November 21, 2017

2017-18 Season Preview: New Faces at Bayern. Same Results?

Basics

names: FC Bayern München, Bayern Munich, FC Bayern, FCB
nicknames:  Der FCB, Die Bayern, Die Roten, Stern des Südens, FC Hollywood
founded: 27 February 1900
club colors: red and white
primary rivals: Historically – 1. FC Nürnberg and TSV 1860 München. Competitively – Borussia Dortmund.
fan friendship: VfL Bochum

Stadium

Allianz Arena

capacity: 75,000 (league matches), 70,000 (international matches)
2016-17 attendance: 1,275,000

Trophies

Bundesliga (27): 1931–32 (German champion), 1968–69, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1973–74, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1984–85, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1988–89, 1989–90, 1993–94, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17 (record)
DFB Pokal (18): 1956–57, 1965–66, 1966–67, 1968–69, 1970–71, 1981–82, 1983–84, 1985–86, 1997–98, 1999–2000, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2015–16 (record)
DFB/DFL Supercup (6): 1987, 1990, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2017 (record)
DFL Ligapokal (6): 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2007 (record)
Champions League/European Cup (5): 1973–74, 1974–75, 1975–76, 2000–01, 2012–13
UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup: 1995–96
UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup:  1966–67
UEFA Super Cup:   2013
Intercontinental Cup: 1976, 2001
Club World Cup: 2013

2016-17 Finishes

Bundesliga:  1st. 82 points (89 goals scored, 22 allowed, +67 GD)
DFB Pokal: Semifinal loss to Borussia Dortmund (14 goals scored, 4 allowed)
UEFA Champions League: Quarterfinal loss to Real Madrid (27 goals scored, 14 allowed)

 

Top 2016-17 Scorers

Robert Lewandowski: 43
Arjen Robben: 16
Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal, Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller: 9

Robert Lewandowski’s post-goal celebration

Some Questions Before We Begin:

 

Keep an eye out for . . .

Surprisingly enough, it may be the free transfer (cough, cough) that has the most immediate positive influence. Sebastian Rudy, over from Hoffenheim, has already made an impact at holding midfield in preseason.  With Corentin Tolisso getting familiar, Renato Sanches desperate to make a positive impression, Thiago out injured, and Arturo Vidal on vacation, Carlo Ancelotti has been able to rely on Rudy’s big football brain and calming influence.

Terrace favorite . . .

Joshua Kimmich is getting ready to fill the metaphorically gigantic shoes of Philipp Lahm at right back. Though many were disappointed that Kimmich will not play his more-favored role in midfield, he is an ideal solution at the back as he also plays that role for the national side.

Player you’d happily drive to another club . . .

I can’t think of one, to be honest. I suppose a lot of people may say Renato Sanches here, but to be fair, that would be for loan purposes only. He showed flashes of what Bayern bought him for over the summer, and his upside is obviously tremendous. The question is: will Ancelotti utilize him properly?

Advice you’d give your manager . . .

Use your player’s strengths, Carlo!

Opposition player you despise . . .

Hmmmmmm… despise as a person, no, but I hate the theatrics of Dortmund’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Take away the masks and all the nonsense, he is an excellent striker. His speed would probably still irk me, though, but that’s only because Bayern has a tendency to get caught out on the break.

What will opposing sides underestimate?

I don’t think anyone underestimates Bayern at this point, do they? Saying that, they can be beat with a relentless press, quick counters and a smidge of luck.

What are fans overestimating?

I think probably the same thing they overestimate every season: Bayern should be treble winners. Yes, it’s nice to have that as a goal, but it’s not realistic. For me, personally, the league title always comes first and everything else is frosting on cake.

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

My favorite neighborhood in Munich is Schawbing. I love all the bars and restaurants on and around Leopoldstrasse and Englischer Garten is one of my favorite places in the world. Plus, it’s the easiest neighborhood to catch the U-Bahn to the stadium!

For the stadium itself, if you have to choose between a stadium tour and Erlebniswelt (the museum), definitely do the museum!  All the trophies packed into one spot is a marvelous thing!

Where will you finish? . . .

I thought last season would be the time to finally beat Bayern, but no other teams seemed to agree with me!  Saying that, FCB’s 15-point lead at the end of the season was definitely not indicative of play. I’m feeling neither Leipzig nor Hoffenheim will be much of a threat this season as they have Europe to attend to. And of course Dortmund is always around, but it is yet to be determined how things will play out under new trainer Peter Bosz and whether they finally have a bit better luck on the injury side of things.

Bayern takes the league once again. As far as Champions League and Pokal? At the very least, quarterfinals for both.

===============

When last we saw them

The 2016-17 season started out frustrating, slowly got better, and ended in disappointment. The Hinrunde saw new trainer Carlo Ancelotti attempt to establish his vaunted 4-3-3 with little success. Bayern Munich were still getting results, mind you, but little of the flow and ease of ball-retention the fans were used to under Pep Guardiola. Instead, wins came through magnificent individual efforts rather than team performances.

It would be Matchday 16, at home to Leipzig, when Bayern finally decided to put on their jet packs and show what talent they had always possessed.

Largely abandoning the 4-3-3 for a more traditional 4-2-3-1 suited Bayern and Ancelotti through the second half of the Bundesliga season, but draws to Schalke, Hertha BSC, Leverkusen, and Mainz, coupled with a loss at Hoffenheim, revealed die Roten to be far from their imperious selves.

Pokal competition went much the way it usually does until Munich ran into a committed Dortmund — desperate for a title — in the semis.  But in the Champions League, Bayern’s season was the most uneven. Two losses (away at Atletico Madrid and Rostov) in the group stage saw Bayern finish second in their group, only to come up, once again, against “favorite” competitors Arsenal. They would smash the London club 10-2 on aggregate (5:1, 1:5) in the Round of 16, only to come up against eventual winners Real Madrid in the quarterfinals.

A narrow 1:2 loss at home to Madrid meant FCB would face a difficult task at Estadio Bernabeu a week later, but die Roten were up for it until some uneven refereeing — and Cristiano Ronaldo — got in their way.  Sadly, that match would be the denouement for legends of the competition — Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm — as the season slowly lost its luster from there.

However, winning the league is always a treat, and at the end of all things, FC Bayern probably ended up exactly where they should have under a new coach.

Aspiration

If you leave it to the fans, it’s obviously win everything! If you leave it to the Bayern brass, it tends to be a bit more measured: win the league and make the semis of both the Pokal and the Champions League.

Reality

There is a shift in international football right now with Barcelona on the decline.  It is fair to mention this only because when you ask the general public who the three biggest clubs are, the answer has lately been “Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich” ordered in whatever sort of fandom one happens to be involved.  It will be a curious Champions League season with the immovable rock that is Madrid, a Neymar-led PSG, returning Manchester United, and the rest.

Saying that, Champions League depends on much more than being a big club.  Luck is definitely involved. Luck of the draw, injuries at particular times and form at crucial times all play a role in crowning a champion.

The reality is: Bayern must find a way to get past Real Madrid. Or pray that someone else can.

The weird, wonderful, and wild DFB Pokal is next to impossible to predict, but with the team’s overwhelming talents, reaching the finals should probably be a thing.

And the league? Well, like last season, it’s up to the rest of the league. If the top five can consistently win matches that they are supposed to, the title race gets a lot tighter.  Should a couple of top teams get wins over Bayern? Maybe, just maybe, the fan shop won’t have to release a t-shirt with a six-fingered hand.

The Boss

Ancelotti enters his second season at the helm of Bayern Munich on the back of a disappointing first campaign. His initial foray might be characterized as stubborn for his over-reliance on a formation that was not working, while managing to piss-off a good number of his players.

Whether it was the under-utilization of youngsters Kingsley Coman, Kimmich and Sanches, or Franck Ribery, Douglas Costa and Jerome Boateng complaining about playing time, there was an awful lot of public grumbling (some warranted, some not). Without a director of sport as a buffer, there was team-wide failure in regards to cohesion with even the big brass making petty comments to the press.

Ancelotti’s managing history is illustrious and cannot be overstated.  Three Champions League titles with two clubs (AC Milan and Real Madrid), as well as successful stints at Juventus, PSG, and Chelsea mean that Bayern Munich hired the best big-name coach available at the time.

Now with a season of learning a new league, language, and business under his belt, can the fans expect Ancelotti to deliver the experiences they expect? He will finally have a go-between as Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidžić has taken the long-empty Sporting Director position, but if you know Bayern, you know the club demands results or shows you the door.

Philosophy

Throughout his managerial tenures, Ancelotti has employed various formations to suit his teams.  Although accused of being inflexible earlier in his career, with Milan the Italian used a 4-3-1-2, 4-1-2-1-2, or a 4-4-2 diamond to better utilize the attack without giving up a strong back four.

At Madrid, the coach changed their 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 and then eventually a 4-3-3 which won the storied club La Decima — their 10th Champions League title.

At Bayern, it is difficult to say what comes next. With a squad overloaded with midfielders, not to mention a couple of aging, yet very viable wingers, it will be ever difficult to get the Reds to play his Real Madrid version of 4-3-3.

In an article on ESPN FC written by Gab Marcotti, Ancelotti expressed what changes he had made to the side led by Pep Guardiola for the three years prior: “The main change we made is we try to press a bit more intermittently and we try to play more directly, more vertically.”

He is known for being affable, approachable and calm, but his “Mr. Nice Guy” approach at Bayern has not been met with approval by all.

 

Plan B

Second verse, same as the first? What Bayern Munich has that many teams do not is an insanely talented group of individuals that can wrest control of a match on their own. Last season, Vidal, Robben, Thiago, and (of course) Robert Lewandowski all, at some point, gave inspired performances that garnered three points for Bayern.

Notable Transfers

Out:

§  Philipp Lahm (retired)
§  Xabi Alonso (retired)
§  Tom Starke (retired-ish)
§  Medhi Benatia (Juventus)
§  Douglas Costa (Juventus)
§  Gianluca Gaudino (Chievo)
§  Holger Badstuber (VfB Stuttgart)
§  Serge Gnabry (Hoffenheim)

In:

§  Niklas Süle (Hoffenheim)
§  Sebastian Rudy (Hoffenheim)
§  James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)
§  Serge Gnabry (Werder Bremen)
§  Corentin Tolisso (Lyon)
§  Felix Götze (promoted)
§  Marco Friedl (promoted)
§  Christian Früchtl (promoted)

 

Strengths

When Bayern is at their most-indomitable, it is a sight to behold, something that leaves even the haters saying “wow”. When they deliver a team-wide performance, they only go from strength to strength, so . . . pretty much everything except what is noted next.

Weaknesses

Perhaps the most-glaring weakness is the positioning of the back four.  Last season would be confusing for the defensive line as Ancelotti’s “intermittent press” led to many misunderstandings of exactly how high they were supposed to play.  At times there was a huge, unsuitable gap between the back four and the midfield. At others, the insanely high line would be caught on the break.

In preseason, this hasn’t really changed at all.

Verdict

Bundesliga winners, once again, but not by 15 points. They might sneak the Pokal in there, too, but it is impossible to predict a Champions League victory.

That being said, Ancelotti will be expected to win two out of three — unless he secures a Champions League title and then most people won’t care about the domestic trophies. If he fails, and someone potentially more attractive might be available? Well, that’s for Julian Nagelsmann to decide.

The following two tabs change content below.

Susie Schaaf

Susie Schaaf first fell in love with football watching Gerd Mueller play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. She has written extensively about the DFB and Bayern Munich, formerly for ESPN FC and now with FC Bayern Central. She co-hosts @Rekord_Pod, as well as speaking on SiriusXM FC and BBC World Service. In her free time she travels, pours a drink or two, and watches more football. The girl that kissed Gerd's Golden Boot can be found on Twitter @fussballsusie.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Stats & Links: Player of the Summer - Manuela Zinsberger - Miasanrot.com

Leave a Reply