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Bayern Munich: Mid Season Review and What to Expect

With the winter break upon us, Bayern Munich seem comfortably ahead of the rest of the pack in the Bundesliga. The league table might tell a different story though as the Bavarian club did have to pull through the first half of their campaign with several injuries to key players. Alankrith Shankar looks back at the club’s season so far and talks about what to expect from them in the second half of the season.


With the winter break for the Bundesliga upon us, half of the football season has gone past. Topping the domestic table and winning the group of death in Europe’s elite cup competition, FC Bayern have had nothing short of what was expected of them as a European footballing power house.

With the winter break for the Bundesliga upon us, half of the football season has gone past. Topping the domestic table and winning the group of death in Europe’s elite cup competition, FC Bayern have had nothing short of what was expected of them as a European footballing power house.

It didn’t start all that well for Pep this year, with key players falling prey to injuries late in the transfer window, but the club still managed to plug in the holes thanks to smart business from the Bayern board earlier in the window. The signings of Xabi Alonso, Juan Bernat and Pepe Reina did come as a surprise to almost everyone but when you fast forward 3 months, you see that the signings were indeed a boon and not an excess of resources like most pundits around the world thought. In fact, Bayern still find themselves in perilous position for their last man in defence as Manuel Neuer is the only experienced keeper available as both back-ups Starke and new signing Reina are injured. Proves, you could never have enough squad depth. To back that point, I cite the example of Bayern’s defence. The club now miss 2 full back options in Lahm and Alaba though Bernat and Rafinha are regular members of the starting XI now, an option to rest one of them is unavailable until the other 2 are back from the doctor’s office. Though Alaba did play in the friendly game this week, it is still unclear if the Austrian will make it in time for the top of the table clash against VfL Wolfsburg which is in another 10 days. Lahm’s absence will mostly be felt only in the midfield, though the recovery of Schweinsteiger is well timed, the only other options are Gaudino along with Rode who would be partnering Xabi Alonso. Like I said, you can never have too much of squad depth at a club like Bayern even after the club have decided to send Hojbjerg to Augsburg for match practice till the end of the season.

So far, Pep has managed to maintain a winning combination and formula, tactically astute, a brand of free flowing football has been a recent trademark at the Allianz Arena and Die Rotten’s fans are more than happy that those morale destroying score lines seen in Jupp’s final season are returning sooner than expected. The demolition of AS Roma came as a surprise for most Bayern fans, I’m guessing even the players did not expect to score 7 goals in Rome that night. Which brings us to the point, with a team studded with stars in almost every position and a tactically strong winning formula that we have seen so far this season, will it be a failed campaign for Pep if Bayern don’t win the Champions League? Some might think it’s too early to ask this question, but I think mid-season is the perfect time to bring this question up.

Pep has the world’s best goal keeper at his disposal, whom he uses wonderfully as a sweeper keeper. Neuer, may not have won the Ballon D’Or but the odds were highly against him. Neuer is shielded by a back 4 who currently have chemistry second to no other top flight team, conceding only 4 goals so far in the Bundesliga. Much has got to be said about this new defender, Mr. Reliable – Jerome Boateng. Ever since his performance in the final against Argentina, there has been no looking for the then unpredictable Boateng. He has been a rock in the back for both club and country this season and his partnership with Mehdi Benatia in my opinion is already one of the best centre back pairings in Europe this season and it can only grow to become stronger with more game time.

Bayern’s midfield though may require some adjusting to do with the return of Schweinsteiger. Alonso and Lahm had forged such a good partnership just before Schweinsteiger’s return and the unfortunate injury to Lahm means, Xabi is the only one in the centre of the squad used to the system. Whoever you may be, it would take you a few games to get adjusted to the system and returning to full match fitness, and with that phase gone past, Xabi-Schweini pairing is one that I am looking forward to once the second half of the season starts, It is crucial that the pairing works (very little doubt that it won’t) especially for the remainder of the Champions League, the most important trophy this season for Bayern. The wings speak for themselves. With Robben, Muller, Ribery all fully fit, Bayern have no reason to worry in the flanks. They also have back-ups in the name of Gotze who can play in the wide areas if his manager requires him to, though he has made the hole behind Lewandowski his position. There was Xherdan Shaqiri but Pep had lost all his trust in the young Swiss international after he had spurned all his chances at the club. Shaqiri has made a move to Inter Milan where he would be desperate to resurrect a once promising career.

At the winter break last season, Bayern were 7 points ahead of second placed Bayer Leverkusen with a game in hand. Right now, Bayern are ahead of second placed Wolfsburg by 11 points. There are very few clubs who can match the quality that Bayern possess over the length of the season, so the points table may not be the correct tool to measure improvements, but it does show that the German powerhouse has upped the game. Bayern have scored 41 goals in the Bundesliga this season, 3 short of last season’s tally but have conceded 4 lesser this season. The performance in the Champions League, statistically speaking, has fallen below last season’s performance. At the end of the group stages, Bayern had scored 17 goals and conceded 5 last year in comparison to this years, 16 scored and 4 conceded. But taking into account the quality of the teams faced this year, the group was much tougher and Bayern did make winning the group like a cake-walk in Jurassic Park.

If Bayern don’t win the Champions League with this squad at their disposal, this season can be considered a failure but not in its entirety. Pep has taken many steps forward this season with the squad and football quality overall so far, but no Champions League Trophy means all the steps taken forward are pushed considerably half way back. With almost only 2 teams (in my opinion) capable of challenging for the Champions League, Bayern should look to win the cup at all costs. Pep did take the blame for a tactical mistake he made against Real Madrid in the semi-final. He did promise better things to all Bayern fans. We’re seeing the improvements, but it is the Champions League or nothing this season. The finals will be in a familiar environment at Berlin. The club will be looking to make it, 2 finals out of 2 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. The DFB Pokal final is customary to maintain the same level of football that we Bayern fans have been accustomed to in recent years, but this season, Bayern should have no other choice than making it to both the finals in Berlin. It all depends on if the club wins the Bundesliga, when and how it is done. Bayern fans around the world should hope the team doesn’t take a slump like last season.

Written by Alankrith Shankar

Alankrith Shankar

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