Manuel Veth –
Bayern München have once again dominated the Bundesliga last season winning their fifth straight title. Nothing but a title defence would be a major disappointment for the Rekordmeister, who once again will want to challenge for the triple.
Bayern München – Looking Back to Last Season
It is odd to speak of a somewhat disappointing year after winning the German championship. That was the sense in the Bavarian capital after Bayern was eliminated in the quarterfinal of the UEFA Champions League by Real Madrid and then in the semifinal of the DFB Pokal by Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern also took their time to stamp their authority over the Bundesliga. It was not until matchday 16 of the Bundesliga that Bayern reined in Bundesliga upstarts, RB Leipzig. Bayern had lost on matchday 11 to Borussia Dortmund in what would be their last league defeat until being beaten by 1899 Hoffenheim on matchday 27.
As a result of the defeat to Dortmund in der Klassiker Bayern dropped to second place behind RB Leipzig and it would not be until matchday 14 that Bayern would catch die Roten Bullen. Both teams went in on even points to matchday 16, and there were many, who expected that Leipzig could give Bayern a good run for their money. Bayern had been unconvincing up until this point of the season, but as it is often the case with der Rekordmeister, the Bavarians were on the ball when they needed to be.
In the end, Bayern gave Leipzig a footballing lesson winning the match 3-0 in dominant fashion. In the end, Leipzig were lucky that Bayern did not turn up the heat even more as the Bavarians could have easily won the match by a wider margin.
From that point forward Bayern never looked back and as mentioned above only lost one more game in the Rückrunde. In fact, the Bavarians ended up dropping just seven points in the Rückrunde winning the league with a 15-point gap ahead of RB Leipzig. That said Leipzig came close in inflicting a second defeat to Bayern as die Roten Bullen led twice against Bayern on matchday 33. But Bayern ended up coming back from a 4-2 deficit winning the game 4-5 in what was perhaps the best game of the entire league season.
While Bayern München were once again dominant in the Bundesliga, the Bavarians failed to convince in the Champions League and the Pokal. Bayern lost two games in the group stage of the Champions League. While the 1-0 defeat to Atlético on matchday 1 was not a major surprise the 3-2 loss to Rostov brought back ghosts of the loss to BATE Borisov in the 2012-13 season. Rostov’s surprise victory meant that Bayern were unable to win their group despite a 1-0 win over Atlético on matchday 6. Bayern then drew Arsenal in the round of 16 and expectably eliminated the Gunners 10-2 on aggregate. Next, however, came Real Madrid and after losing 2-1 at home, Bayern seemed poised to turn the result in their favour. But ultimately questionable refereeing meant that Real were able to eliminate the Bavarians leading to a disappointing quarterfinal elimination.
Finally in the Pokal Bayern had no problems reaching the semi-final of the tournament. They were then drawn against Borussia Dortmund and die Schwarz-Gelben had a perfect evening eliminating the Bavarians 2-3. In the end, Bayern had to make due with the single title—not enough for a club that sees itself as one of the biggest on the world stage.
Bayern München – Who did They Sign
James Rodríguez is, of course, the most prominent new signing for the Bavarians. The 26-year-old Colombian was signed from Real Madrid on a two-year loan deal. Bayern will initially pay just €10 million and can complete the transaction for another €50 million. James somewhat disappointed in the last two seasons with Real Madrid, but has shown for the Colombian national team that he is a massive talent. James, in fact, could be the biggest steal for Bayern München since the Rekordmeister signed Arjen Robben from Real Madrid in 2009. Unfortunately, Bayern fans will have to wait till September to see the new signing in action as James has picked up an injury in preseason.
Whereas James is supposed to bring the creative spark Corentin Tolisso is meant to bring more athleticism to a Bayern squad that has gotten older in recent years. Signed for €41.5 million from Olympique Lyon Tolisso is Bayern’s most expensive signing surpassing Javi Martinez by €1.5 million. Some believe in the fact that Tolisso was brought in to replace Xabi Alonso, who retired at the end of last season. But Tolisso is a very different player from the Spanish midfield maestro and with his style of football is expected to put pressure on Arturo Vidal rather than replacing Alonso.
The signing of James and Tolisso, in fact, has somewhat overshadowed the signings of Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy. With Süle Bayern have landed one of Germany’s most talented defenders. The 21-year-old was outstanding for Hoffenheim last season and a major factor in his former club finishing in the top four in the Bundesliga. Playing in the three-man defence under Julian Nagelsmann Süle is going to add another tactical element to Carlo Ancelotti’s lineup.
Sebastian Rudy in the meantime could take the mantle from Xabi Alonso. Rudy in fact played in Alonso’s role in the DFL Supercup against Borussia Dortmund and did very well to dictate Bayern’s game. Playing the central role in Bayern’s three-man midfield Rudy was the pivot controlling the tempo in Bayern’s game. Signed on a free transfer from Hoffenheim Rudy could very well become one of Bayern’s most central players this season.
Bayern München – A Pre-Season to Forget
Despite the fact that Bayern’s triumph over Borussia Dortmund in the DFL Supercup Bayern München’s preseason was a disaster. The club spent a significant portion of the preseason in Asia where they played Arsenal in Shanghai (1-1), Milan in Shenzen (0-4), Chelsea (3-2) and Inter Milan (0-2) in Singapore. Back in Munich Bayern failed to reach the final of the Audi Cup for the first time in history after losing the semi-final to Liverpool (0-3). The club then also lost the third place match against Napoli (0-2). Injuries to Thiago, James, David Alaba and Jérôme Boateng further increased the general sense of a crisis at the Rekordmeister before the season had even kicked off. The reaction following the Supercup victory over Borussia Dortmund further highlights that not all is well at Rekordmeister at the moment.
Bayern München under Carlo Ancelotti will use the 4-3-3 formation that he favoured last season with his ideal starting eleven looking the following way.
Neuer – Alaba, Martinez, Hummels, Kimmich – Vidal, Thiago, Tolisso – Ribéry, Lewandowski, Müller
Player of the Season:
Thomas Müller was one of the only highlights of Bayern’s bleak preseason, and there are indications that the German national team player could return to the form that made him one of the best players on the planet. Müller was one of the few players that did not disappoint in Asia per tradition Müller always seems to go into high gear during World Cup years. Expect Müller to increase his goal tally from last season significantly and to once again challenge for the Golden Boot at the World Cup next summer.
The signing of the Season:
Looking past James Rodríguez in this category is hard. But Sebastian Rudy may very well prove to become Bayern’s most important signing of the summer. The midfielder has the talent to fill the void left by the departure of Xabi Alonso and could, therefore, play a significant role for the Bavarians this season.
The Disappointment of the Season:
The arrival of Mats Hummels last season has meant that Jérôme Boateng has found himself slide down the pecking order. Boateng expressed some disappointment in the off-season, and there was even talk that the national team player could leave Bayern to join the English Premier League side Chelsea FC. Instead, the Bayern bosses were able to convince Boateng to stay with the club, but with Süle arriving and Ancelotti favouring Hummels and Martinez in the back four Boateng will have a tough time regaining his starting position.
Bayern’s championship run will end this season. Despite the new signings, Bayern’s side is ageing, and the signing of James has not been enough to address the lack of attacking options behind Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Frank Ribéry. The latter two are also in the twilight of their careers, and it is doubtful that they can be on top of their game for the entire season. Finally, Carlo Ancelotti seems to have already lost parts of the dressing room last season and the trip to China may have made matters worse.
Anything but a semifinal appearance in both the Champions League and the DFB-Pokal will be a disappointment. Losing out on the Champions League once again was perhaps Bayern’s biggest disappointment last season, and Ancelotti may very well focus on the international trophy. But as it is the case for the league Bayern have not done enough to address striking shortcomings and Bayern will need a perfect evening to compete against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.