Monday, October 15, 2018

Bayern Munich 2017-18: A tale of responding to adversity

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 7 Apr 2018

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Saturday’s 4-1 over Augsburg confirmed Bayern Munich’s status as Bundesliga champions for a sixth season in succession.

Bayern have won the title at a canter – their glory was secured with five matches still to play. Success has looked a formality for a long time, with Jupp Heynckes whipping the side into shape.

But at the start of the season there were few indications the campaign would go as it has, as Borussia Dortmund sat at the top of the pile while Bayern looked sluggish and fell behind.

Yet here we are at the start of April, with Bayern and Heynckes lifting the trophy while soaked in Paulaner.

However, that does not tell the whole story of how Bayern cruised to a 28th Bundesliga title.

 

CIAO, CARLO

Carlo Ancelotti’s Bundesliga success from last season did not buy him a huge amount of time, as Bayern started this term in unimpressive fashion. Performances were laborious and directionless at times, with a 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim – coached by a candidate for a future position at the Allianz Arena in Julian Nagelsmann – a prime example as they dominated possession without doing much with it. The Italian reportedly lost the support of key members in the dressing room, claims supported by the fact Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben all expressed discontent in public. A 3-0 Champions League humbling to Ancelotti’s former club Paris Saint-Germain at the end of September was the final straw, and he was sacked with Bayern three points off the domestic summit.

SHOWING THEM WHO’S BOSZ

Peter Bosz enjoyed a fine start as Dortmund coach, presiding over six wins and a draw in his first seven league matches. That, coupled with Bayern’s woes, gave every indication the Bundesliga was set for a real title tussle, led by BVB. There were some issues Bosz and his staff needed to iron out, such as individual errors at the back, but for the most part the Dutchman’s transition from Ajax to Dortmund was going as well as many could have predicted. But it was not to last.

HEYNCKES TURNS THINGS JUPP-SIDE DOWN

Ancelotti’s dismissal came just before an international break, meaning Bayern gave themselves time to make a decision after installing Willy Sagnol as temporary coach for a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin. But Bayern only appeared to be interested in one man, and Heynckes’ return for a fourth spell in charge was confirmed on October 6, putting his retirement on hold. His impact was instant, as his first game at the helm was a 5-0 crushing of Freiburg, while a 3-1 Klassiker triumph over Dortmund during their difficult period in November hinted at how the remainder of the season would play out. That defeat saw Dortmund fall six points off the top having been five points clear when Heynckes was appointed.

BOSZ GETS THE BOOT

After four defeats and a draw in five games, Dortmund looked set to bounce back in stunning fashion a month before Christmas, going 4-0 up inside 25 minutes against local rivals Schalke. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his first league goal in over a month and everything was fitting together again in style. Or so it seemed. Schalke hit back with two goals just after the hour, before Aubameyang’s dismissal in the 72nd minute provided the visitors with extra encouragement, eventually sealing a 4-4 draw in stoppage time. Bosz held on for another two games, but losing 2-1 at home to Werder Bremen on December 9 was the death knell. Peter Stoger came in and steadied the ship, but Aubameyang continued to be a disruption and was sent packing to Arsenal. By that point, any hope of a title challenge appeared to be long gone.

KILLING THE COMPETITION

Although Schalke are the closest to Bayern in the table, it does the Bavarians a disservice to suggest they had a challenger at any point after the turn of the year. What makes the situation look even less promising for the chasing pack – and Schalke in particular – is Bayern have the pulling power to take the league’s best players almost at will. Leon Goretzka has emerged as a rising star in Gelsenkirchen, but he will be marshalling the champions’ midfield next term, having agreed a free transfer. While it can be argued Bayern may have recovered from their early woes without Heynckes, acting early in the face of adversity saved them some trouble. The same cannot be said for Dortmund.

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