FC Bayern have gone through a rough patch and a nice recovery earlier this season, but three trophies are still up for grabs and challenges remain. Here are five no-nonsense wishes for the club in 2020 and beyond.
1. Feel the Titan’s influence
This one is for the long run. Oliver Kahn is back to the fold. He is now a member of the club’s executive board, and is set to take over the position of chairman at the end of 2021, when Karl-Heinz Rummenigge retires.
While I am not going to tag KHR as a lame duck, a generational change at the top is be much needed for the Bavarians to leap into the new decade. I wish its impact to be felt as soon as possible. Top managers had an amazing run since the 1980s and 1990s, but they seem to have run out of ideas to redefine the club after the 2013 treble.
FCB should use the opportunity not only to make an orderly transition. Just as in any president or prime minister in waiting in politics, the new figurehead should have a say in all decisions today.
Reviled by Bayern’s rivals as a player, Kahn is usually one of the brightest minds in any room, with business experience to boot. In less than two years, the Reds will be his club. His influence should be felt as soon as possible as the team is searching for its identity once again.
2. Give Flick his chance
When Jupp Heynckes speaks up, you should listen. A few weeks back, he gave public backing to Hansi Flick as a long-term coach. It should make anyone reconsider the idea that Bayern should recruit and fire coaches based on stardom and public pressures, as they did in years past.
Although performance evaluation should not be done over a few weeks of work, there are signs that Flick’s tactical and human management skills work well with the players. Already confirmed for the rest of the season, he needs the time to show if he can mold the team into a powerhouse.
Stability in the dugout is important in team sports. You cannot run a successful operation while going through coaches roughly every 18 months. Media and fan pressures should not determine who gets to manage a team; it is the framework that matters. The same goes for player wishes: they are employees, not bosses.
Don Jupp’s firing in the early 1990s is a classic Bavarian example of wrongly identified problems. The team he left behind was broken, and it did not improve significantly under his successor’s tenure. The current edition of Bayern has its own problems, starting with the fading of a golden generation and a need for rebuilding. Provide Flick with the right squad and he is most likely to bring success.
3. Thread carefully with goalkeepers
At squad level, the signing of the talented Alexander Nübel from FC Schalke 04 for a five-year contract is fraught with risks.
The goalkeeping prodigy will most certainly represent an upgrade over Sven Ulreich, but Neuer is only aged 33. He still plays at the highest level, and keepers don’t age as quickly as wingers. The best can ply their trade until their late thirties.
Is competition needed everywhere on the pitch? Yes. However, the keeper position is the trickiest since it doesn’t involve as much running and sprinting as others. On paper, a keeper could start every match and play twice a week as long as he does not get injured.
Having an established superstar who wants to start all matches and a potential star right behind him can spark competition, but how long will it take for one of them to feel like he doesn’t play enough? How can Nübel develop behind Neuer without wasting his talent?
Look for a past representation of that problem at striker as a reference. Iron man Robert Lewandowski prefers starting all matches, with only an occasional rest. Being involved in a rotation with Sandro Wagner – who scored goals at the time – during Jupp’s last caretaker tenure caused friction.
Nübel is a welcome talent, but his signing remains risky.
4. Be careful with that back line
Multiple reports that Jérôme Boateng is on his way out, perhaps on a free or low-fee transfer to Arsenal, is slightly alarming.
Boa seems to be well past his prime. Is he still motivated to be the superb defender he once was? Probably not. However, does it mean that offloading him this winter is the smartest move? I don’t think so.
FC Bayern’s back line was the most problematic area of the pitch in the first half of the season, and in seasons past. Injuries to Lucas Hernández have prevented Niko Kovač and Hansi Flick from enjoying the full flexibility that 2019 summer signings were supposed to bring. Flick is rather lucky that Alphonso Davies hit the ground running in impressive fashion. Otherwise, he could not have moved David Alaba to centre-back, and there would be a hole.
Ejecting Boateng means sacrificing depth. It doesn’t appear as the most brilliant idea ahead of the business end of the season.
5. Give youth a chance
FC Bayern’s historical unwillingness to give playing time to young players was partly addressed by Kovač and Flick in the first half of the season. I am extremely happy to see that it works. Call it vindication.
Davies will probably find out that second-half football is tough when have little experience at a superclub. However, he has been so brilliant to be identified as a special breed.
Likewise, we can ask to see more of Joshua Zirkzee. He played only twice as a substitute, scoring two goals in seven minutes. Run that in your mind one more time. Two goals. Seven minutes. That kind of pace is unsustainable, but the scoring instinct is undeniable. There may be something special to this kid.
In the back line, a young Lars Lucas Mai may deserve a few starts. If he fails to make a dent, at least we’ll know that he can’t handle top-flight football. You never find out by not trying.
The current edition of Bayern is a mixed bag. If implemented, the five recommendations above will not turn this team into a world-beating treble-winning outfit in a few weeks, but they can help.
Feel free to post your opinion in the comments.