In sacking Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern Munich made a rather unprecedented move.
Not that die Roten are immune to sacking coaches. After all, the team had been setting a series of unwanted precedents under the Italian tactician as of late. Bayern had conceded ten goals in their first ten competitive fixtures. That was the first time they had done this in over nine seasons, since Jurgen Klinsmann was in charge during the 2008/2009 campaign when they shipped 14 in ten matches.
Furthermore, their 3-0 defeat to PSG on matchday two marked the first time the Bavarian titans had ended up losing with a three goal margin during the first group phase of the Champions League. That loss came on the heels of a bad showing against Wolfsburg, during which they threw away a two goal lead to barely hang on to draw 2-2.
In short, Bayern’s executive board decided they had seen enough and opted to wield the axe. The Ancelotti experiment had run its course, and they decided to turn to a familiar face to address the growing problem that, in all honesty, had been there bubbling under the surface for the past few seasons.
Jupp Heynckes now is the first man to take charge of a team for a fourth time in the Bundesliga. At 72, he is also the eldest manager in any of Europe’s “Big Five” leagues, making him even older than Crystal Palace’s Roy Hodgson (70), Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger (67), Udinese’s Luigi Delneri (67), and Nantes’ Claudio Ranieri (65). Heynckes had famously retired after guiding Bayern to the Treble, making him the first manager to steer a German side to achieve this, and the question is, Why come out of retirement after finishing things on a high note?
Well for starters, he’s only there on a temp basis. Heynckes is merely a stop-gap solution, someone to steady the ship until whomever – rumored to be someone along the lines of Hoffenheim’s Julian Naglesmann – becomes available in the summer. Secondly, he has a proven track record of getting the best out of the core group. Players like Thomas Muller, who have complained about not being used properly under Ancelotti, or Arjen Robben, who vehemently denied criticizing the Italian’s training methods but clearly did not see eye to eye with his manager thrived under the German boss. Muller in particular is one who enjoyed a prominent role whilst Heynckes was on the tactician’s bench, making a century of appearances from 2011 to 2013 – more than any other outfield player, including even retired captain Philipp Lahm as well as Franck Ribery and Jerome Boateng.
Thirdly, he has achieved something that neither Pep Guardiola nor Ancelotti were able to achieve in their three or one full season with Bayern: to win the Champions League. Of course, many of those same players, including Mario Mandzukic, Toni Kroos, Xabi Alonso, and Lahm, are no longer with the club, whilst Ribery is out likely for the remainder of most of this season injured, Robben is rapidly approaching retirement and Muller is totally devoid of confidence. Meanwhile, the ever disgruntled Robert Lewandowski is still scoring goals (thankfully) but clearly is angling for a move away from the Allianz Arena after making it clear that he’s not impressed with the club’s transfer policy. And, to some extent, having incurred the wrath of Dortmund fans to move on a free transfer a couple seasons back in an obvious ambitious quest to win the Champions League, he does have a valid point.
Heynckes, then, will have to get the best out of his star striker for the time being, but given how solid he has been consistently as a professional, there’s no sign that he should not be able to, regardless of where Lewandowski’s heart really may be at the moment. All in all, arguably, he’s the right man for Bayern at the moment, who are desperately needing a short-term fix to turn things around quickly and get back on track in what has been an oddly humbling and disconcerting season so far for a team who are used to being on cruise control in the Bundesliga and right now are facing a rather bumpy ride.
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