Bayern expert Justin Kraft: FC Bayern drag themselves from game to game – hope for new champions is growing
It’s been a historically difficult season for FC Bayern Munich. If RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund do their own homework, the record champions’ long streak could perhaps be broken.
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“It will be a difficult season, we knew that beforehand,” analyzed Hansi Flick after the disappointing 1-1 draw against Union Berlin. The trainer looks at things soberly and realistically. There are a number of problems that FC Bayern are currently facing. It all started with the Champions League triumph against Paris Saint-Germain in August.
While most of the other Bundesliga clubs were already preparing for the upcoming season in September, Bayern were at their peak to win the premier class. There was no time to shut down afterwards. Anyone who engages in (competitive) sport knows that such a high point cannot be sustained forever without a corresponding cooldown phase.
That was not the case for Bayern. The first cup game was postponed in order to be able to regenerate for a week longer, but then it immediately continued with competitive games in the Bundesliga and the two Supercups. Flick had no preparation to bring the team to the appropriate level. At the beginning of the season in particular, the players still benefited from the basis that was laid before and during the Champions League tournament, but the longer the season lasts, the more serious it is that there are hardly any training opportunities.
Above all, Flick lacks the time
Bayern’s players seem mentally battered and make mistakes that are actually untypical for them. Last season’s top performers such as David Alaba, Serge Gnabry or Benjamin Pavard are lagging behind their form. Right now the broad squad should offer the opportunity to relieve these players, but the newcomers don’t work either.
Here the Bavarians are falling on their own squad policy of the last few years. The squad had been gradually reduced in size to accommodate the respective coaches. The result: At the time of Corona, of all times, the club was forced to close several construction sites in order to be able to cope with the extremely tight schedule.
In a normal summer it would have been possible to integrate the newcomers accordingly. But now they need a lot of time. Marc Roca, for example, came from a Spanish relegated team who plays a completely different kind of football than Bayern. The Spaniard has a hard time accepting the new intensity, especially against the ball. Even seasoned players like Leroy Sané or Douglas Costa have problems.
The competition is in wait
Games and video analysis alone are not enough to integrate the newcomers into the system. Flick would actually need three or four weeks without compulsory and international matches in a row to have a realistic opportunity to do so. Even in the international breaks, the coach missed most of the players.
And so Bayern are currently dragging their way from game to game while they long for the Christmas break. In view of the many games in January and February, it is doubtful whether the few days of rest will lead to the record champions marching through the Bundesliga in full strength. The Christmas season is unlikely to change much of the problems described.
That is why there is hope for those who do not keep up with FC Bayern. Hope for a new master. The starting position for this is better than it has been in a long time. Leipzig and Leverkusen are in wait, Dortmund at least has the potential to get back into range.
Leipzig’s exposure is less at second glance
Now Leipzig had a similar burden to Bayern – after all, Julian Nagelsmann’s team was in the semi-finals of the Champions League tournament. But their situation is different. Above all, it is crucial that Leipzig was not so dependent on the integration of the newcomers. They have also strengthened, but were already very well filled in terms of breadth.
At second glance, Leipzig also has advantages in terms of load management. A considerable part of the squad hardly has any exposure to international matches. Key players like Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté, Kevin Kampl, Angeliño and many more have either no or little (re) exposure. At Bayern this is limited to the newcomers that are difficult to integrate and to the booted Thomas Müller and Jérôme Boateng, who should be happy about every break. The 15 Bayern players with the most minutes played (club and national team) only completed around 1000 minutes more than the 15 Leipzig players with the most appearances, but together with all the other factors that can make a difference.
In recent years, the youthfulness of BVB has often been cited when it came to exploring the reasons for the missed championships. Youthfulness could be an important asset this season. Shorter regeneration times, fewer international matches – Leipzig definitely has advantages on its side. Including the mental aspect of greed for success. In the first few weeks of the new season, Müller admitted that it was difficult to go straight back to the maximum so soon after a triple. Despite the many titles, satiety was never a problem at Bayern, but in a year without the aforementioned cool-down phase it could become one.
Will there be another master?
Especially since Leverkusen and Dortmund can stand up to Munich. Right now, it will be crucial for the three competitors that they do their own homework. Leipzig is currently managing with impressive consistency to collect the points against individually inferior teams. Up until a few weeks ago, Dortmund also had a phase in which they looked very stable.
The big difference to Bayern has always been that there were phases like those BVB has now experienced: Unnecessary defeats against Cologne and Stuttgart threw the team back. But this time Bayern are also weak. And it is not necessarily to be expected that Munich will suddenly go up in the second half of the season as in previous years.
And so Flick could be right in the end when he speaks of a difficult season. The big question is whether the competition can capitalize on it, or whether the tight schedule will just upset the title candidate we have mentioned later.
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