As the anticipation builds ahead of the new 2019/20 Bundesliga season, attention turns to the prospects of the 18 top flight German sides and what the coming campaign has in store. Here at the Bundesliga Fanatic we preview the new season by asking five questions of the major protagonists. First up champions Bayern Munich.
1. Is Niko Kovac still under the spotlight?
His first season in charge at Bayern had its tough moments (particularly in the Hinrunde), but with the delivery of the Bundesliga title and DFB Pokal, Niko Kovac went a long way in winning over the doubters, and more importantly earning the public affirmation from club bosses Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness. All’s well that ends well and into the new season on the crest of a wave then?
Well maybe. As we all know, Bayern are no ordinary club and with the demands sky high as well as Borussia Dortmund posing a renewed threat to the Bavarian’s Bundesliga dominance, the pressure on Kovac will only increase in the coming season. The danger of ‘Second Season Syndrome’ applies equally to the Bayern trainer as it does to last seasons surprise package Fortuna Düsseldorf.
When Bayern struggled last Autumn, Kovac’s rotation policy came under fire and he will face another conundrum this season as he seeks to keep a squad brim full of talent happy. It is hard to establish whether the stories of squad disharmony that emerged last season were 100% genuine, but any blips in Bayern’s stroll to another league title will have the Kovac naysayers back out in force (with the resulting stress for Mrs Heynckes and Cando).
The fact that the double-winning coach only really got a public guarantee for his job after the Pokal victory over RB Leipzig shows that the Bayern trainer walks a very thin line regarding success and failure. The spotlight will very much be on Kovac as he seeks to ward off the threat from a hungry BVB.
2. Can Gnabry/ Coman replace Robben/ Ribery?
Losing two club legends at the end of the same season was a blow. Losing two club legends occupying alternative flanks of the FCB attack was a double blow. The exits of both Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben from the Allianz Arena leaves a big hole and big boots for youngsters Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman to fill.
The men in charge at Bayern had planned well for the dreaded day when their prized wing duo of Robben and Ribéry finally called it a day, signing both Coman and Gnabry as their heir apparents before their final swan song. The challenge now is for the French pair to step up and make the transition seamless.
Last season was Gnabry’s first with the club and he emerged with a great deal of credit after an impressive campaign. A muscle injury hampered the start of the season, but when he returned, he took full advantage of the game time given to him due to injuries to Robben, Ribéry and Coman. Two goals against former club Werder Bremen kicked things off and he finished with 10 goals and 8 assists putting him only behind Robert Lewandowski in terms of scorer points. The question now is- can he repeat/ better last season?
Kingsley Coman also endured a torrid Hinrunde after hobbling out of Bayern’s match day 1 victory over Hoffenheim with an ankle ligament tear. However, he returned with gusto in the second half of the season scoring 6 goals and providing 5 assists. Can the pacey wingman finally put all his injuries behind him and step up to being the ammunition provider?
The kings are dead, long live the kings?
3. Where does Benjamin Pavard fit in?
The Frenchman cost €35 million and is a World Cup winner, but his place in the Bayern line-up is anything but secure. It seems likely that Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez (€80 million) will form the first-choice centre back pairing for Niko Kovac. That leaves the right back berth as an option for the ex-Stuttgart star, but the fact that the best right back on the planet is already there is more than a sticking point.
Granted, Joshua Kimmich could be pushed into the number 6 midfield role he also excels in, but why sacrifice the world’s best fullback when you don’t have to. Injuries and rotation will give Pavard his chances, but the pressure will really be on him from the very start to deliver. He didn’t have the best of seasons last time out and it could prove to be a difficult first year at Bayern for the 23-year-old.
4. Will Mats Hummels come back to haunt Bayern?
The sale of Mats Hummels to title rivals Borussia Dortmund raised plenty of eyebrows when it was announced. The Bavarians managed to get €33million out of Hans-Joachim Watzke for the 30-year-old, but the jury is still out as to which party has got the better end of the deal.
Hummels was going to face stiff competition at Bayern from both Hernandez and Pavard for the right to partner cornerstone Niklas Süle in the centre of defence, but if anyone was going to leave the FCB payroll, it was going to be Jerome Boateng in most people’s eyes.
Hummels return to the Signal Iduna Park makes perfect sense from the BVB point of view as it gives them exactly what they need- experience, solidity and leadership at the back. If Hummels had been there last season, would the Schwarzgelben have won the title?
Who knows, but he’s there now and could be just the missing piece of the jigsaw Lucien Favre needs to end Bayern’s Bundesliga dominance. Good business or a flawed decision? Only time will tell.
5. Is the Bundesliga enough for Bayern?
After winning the German league title seven years running, the question needs to be asked whether the Bundesliga or even the double is enough for Bayern. Shouldn’t the Champions League be a serious target for the German giants if they are to keep pace with the European elite?
The arrival of Manchester City and Paris St Germain has upped the number of elite teams vying for a place at the top table, but not since 2013 have Bayern emerged as winners of the Champions League.
There have been some semi-final appearances since, but last seasons round of 16 exit was their earliest since 2011. Granted Bayern ducked out to eventual winners, and semi-final conquerors of Barcelona- Liverpool, but the feeling remains amongst many that the league and cup are the bread and butter, whereas the Henkelpott is the icing on the cake.
Bayern 2020 Bundesliga champions….na und?
Latest posts by Mathew Burt (see all)
- The Guido Burgstaller dichotomy - October 13, 2019
- Five new inductees to the Hall of Fame of German football - October 13, 2019
- Transfer time travel: How much would the Bayern Munich legends cost today? - October 12, 2019