Since the 2020/2021 season began, Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich have not been nearly as dominant as their previous season — with multiple instances of dropped points in the league, and the team even conceding the first goal in their Bundesliga matchups for seven games in a row! As a result, I have seen many question Flick’s current managing. For example, saying the Flick honeymoon period is over, questioning his personnel choices and blaming him for Bayern’s recent slump in form.
I disagree with this line of thinking however, and think Flick is doing a marvelous job with what he has right now and that there is absolutely no reason for any sense of panic to be lingering among Bayern fans. Here’s why:
The results don’t lie
Despite the upset among Bayern fans recently, results have generally still been fantastic. The team advanced in an essentially perfect fashion in the Champions League, having dominant games against top level opposition in Salzburg and Atletico Madrid. Furthermore, in the Bundesliga, Bayern are on top once again and didn’t lose a single of the aforementioned last seven games. Being top of a competitive Bundesliga and through to further rounds in all other competitions should warrant thoughts of rejoice not panic.
The nightmare schedule and its implications.
In regular years, football managers and players often complain about the gruelling campaigns which European football clubs have to go through. This year is much worse, with the schedule being even more condensed and teams in all competitions (like Bayern), having to face week after week of “Englisch Wochen” — multiple games in a week. Add in the fact that Bayern hardly had a pre season, and have been playing like this since the May Bundesliga restart — it’s no wonder that Bayern’s players are completely fatigued.
This fatigue heavily impacts Bayern’s kamakazi team press and high-octane football which is the hallmark of this team. Therefore, Flick has had to adapt tactics to counter act these issues. And, while obviously meaning that the team has less dominant performances, as stated above, these new tactics have been proven effective and demonstrated Flick’s considerable managerial prowess. Forgoing his previous tactics for more conservative less draining ones have only been of aid to the team — not the detriment as some fans might think.
After Bayern comes back from the Winterpause, albeit a shortened one, the team will have received one of its first real rest and recovery periods since May. Coupled with the fact that the second half of the season is less physically demanding on the players, Bayern should have the capacity to start playing their dominant Flicki Flaka and control games again. Furthermore, Bayern will be sure to rest and train properly so they are able to enact these tactics in the biggest of games, namely, the Champions League knockout stages.
Make no mistake, Bayern’s “Plan A” football won’t contain nearly as much of the vulnerabilities that we have witnessed as 2020 has come to an end.
The absence of key players
Bayern’s downturn in form has coincided with some key players being out injured — most strikingly Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies. The team has often conceded from balls played in behind the defence some of which could have been prevented had Davies’ recovery pace been present on the field.
However, it is the German who’s absence has been most felt. Recent criticism of this Bayern team has largely pointed to a lack of midfield superiority in games. In my opinion, Flick is hardly at fault for this. Yes, perhaps someone like Marc Roca could have been utilized more, but Kimmich is an integral part of this Bayern team. With no Thiago at the club, Kimmich is the Bavarian’s deep lying playmaker, constantly breaking up play, providing gorgeous circulation of the ball and leading his fellow players.
Without Kimmich, Flick has had to change tactics, formations and general play style significantly. Simply put, Kimmich’s absence was a big reason for some of the Bavarians’ recent poor performances and his return should spell an upturn in form for the side. Add in the fact that Leon Goretzka also missed a run of games recently, it is no surprise why Bayern’s midfield so often got overrun.
Players who replaced Kimmich and (sometimes) Goretzka included an off-form Corentin Tolisso, who unfortunately looks a shell of his 2017/2018 self. Javi Martinez, who can’t place his control on games once Bayern is in possession and is far past his prime. Jamal Musiala, who is naturally a more advanced player and still very inexperienced. Even Serge Gnabry is wildly off-form in this current campaign. Having one or more of these players in midfield in all recent games couldn’t be prevented, but also meant that the midfield would simply never be at its usual level.
Inspired decisions and being a “human manager”
Flick’s greatest attribute is arguably his relationships with players, the trust he puts in them etc...Though, that’s not to say Flick is not a master tactician.
Bayern’s recent game vs Wolfsburg highlighted his tactical mettle. In this game, Thomas Muller played as an attacking 6, the team shifted formations during the offensive (343) and defensive (4141) transitions of the game. Leroy Sane even played as a fullback at times! These numerous bold stylistic and personnel decisions resulted in a Bayern win.
In addition, during Bayern’s recent fixture vs Bayer Leverkusen, Flick made the shocking decision of subbing off Sane — even though he’d only been subbed on the field less than 40 minutes earlier. The decision was undoubtedly the correct one with Musiala, the substitute providing impetus to Bayern’s weary attack. It is confident decisions like that which give Bayern the cutting edge in matches. Most managers wouldn’t have done that to the team’s star 50M signing...
Yet, despite this apparent humiliation for Sane, Flick didn’t see it as such and he clearly expressed his thought process to the press after the game — this human touch didn’t alienate the player but instead showed support for him. Support is the only thing shown to his players.
This is also exemplified through his comments on the David Alaba situation. Flick has always backed the player. He’s even criticized Bayern higher ups for their actions in the contract saga. What Bayern need is a manager who is willing to stand up to the board, not be pushed around by the executives and have a proper say in how the club is run. Flick has proven time and time again to do just that, while always putting the players first.
There really is no reason to panic, Hansi Flick is doing just fine. The coach continues to deliver results and an attractive brand of football despite Bayern’s many challenges this season. And, results and general play should only improve in the second half of the season. Bayern really couldn’t have a better coach at the moment, doubters are simply flickin’ wrong!