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Niko Kovac values speed over possession

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The new boss is ready to implement a pace-oriented system at Bayern Munich.

FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session
MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 04: New team coach Niko Kovac (C), his assistent coach and brother Robert Kovac (L) and goalkeeper coach Toni Tapalovic of FC Bayern Muenchen chat during a training session at the club's Saebener Strasse training court on July 4, 2018 in Munich, Germany
FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 04: New team coach Niko Kovac (C), his assistent coach and brother Robert Kovac (L) and goalkeeper coach Toni Tapalovic of FC Bayern Muenchen chat during a training session at the club’s Saebener Strasse training court on July 4, 2018 in Munich, Germany
(Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern)

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (via Sport1.de), Bayern Munich’s new coach Niko Kovac shed some light on the different tactics he wants to implement at Bayern moving forward. Speed and quickness on the ball, he revealed, are going to be a bigger point of focus as opposed to dominance in possession:

Nowadays possession doesn’t help you much without pace. And when the players advance far up the pitch during the endless passing combinations, possession soccer even becomes dangerous, because so much space can open up for the opponent to counter if the ball is lost.

Pace, especially on the counter-attack, Kovac argues, has become a massive part of today’s game, while skill on the ball without speed is virtually useless:

Previously, people said, “The big fish eat the little fish.” Today, it’s “The fast fish eat the slow fish.” The trend is clearly moving in the direction of players who combine the skills of a sprinter with those of a juggler. They make the difference, because they are still capable of creating something in the extremely narrow spaces that the rows of defenders leave them. And one’s transition game, both on offense and defense, naturally succeeds and fails with one’s speed.

In timely fashion, Kovac’s comments come just over a week after Germany crashed out of the World Cup much earlier than they anticipated. Tactically, Die Mannschaft dominated possession in all three of their matches, but lacked speed and creativity in the final third. Almost all of the goals they conceded were a direct result of being caught on the counter attack when too many players had been committed forward. Both Mexico and Sweden perfectly demonstrated how to execute counter-attacks with pace against Germany. This will certainly be something Kovac hammers home, especially when Bayern’s Germany contingent rejoins the squad.

At Eintracht Frankfurt, Kovac had the right players to play with a high-pressing, high-tempo system with Ante Rebic, Sebastien Heller, Kevin-Prince Boateng, and Jonathan de Guzmán bursting forward. In the DFB-Pokal final back in May, Kovac’s Eintracht used precisely that game-plan to frustrate Bayern and ultimately win 3-1 thanks to a brace by Rebic.

Lastly, Kovac stressed the importance of the passion and intensity that he wants to see from each and every one of his players in the squad. The fiery competitiveness, he emphasized, must be present from the opening to the final whistle:

You don’t get very far anymore by saving and managing your strength. The successful teams don’t ask about effort and return; they work and fight with a fire in their eyes from the first minute to the last.

Niko Kovac officially had his first training session as Bayern Munich manager earlier this week, the start of a new era at the club. It was the first chance Kovac had to get a look at the players who did not travel with their respective countries to the World Cup. Those who who traveled to Russia will be given extra time off. Kovac revealed last week that Bayern’s Germany contingent will not be travel with the team for the Audi Tour in the United States.