Another season has ended, and Bayern Munich won the domestic double. In January, the odds were against Bayern, but Niko Kovač managed to turn things around for the club and won the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal. Still, Bayern’s form varied throughout the season and until the very last match, Niko’s job was allegedly on the line. It’s safe to say that the Croat has secured his position. Nevertheless, there are some things that could be improved for the upcoming season.
Let’s dive into them!
Kovač had a wonderful start to his managing career in Bavaria, but the first problems came after almost two months. Der Rekordmeister dipped in form and struggled for quite some time. It was clear — Bayern couldn’t put together 90 minutes of good football. Then the crisis passed, and the team recovered. In the Rückrunde, Bayern’s play improved immensely, but a few games here and there showed that Bayern’s inconsistency prevailed. Examples include the losses to Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool, a series of bad games in the cup, unnecessary draws in the last month, etc.
It’s also fair to say that Kovač cannot be blamed for every bad performance. There is nothing he could do when someone makes an error that leads to a goal or when someone misses an open chance, but some things can be pinned on Kovač. He still needs to find a way to make the Bayern squad as consistent as possible. With new players joining this summer, he will surely have a better opportunity at doing so.
This is a big one for me. When he came to Bayern, Kovač was praised for possessing the “Bayern gene,” but I think he is still working on this one. When I say that he has to improve his “mentality,” I’m thinking about the second leg against Liverpool and many other games in which his match plan was ruined early. The thing Kovač lacks the most is motivational capabilities. I don’t know what he said to the players at HT against Liverpool’s second leg in Champions League, but it certainly wasn’t motivating enough. Kovac still has to gain experience in this sector. That was also visible in a lot of lukewarm performances where he just wasn’t able to inspire the players to be more passionate and goal-hungry.
However, Kovač did improve in every segment that I want to see improved, and that gives me hope for an even better Bayern next season. Just look at his fiery performance at the sidelines in the cup final against RB Leipzig: the guy nearly poked his eye out! Now, that is already the “Bayern gene” that can inspire the whole squad and boost their performance.
It definitely is stressful working with a lot of starters, and every single one of them wants to be in the starting eleven, but, of course, not everyone can. It’s even more stressful dealing with unsatisfied stars. One area that Niko Kovač can improve is his relationship with other players. Not many players were publicly critical of Kovač — I think just Renato Sanches and Rafinha were the only ones. But, there were many reports of dissatisfied core players. Are the rumors true? Maybe. There was tension with Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery and most recently Arjen Robben. Kovač’s reaction to Lewandowski-Coman scuffle was also questionable. The sense of togetherness has to be polished. In the end, Bayern is a family, but there are no families without some fights.
This is not a critique of Niko. Far from it. I would love to see the board giving him freedom to adopt new tactics, such as those used in the first leg against Liverpool. It is now a well-known fact that Bayern is still finding their way around playing against teams that use Gegenpressing well. Usually, they have struggled against such teams, but under Kovač, there are signs of improvement.
The best thing about Heynckes’s Bayern was his ability to adapt. He adapted to Barcelona and delivered one of Bayern’s most historic wins. Bayern under Guardiola played beautifully, but was eventually labeled as a one-trick pony. There is a good chance that Kovač can make Bayern more tactically versatile. With new signings, he will have the freedom to acquire the players necessary for his style of play.
In the end, I liked Kovač’s efforts for establishing gegenpressing, but still, Bayern needs to improve. Generally, when Muller plays, he is a genius for pressuring the opposition, but without him, Bayern’s counter-pressing is usually not good enough to disrupt the opposition defense.
What are your opinions? Should Niko Kovač improve and if yes, in which areas?