of Die Roten.

1. Which player would you keep an eye out for this season?

Thorsten: Sebastian Rode. Great impression, down to earth guy, great shot.
Grzegorz: Costa – looks like bringing in a bright future.
Terry: Kevin De Bruyne.

2. Who would you see as the terrace favourite and why?

Thorsten: Thomas Müller. Bavarian through and through.
Grzegorz: Müller, Neuer, Boateng, Lahm – they are FCB’s spine.
Terry: Thomas Müller for his loyalty.

3. Which player would you happily drive to another club?

Thorsten: Dante for obvious reasons.
Grzegorz: Dante – no reason needed. 😉
Terry: Dante.

4. What advice you would give to Pep Guardiola?

Thorsten: Play players to their strength, for instance Lewa as a full number nine.
Grzegorz: I hope he can break the “non-aggression” pact and start shooting.
Terry: To be more attacking.

5. What opposition player do you secretly admire?

Thorsten: De Bruyne (could be a second Ribéry if he joined Bayern).
Grzegorz: Hummels for his great attitude.
Terry: None.

6. Which opposition player do you despise?

Thorsten: Reus, Grosskotz. 😉
Grzegorz: Subotic and Schmelzer – the first one for his behaviour, the second one for Javi Martinez’ injury! It was a mean attack!
Terry: Reus.

7. Where do you think you will finish this season?

Thorsten: First.
Grzegorz: We will reach that fourth league title in a row, no doubt. DFB-Pokal too. Can’t tell about CL.
Terry: Second.

8. Do you see Guardiola being a long-term coach at FC Bayern?

Thorsten: Guardiola will leave after 15/16… Rummenigge already said that it wouldn’t be the end of the world and I am pretty sure they have spoken to Klopp already…
Grzegorz: I stand for FCB, with Guardiola or not. I wish him all the best.
Terry: No.

Verdict & Predictions

Wolfsburg may have managed to hold onto their key players, and Dortmund are unlikely to have another terrible season, but it is difficult to see FC Bayern not picking up the Meisterschale again. The Bavarians have the squad, the coach, and plenty more besides to secure a fourth successive title. Their price with the bookmakers pretty much says it all. Another domestic double shouldn’t be beyond them. The biggest challenge – and desire – remains the Champions League.

Putting my fanboy hat on, I’d love to see Pep Guardiola emulate Jupp Heynckes and win the treble. Being slightly more realistic, I think that while the squad has more than enough firepower to secure domestic silverware, they are still not quite there yet in terms of tactics and overall squad depth to remain consistent enough to challenge for the Henkelpott.

Bundesliga: Champions
DFB-Pokal: Winners
UEFA Champions League: Semi-finals
DFL Supercup: Winners

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.