June 26, 2017

2016-17 Season Preview: FC Bayern München

Basics

Name: Fußball-Club Bayern München e. V.
Nicknames: Die Roten (The Reds), FC Hollywood, Der FCB (The FCB), Die Bayern (The Bavarians), FC Buy’em
Founded: 1900
Club colors: White and red
Primary rivals: 1860 München and 1. FC Nürnberg (nonexistence derbies these days), Borussia Dortmund (latest team to remotely provide the only title challenge at the expense of shipping their star players to Bayern)
Fan friendship: VfL Bochum (In 1973, VfL fan club gave shelter to Bayern supporters who were being chased through downtown Bochum)

Allianz Arena

Capacity: 75,000 (70,000 for international matches)
2015-16 attendance: 1,275,000 (75,000 per match)

Trophies

Bundesliga: 26 times 

DFB-Pokal: 18 times 

DFB/DFL-Supercup: 5 times

DFB-Ligapokal (last edition in 2007): 6 times 

UEFA Champions League/European Cup: 5 times

UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup: 1995-96

UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1966-67

UEFA Super Cup: 2013

Intercontinental Cup: 1976, 2001

FIFA Club World Cup: 2013

Continental Treble: 2013 (Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, UEFA Champions League)

One of only four clubs to win a European Treble: (European Cup Winners’ Cup (absorbed into the UEFA Cup since 1999-2000), European Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League)

Numerous Regional Championships and Paulaner Cups

2015-16 Finishes

DFL-Supercup: Lost 4-5 on penalties to VfL Wolfsburg

Bundesliga: 1st with 88 points (80 goals scored, 17 allowed, +63 GD)

DFB Pokal: Champions (4-3 win on penalties against Borussia Dortmund in the final)

UEFA Champions League: Semifinalist (lost on the away goals rule to Atlético Madrid)

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 20
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 8
Number of Matches drawn: 4
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 1 (1-2 at home against Mainz 05)
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 1 (1-3 at Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in loss: 0
Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in draw: 1
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 0
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 4

Top 2015-16 Scorers

Robert Lewandowski: 42 in all competition (30 in Bundesliga)
Thomas Müller: 32 (20)

Summer Test Results

Record: 4-0-2
Goals Scored: 15
Goals Allowed: 8

SV Lippstadt 3-4 Bayern München – against Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s former club as part of a 60th birthday present for Bayern’s chairman. Arjen Robben suffered an injury that could see him miss the season start.

Bayern München 1-0 Manchester City – Pep Guardiola back in town for Carlo Ancelotti’s debut at Allianz Arena

SpVgg Landshut 0-3 Bayern München

International Champions Cup

Bayern München 3-3 AC Milan (Milan won 5-3 on penalties) – Franck Ribéry continued his fine preseason form with a brace a day before inexplicably lashing out on Guardiola.

Bayern Munich 4-1 Internazionale – Surprise, surprise; Julian Green with a well-taken hat-trick.

Bayern Munich 0-1 Real Madrid – Ancelotti lost against his former side in Bayern’s third and final fixture in United States.

Questions with an Expert:

Thanks for Mia San Rot‘s Tobi for taking the time to provide neat answers for our questions. Mia San Rot (@miasanrot_com) is a blog in all things Bayern, and Tobi (@redrobbery) is a lifelong Bayern fan from Germany who writes for both German and English websites.

Keep an eye out for . . .

That Jerome Boateng could be good. There aren’t really any secrets left in the current Bayern squad.

Terrace favorite . . .

Thomas Müller might be the safest choice, for obvious reasons.

Player that should be driven to another club . . .

Rafinha is getting older. Juan Bernat is facing a key season that could determine if he has a future in Munich.

Advice you’d give your manager . . .

Resting with the ball is less dangerous than resting without it.

Opposition player you despise . . .

Stefan Aigner is a second-division player now, does he still count?

What will opposing sides underestimate?

Philipp Lahm.

What are fans overestimating?

Javi Martinez’ midfield role in current football.

Tip you’d give foreign fans visiting Allianz Arena for the first time

Arrive a few hours early and visit the museum inside the stadium. It’s not breathtaking but pretty neat.

Where will Bayern finish? . . .

Top 2.

What is your standout Bayern München memory from last season?

The first half of the cup match in Wolfsburg. Pure domination, almost unfair.

When last we saw them

Same old, same old. The league trophy was never in doubt, despite Thomas Tuchel’s impressive debut season at Dortmund. Bayern completed the double with a penalty-shootout win against Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final. As for Champions League, they lost to a Spanish side in the semifinal for the third year running, again failing to take advantage of playing the second leg at home.

However, if you really want to look beyond the catchy headlines, last season has its own peculiarities. We had to wait until the penultimate weekend to confirm Bayern as the league champions, and the ten-point gap over second-place Dortmund doesn’t tell the whole history. It’s the first time Bayern won four successive league titles, as well. Unlike the two prior seasons under Guardiola, football fans collectively agreed on Bayern being unlucky to lose the Champions League semifinal.

Bayern had been active in the summer transfer market, adding vibrant youngsters Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman to provide further competitions to the injury-prone and aging stars Ribéry and Robben. Each had a marvelous first impression at the club, but struggled to keep up with the early promises at the back end of the season.

Joshua Kimmich had a contrasting time in his debut season at Bayern. Judging by the first half of the season, many had him in line to disappear after signing with the Bavarians, but he resurrected his career in the Rückrunde with Bayern’s squad depth put to the test after customary injuries to key players – especially after the highly-entertaining goalless draw at Dortmund in March. Kimmich’s late adventure earned him a place in Germany’s squad for Euro 2016 squad – reminiscent of Christoph Kramer’s World Cup inclusion as Kimmich was uncapped two week before the tournament – and he was Germany’s best performer in their semifinal defeat to host France.

Chilean maestro Arturo Vidal provides Bayern something they desperately lacked in seasons past, with his aggressive and direct approach complementing Guardiola’s painstaking philosophy. Up front, Robert Lewandowski became the first player to reach the 30-goal mark since Dieter Müller did it in 1976-77. The Polish striker also threatened to break Müller’s Bundesliga record of six goals in a match for Köln in 1977, when he netted a high-profile five goals in a cameo second-half appearance against Wolfsburg.

While Lewandowski was busy toying with Müller’s records, his main partner in crime, Thomas Müller, lost the plot at the second half of the season after a free-scoring start to the campaign – culminated by his poor showing in Euros. Guardiola was criticized for leaving the Raumdeuter (space inspector) on the bench when Bayern faced Diego Simone’s compact Atlético side in Madrid, but Müller missed a crucial penalty-kick in the return leg.

Successive injuries left Guardiola, who is never afraid of experimenting, to shuffle his side and slot players out of their positions time and again. Jérôme Boateng was named as German Footballer of the Year at the season end, but he endured another disappointing Champions League semifinal tie after rushing to return from a long-standing injury.

Bayern‘s fourth league title on the bounce was a safe bet, though. Dortmund had a chance to narrow the gap to two points with a home win against Bayern in March after Mainz 05 pulled a surprise come-from-behind win in Allianz Arena. But the enticing game ended goalless, and Bayern never relented after that, collecting 25 points from a possible 27.

Aspiration

Treble. Nothing new here. For Bayern, the sky’s the limit, and a treble (quadruple, if you count the Supercup here) is the sky, as far as a season of a football club concerns. Jupp Heynckes managed to sign off with a treble, and Guardiola’s three-year stay is overshadowed by Bayern’s successive exits from the last four of the Champions League.

Five-time winner of the marquee continental trophy as a player and manager, Ancelotti is a perfect man to turn the tables for Bayern. In the Bundesliga, the biggest challenge is still expected from Dortmund, who reinforced themselves after losing key players in every departments.

Reality

Bayern’s utter domestic dominance is getting to the point that it’s a concern for the overall Bundesliga brand. With the English Premier League further boosting its reputation with an unprecedented attraction of top-class managers and hefty transfers in the summer, Bayern officials – who had hard time swallowing Leroy Sané’s snub – should get used to the future trend.

At the same time, the rise of English clubs would have an effect in the coming seasons of the Champions League, where Bayern appeared to be one of the regular semifinalist year-in and year-out. The change of scenery after Ancelotti’s arrival could take some time to gel, which could be a further inspiration for Dortmund, as they look for their first trophy since 2012.

The Boss

Carlo Ancelotti is one of the household names in European football. His name is all over the place when the talk turns to managerial records of the Champions League. Bundesliga was the remaining jewel from Europe’s top five leagues in Ancelotti’s managerial career that spans two decades. The negotiations were flawless when Bayern come calling after Guardiola decided against extending his contract.

In his last managerial post, Ancelotti was unceremoniously sacked by Real Madrid (who else?) after leading the Spanish giants to their long-awaited tenth Champions League triumph. La Liga remains the only league title that evades the Italian, but he won trophies wherever he has been since succeeding (before he preceded) Marcello Lippi at Juventus in 1999.

Known for his leadership and organizational skills as a player, the transformation to became one of the elite managers was natural for Ancelotti. The chance of working alongside the legendary Arrigo Sacchi in the 1994 World Cup – a tournament remembered for Italy’s wonderkid Roberto Baggio’s penalty-kick miss in the final against Brazil – was a defining moment in shaping up Ancelotti’s managerial career.

Philosophy

The biggest talking point in the wake of the Supercup is Bayern’s noticeable change of playing style. The Bavarians were a safe bet to dominate proceedings under Guardiola for the past three years, and Ancelotti’s stance reflected right away in his “competitive” debut. Dortmund were comfortable with the highest share of possession, although they fielded a relatively sub-par side. Bayern looked content with chasing BVB, and relied on efficient attacks to seal the win, which was a rare sight under Guardiola’s stewardship.

Plan B

But that doesn’t mean that Guardiola’s stint in Bayern was marked with dominant football at all times. In Mario Götze’s first return to Signal Iduna Park, with the infamous mole taking center stage (can we confirm it was Götze now, guys?), Dortmund ran the show against Bayern only to lose by an unflattering 3-0. You’ll have your distinctive way, but top managers will always have something extra in the store.

Ancelotti is a perfect man when it comes to giving way for his philosophies in times where the team needs a new complexion. A glance on the varying approaches taken by Ancelotti in different clubs and leagues goes to show he is never afraid of alterting his way of thinking.

Notable Transfers

Out:

  • Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund)

  • Sebastian Rode (Borussia Dortmund)

  • Medhi Benatia (Juventus)

In:

  • Renato Sanches (Benfica)

  • Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

 

Strengths

Bayern’s status quo is their underestimated strength in the Bundesliga. Opponents enter the pitch defeated and usually retreat from their usual game plans. And even managing the rare counterattack, they have to get past one of the game’s best-ever goalkeepers, Manuel Neuer. Coaches like Armin Veh (while he was at Eintracht Frankfurt) even goes further by resting key players against Bayern to spare a thought for the upcoming attainable games.

With the controversial signing of Mats Hummels, Bayern now have one of the most-potent central defense pairings in Europe, while Renato Sanches brings further promise to add to Costa and Coman’s breakout seasons. 

Weaknesses

Ancelotti confirmed Bayern will not go shopping for Coman’s replacement after the Frenchman picked up an ankle injury in training. With Costa still recovering from the injury that kept him sidelined from the Brazilian national team, and Robben fighting for a quick return to action, Ribéry is the only genuine winger fit to face Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga’s curtain-raiser. The former French international had a decent preseason, but his self-destructing comments on Guardiola before recalling one of his old tricks in the Supercup left plenty to ponder.

high rate of injury continues to test Bayern’s squad depth, and the season start is always difficult when it was preceded by a summer tournament. Boateng and Hummels had a brilliant Euros, but both departed the competition with injuries. The lack of a like-for-like replacement for Lewandowski could prove vital on the other end of the pitch, as Bayern are looking to enter the league season with no further additions to the squad.

Crucial Stretch in Schedule

Bayern’s first two fixtures will see them face sleeping giants Bremen and Schalke. Both clubs enjoyed time as Bayern’s direct title challengers in their respective heydays, but are busy with plans that don’t involve a title race these days. The intriguing stretch of fixtures will see Bayern successively face the only two sides who beat Guardiola’s Bayern twice – Augsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach – with match-ups against Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, and Wolfsburg also around the corner. Bayern’s last three league matches tip them against Darmstadt and the two promoted sides, RB Leipzig, and SC Freiburg.

Verdict

Five star. Exciting times ahead at the Allianz Arena. Even for Guardiola’s fans, the sight of a new-look Bayern (or a return of the old Bayern, if you will) is a welcome change. Still, it’s hard to expect a new Bundesliga winner, as Bayern seek their fifth-consecutive league title. It’s hard to predict knockout tournaments, not least for someone with a bad track record of prediction, but Ancelotti’s unprecedented European experience could bring Bayern’s sixth Champions League triumph (which would also be Ancelotti’s sixth UCL trophy as a player and manager). The Italian gaffer started his tenure by delivering something Pep failed to achieve, the DFL Supercup, and he will clearly set his sight in adding the silver trophy to the cabinet.

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical difference, he is interested in every detail of German football. You can pay a visit to his Facebook page, Bundesliga Obsession, dedicated for the one and only, Bundesliga. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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