2019/20 Countdown: Bayern Munich
Bundesliga – Champions; DFB Pokal – Winners; UEFA Champions League – Last 16; Top Scorer (all competitions) – Robert Lewandowski (40)
The question: is the squad good enough?
It was the same old same old for Bayern Munich last season, domestic success and European failure. But that’s just on paper. In reality, it was a league title in which they faced a challenge from Dortmund, the toughest they’ve faced since their consecutive league title triumphs streak began in 2013. German Cup success also lacked conviction and had a fair bit of luck, but it was Europe where Die Roten really made a mess of things.
Bayern were never quite convincing in the group stages of the Champions League, and suffered a tame and deserved exit against Liverpool in the first knockout round, after a tame and deserved defeat on home soil. It was the first time the German champions had been knocked out in the Last 16 of the Champions League since 2011 and raised an inquest about the team, as well as the future of manager Niko Kovac.
The word was that, among other things, Bayern’s team had gone stale, and there is some truth to that notion. It’s not that Bayern lack good players, it’s that some of those players look past it; Jerome Boateng looks very far from his best, neither does Manuel Neuer, or Javi Martinez, while James Rodriguez’s second loan season was underwhelming, and Thomas Muller has looked a shadow of himself for a few years now. There has been some injection of freshness and they’ve made do with some of the old guard, but FC Hollywood don’t look quite as illuminating as they used to be.
Bayern’s current transfer incomings for the summer were sorted before last season came to a close, as Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid) and Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart) had agreed to join in spring, while teenager Jann-Fiete Arp has arrived from Hamburg. It’s been a quiet summer so far, but the Bavarians have expressed interest in Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.
Meanwhile, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have both left the club, after 10 and 12 years respectively, with Robben retiring. Mats Hummels has followed the three-year-old footprints of Mario Gotze and re-joined Borussia Dortmund, while Rafinha has joined Flamengo in Brazil, and James Rodriguez has returned to Real Madrid after a two-year loan wasn’t made permanent.
Bayern Munich still have quite a strong squad and are still formidable on the continent. Improvements wouldn’t be surprising in Kovac’s second season, and if some players – like Boateng and Neuer – find their old form, there’s reason to be optimistic.
The Bavarians have what seems to be a stale, if not necessarily aging, squad, that is not as formidable as it once was. With other teams in Europe getting stronger, Kovac and his men might look out of their depth in Europe again.
The Gaffer (Niko Kovac)
The Croatian looked to be heading for the sack in spring last season, but the Bayern hierarchy reassured the world of their faith in him. But the former Frankfurt boss will know that only takes him so far and that there is room for improvements, both on the domestic and continental front.
How will they do
Winning the league these days is hardly a requirement, but more like an irrelevant and insignificant given. Europe may be where judgement lies for Kovac and Bayern.
Kunle Ajao126 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not