Bayern Munich under Hansi Flick: A new Dynasty?
By S4WC (13) Kan Chi Yan Ethan and S4CW (17) Lau Kwun Yin Adrian
Bayern Munich, one of the most successful clubs in European football, holds its own spirit and soul. The club was established in 1900, with a 120 year history, they’ve built their own culture and playing style in the past few decades, producing legends like Oliver Khan, Franz Beckenbauer, and Lothar Matthäus.
Expectations are high for the German Champions as usual, who are undoubtedly the favourites for the Bundesliga title. Despite mediocrity in Europe, the club still dominates the domestic league, seeking its 8th consecutive title.
Despite making big name signings like creative midfielder Philippe Coutinho on loan and left back Lucas Hernandez, Bayern got off to a rocky start in their new season. Although they remain on a 100% record for all their Champions League matches so far, including a memorable 2-7 win away at North London against Spurs with winger Serge Gnabry bagging four goals, it was their domestic form that was completely shambolic. After 10 domestic games, they sit at a very dangerous position on the table with only 5 wins, along with 3 draws and 2 defeats, one which resulted in a 5-1 humiliation away from home to Eintracht Frankfurt, ultimately leading to head coach Niko Kovac’s departure from the club. A successor was found in assistant coach Hansi Flick, who previously helped guide the German National Football Team to World Cup glory back in 2014. Flick impressed immediately, winning his first game in charge against Greek team Olympiacos in the Champions League 2 nil and even winning 4 nil over Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker, convincing everyone he was right for the job.
Assistant manager Hansi Flick was appointed as the caretaker manager upon the sacking of Nico Kovac, and what he meant to do was to cover the vacant spot until the board hires a new manager. He wasn’t the long term option, and the name ‘caretaker’ implies his original role. However, after a long lasting unbeaten run following his appointment, it sent a vital message to the board that they may have got the right man already. Unsurprisingly, the satisfying spell has brought Flick a job extension until the end of season. At that moment, the fans fully believed he should be named as the permanent manager and pledged the club officials to take action.
During his reign, he promoted young talents with the likes of Alphonso Davies, Gnabry and Pavard into the starting lineup, and he mixed them with experienced players such as Lewandowski, Muller, and Neuer. The chemistry went really well, and the young players have exploited their explosive speed and agility to make runs against their opponents, setting up crosses from both flanks into the box for experienced players to finish. This line-up has fixed the problem of lacking attacking flair after the loss of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, who were both influential wingers, constantly creating threats to the opposition with their incredible dribbling skills. Attacking with the full back is definitely one of the most creative and effective tactics in modern football, so a huge credit to Hansi Flick.
Expectations went higher and higher after achieving exceptional results under the reign of Flick, and as a manager, he has successfully managed the pressure surrounding him. The whole squad didn’t go cocky and arrogant. Instead they kept their heads down and aimed to play well in every single match. That’s the only way to win trophies, and Flick knows what to do to maintain a conflict-free dressing room and a squad with good morale.
God helps those who help themselves, wth their diligent attitude and determination, he successfully guided his team to win the 19-20 Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and the Champions League, the ‘Big Ear’ trophy they’ve missed for 6 years, completing the continental treble. The most classic match throughout the season was the 8-2 demolition against Barcelona. They’d dominated the whole game and even Messi could do nothing about it. Bayern often created spaces through Barca’s weak links, and that was the key to this massive win. Flick was named Germany Football Manager of the Year and the Best UEFA Coach. It was his first ever season as a manager at such a big club and we can definitely expect more to come from this lad.
Never underestimate German teams, especially Bayern!
Tactics and Playing Styles in the Flick Era
Bayern mostly plays with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Under Flick, Bayern Munich has experienced an increase in goals scored per game and a lower rate of conceding. It is clear that Flick has revamped Bayern’s playing style by utilising the natural abilities of certain key players. With the veteran Robert Lewandowski leading the line, combined with the pacey Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, Bayern had themselves a dangerous front three which would reign terror into the Bundesliga and Champions League defences. In the midfield they had Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara bossing around, dictating the defence and the tempo of the game to break down an opposition attack while Thomas Muller was upfront delivering those sweet through balls for “LewanGOALski”. Alphonso Davies would push up high and join in the attack using his lightning pace, breaking speed records as he went “meep meep” down the left flank like the roadrunner.
On defence, Benjamin Pavard would drop deep and provide defensive stability on his right flank while occasionally trying a shot or two outside the penalty box, hitting those sweet volleys like he did against Argentina in the World Cup. Jerome Boateng and David Alaba, all trusty veterans, helped dominate the Bayern backline. And with the brick wall of Manuel Neuer, the team denied any team’s star player a goal and shattered their dreams of glory. With such a line-up, Flick had Bayern playing like European Champion contenders again.
Flick likes to maintain a 2-3-5 or 3-2-5 attacking shape when pressing onto the opposition. Mostly it would be the centre backs holding the last line of defense, with the occasional addition of one full back into the line depending on the strength of the opposition. In midfield would be the defensive midfielders, covering for the attacking midfielders in case of a rapid counterattack. At last, there would be the traditional wingers and central forward. In Flick’s system however, Alphonso Davies often utilises his pace to push deep into the opposition half, sometimes even making runs into the penalty box. This has proven to be effective, such as when managed to dribble past the Barcelona defense in the Champions League quarterfinal.
One may ask how does Bayern pass so comfortably, with such dominance on the pitch. The key is their initiative to press high. Under Flick, Bayern have adapted a high pressing system which allows for more man-to-man marking. This leads to more pressure being put onto the opposition, which over time may affect their judgment due to overlapping pressure and frustration of the inability to break through Bayern’s line of defense. This shows how mental football can be and how critical it is for a team to have a calm, clear mindset.
Creating space for certain attacking players to roam free over the pitch is also important in a game. One of the key players here would be Thomas Muller. As mentioned earlier, Muller excels in a role that finds space to apply pressure onto the opposition defense. This has the effect of opening up vital spaces behind defensive lines for attacking players to run into, allowing them to finish comfortably due to the disorganisation of the opposition defense. Flick orders his players to find space between defensive lines, helping to cause dismay and mayhem as they overload spaces and drag defenders away from their position. This then opens up spaces for runners to receive the ball. This is perhaps one of the reasons for Bayern’s high goal scoring statistics.
Bayern may not have the world’s strongest defense based on individual talent, but Flick’s genius is utilizing his players’ hidden potential. While Boateng (CB) may not be the fastest in terms of tracking back and defending, he is known for being dominant in the air and on the ground, tackling when he feels the need to. Alaba (CB), meanwhile, has the extra advantage of speed due and is known to use his speed to mark and follow attacking opponents so that he can close down their attacks. With the addition of Alphonso Davies, who can sprint to recover balls in dangerous positions, Bayern looks pretty set in terms of defensive capability.
With the quality and substance that Bayern possess in their squad, it’s hard not to see them triumphing again as champions under their new Saviour Hansi Flick.
There are a couple of key players that have been instrumental in helping Bayern Munich succeed this season:
Although he may not process the flair of dribbling and finesse shots of other players, Thomas Muller is somewhat playing in his own unique role. With a record-breaking 24 assists and 11 goals across all competitions in the 2019 - 2020 season, Muller experienced an amazing revival in form under Flick. On the pitch, Muller is adept at being at the right place at the right time, always there to tap in a teammate’s pass or delivering the through balls to teammates or being the one to tap in a teammate’s pass himself.
Although Davies struggled for game time in his first season at Bayern, he finally got a chance to play more under Flick. He eventually proved to be phenomenal, and his speed on the flank proved to be lethal. He was a nightmare to defend with his ability to sprint down the wing, whipping in crosses for Lewandowski to finish. His pace also benefited him in his defending duties, allowing him to successfully recover balls lobbed from attacking teams.
Every winning team needs a frontline killer, and Robert Lewandowski is definitely one of the most deadly strikers in Europe. In the 2019-2020 season, he scored 55 goals in all competitions in 47 matches, scoring 1.17 goals per game. Bayern’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said he is very lucky to be Lewndowski’s teammate, rather than playing against him. That’s what a lethal finisher does - make the opposition goalkeeper shudder in fear whenever he gets the ball.
It’s hard to imagine a player reaching his very best in his 30s, but somehow Manuel Neuer proved nothing is impossible. He signed for Bayern in 2011 at the age of 25 and has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in football history. He has outstanding reflexes and handles one-on-ones with opposing attackers very well. He’s also a passing expert, and helps his own team out with unbelievable dropkicks that glide across the pitch. However, after some years, he started to experience a downtown, including a humiliating defeat while playing for the German national team during the 2018 World Cup. He continued to perform poorly during the 2018-19 season, sometimes making simple errors that led to a goal. Many began to think it may be the end of his career, and at the start of the 2019-20 season, there was gossip he might be transferred from Bayern. Under the management of Flick, however, Manuel’s performance improved drastically. He no longer made silly mistakes, and he helped lead the team to lift three major titles last season as a skipper, the second time in the club's history.