Bayern Munich II’s first season back in the third division is now five games old.
After collecting only three points in their first four games, Die kleinen Bayern picked up an impressive 2-1 win in Halle on Monday — a result that lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Sebastian Hoeness has given a lot of young players third division experience — though some out of necessity — with mixed results. His side has been overmatched on some occasions, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
With five games to draw on, here are five thoughts on Bayern II’s season thus far.
1. This team has to respect the third division
This team deserves to be in the third division. That is self-evident. But after winning Bayern’s regional league last year — arguably the worst of Germany’s five fourth-tier leagues — the reserves have yet to realize how difficult the 3. Liga is.
It’s hard to take too much away from this rough start to the league season (see no. 2), but there have been multiple bad situations where the reserve players have looked complacent and a tad arrogant. Whether it’s a cross that goes uncontested, a run into the box that goes unmarked, or a dangerous ball that’s not won in the air, there have been times when players turned their brains off.
They are no longer playing against Bavarian villages and municipalities nobody has ever heard of (well... excepting Unterhaching perhaps). Many of these third division sides have real top-flight aspirations, and there is such a thing as 3. Liga Härte (third division hardness).
With traditional clubs like Eintracht Braunschweig and Kaiserslautern still to come, there will certainly be occasions where Bayern II look overmatched. But, at the very least, the reserve players need to treat these games as seriously as their opponents do.
2. Hoeness’ best team has yet to take the field
As mediocre as the start of Bayern II’s season has been, there is a huge asterisk next to their point total: Hoeness has not had his best team at his disposal (though the team on Monday came pretty close).
Between preseason tours, injuries, and the DFL Supercup, Hoeness has been forced to chop and change his side constantly. He has used 25 different players in Bayern II’s first five games — KFC Uerdingen is the only other team to field more than 20.
Defense has been the area most affected by the turbulent squad situation. Starting right-back Mert Yilmaz and team captain Nico Feldhahn were not fit until recently, and center-back Kylian Senkbeil picked up an injury after the first game.
Flavius Daniliuc, a U-19 player, has been called up to fill in at center-back, while Josip Stanisic, a center-back, and Jannick Rochelt, a midfielder, have had to man the flanks. The result? Bayern II’s 5-2 loss to Viktoria Köln speaks for itself.
Now that the German football season is in full swing and players are returning to fitness, Hoeness should have a more consistent squad from which to select players. However, talents like Fiete Arp and Alphonso Davies might still move between the first team and the reserves as needed.
3. Zirkzee and Batista Meier are solid prospects
Forwards Joshua Zirkzee and Oliver Bastia Meier are the two players that really stood out in the first five games.
Zirkzee shouldn’t be a surprise: he has been invited to train with the first team in the past and has drawn some interest outside of Germany. What is noteworthy, however, is that after Meritan Shabani struggled in the opening game against Würzburg, the Dutch forward has been utilized in a play-making role behind Kwasi Okyere Wriedt.
Zirkzee’s presence on the ball is advanced for a player of his age and size, and he can thread a pass. His finishing has been terrible, though, and he should be better holding up the ball for a player of his size. A season in the third division would be good for his progression.
Batista Meyer, meanwhile, has been electric at times and forgettable at others. The 18-year-old netted his first goal against Uerdingen, an impressive strike from a short corner. But he was subbed off in the 38th minute against Viktoria Köln after cheaply losing possession several times.
Batista Meier started for the under-19s against Kaiserslautern over the weekend — bagging a goal and an assist in the 4-0 win — and it appears he’ll continue to play at that level for now.
4. Otschi Wriedt is an important presence on this team
At 25, striker Kwasi Okyere “Otschi” Wriedt is one of the handful of veteran players in the reserve team. He is strong with his feet and can finish well. He is central to what Bayern II does going forward — he has scored five of their eight goals this season.
But what is more noticeable is how calm he is on the field. He doesn’t seem to get worked up about anything and is good at deescalating tense situations on the field. The latter was on display on Monday, when he got in between Paul Will and Bradley Baxter Bahn while the two midfielders were going at it.
His goal-scoring ability — his five goals is tied for third in the 3. Liga — may not keep him in Munich for long. If he eventually moves on, his presence in the dressing room may be missed as much as his finishing touch.
5. Without Bayern’s quality teenagers, the reserves are not staying up
Staying in the third division was always going to be a big ask for the reserves. With an average age of 21.2 years, Bayern II’s squad is significantly younger than the rest of the field. The fact that four teams, or one-fifth of the league, are relegated at the end of the season also doesn’t help.
Arp, Davies, and Sarpeet Singh significantly raised the level of play on Monday. But the first team has only 20 outfield players (and six defenders, seven including Javi Martinez). If injury strikes, Arp, Davies, and even Okyere Wriedt may be needed to fill out the senior squad. That would be a major blow to the reserves, who depend on their quality.
A team featuring Marcel Zylla, Timo Kern, and Alexander Nollenberger is going to have a really hard time staying up. Players like Arp and Davies give them a much better chance.