Bayern Munich: The choice of the team’s bench.
The lifelong champions of Bundesliga signed Niko Kovac as their new manager. The former Croatian coach of Eintracht Frankfurt won the German Cup last year, and then he moved to Munich. The sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, decided to trust a knowledgeable manager of Bundesliga, and an ambitious individual eager to work hard. The CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, understood that a well-known manager does not necessarily bring the success in football. A recent and notable example was the failed signing of Carlo Ancelotti last season. He had poor relationships with Bayern’s star players such as Arjen Robben, Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm, and thus Bayern Munich had disappointing results in Bundesliga. The players were complaining successively due to the training methods of the Italian coach. Indicatively, Arjen Robben claimed that:
“There’s better training at my son’s youth team than under Ancelotti.”
The challenging issues for Niko Kovac
The involvement of the chopping block
During the summer transfer window, Bayern Munich clarified that Robert Lewandowski is not for sale (read here). He is a vital aspect of the coach’s project, and his attacking skills are unique. However, the player was willing to hear offers for players including Thiago, Boateng and Javi Martinez. Real Madrid and Paris Saint Germain were interested in Thiago and Boateng respectively. However, no official offers have announced yet. The Spanish midfield maestro was close with a move in Spain. However, the transfer of Arturo Vidal to Barcelona blocked the departure of Thiago.
Furthermore, the Croatian coach did not find alternative players to cover their possible departures. Consequently, the players remained at Munich, and Niko Kovac should involve them to the entire squad effectively.
The rapid adaptation to the new formation 3-5-2
The Croatian coach is a fan of wingers. His favourite formation is 3-5-2, and he is in favour of wide players. Specifically, he argued that,
“To take an example, when I see Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery play, my hearts goes a little bit faster.”
The use of three central defenders is an unprecedented system for Bayern Munich, especially in the last years. Niko Kovac is very familiar with this formation, and he has the players to support it. David Alaba is the key player to support the defensive demands of 3-5-2. He is a fast, agile and versatile defender, capable to cover gaps on the defensive wings. Moreover, Leon Goretzka, a modern box-to-box young midfielder, is a crucial aspect in order to release James Rodriguez in the attacking line. Niko Kovac seems confident that 3-5-2 will operate successfully in Bayern Munich. The point is how effective this formation will be in the Champions League where the opponents are stronger.
A success in Champions League
Bayern Munich has built a German kingdom in Bundesliga. None club seems competent to prevail over them at the moment. However, in Champions League the club has failed to qualify in a final since the season 2012/2013 in Wembley. Bayern Munich has been excluded from Spanish clubs for five consecutive years (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid). Their dominant status in Bundesliga discourages some of the best players to play for Bayern Munich. This may be a reason why the club keeps the same players for many years like Robben, Ribery, Muller or Lewandowski. The lack of competitiveness is a fundamental issue for the club’s failure to win the Champions League.
On the whole, the German football has shown an impressive rise during the last decade. The national team won the World Cup in 2014 because the German Federation has created an amazing development football model with a production of various skilful young talents. However, the majority of these young talents end up to play for Bayern Munich in order to win trophies. So, the competitiveness is being lost in the Bundesliga completely, and this phenomenon influences the performance in the Champions League. This major case is the most challenging for Niko Kovac. Is he capable of leading the club to a Champions League final?