Bayern Munich were back with a bang on Saturday evening and Hansi Flick would have loved every moment of it. The head coach recently replaced the damned Niko Kovac and steered the Champions to a resounding success over title rivals Borussia Dortmund. The Allianz Arena was rocking but it was more wound licking for a Dortmund team who know these traumas only too well.
Hansi Flick Takes Bayern Munich Back to Basics Whilst Borussia Dortmund Fortunes Falter
Bayern are a team with heritage and an ego. They are the top dog in Germany and they have been for many years. Kovac lead them to the title last season, thus affirming their status, but cracks were beginning to show. His team often maintained a lot of possession but lacked the intensity of past Bayern teams. Tactically, he was nothing to write home about and he was unable to motivate his squad of players.
Hansi Flick appeared to have restored some of that arrogance. The tactics in the first 10 to 15 minutes were fairly straightforward. Allow Dortmund to have possession of the ball and, when they lose it, fire the ball as to Robert Lewandowski as quickly as possible. The Poland international has been sensational this season, scoring 23 goals, and he terrorised the Dortmund defence. After the first goal, Dortmund began to crumble and Bayern moved much higher up the pitch, playing with a swagger and an arrogance that they had earned.
Bayern Feel-Good Factor
Flick went back to basics. He restored Thomas Muller to the team to try and bring back that experience and ego. He initially let Dortmund have a lot of the ball, allowing them to grow in confidence, and was quite happy for his players to sit deeper and hit them on the counter. Slowly but surely his players began to take the initiative and dictate the terms of the match. They were quicker and hungrier to every ball; it is almost like a weight had been lifted and Flick had simply asked them to play football in their way. It was similar to when Jose Mourinho left Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first took charge; there was an immediate upturn in performances. Whether Flick would be the right long-term option remains to be seen but he is having the perfect short-term effect.
Bayern is an elite club. They will be expected to make a statement signing next summer, perhaps Leroy Sane of Manchester City, and may well be in the hands of a much more high profile manager. Jose Mourinho is an obvious candidate for Bayern. An elite-level manager for an elite level club. Mourinho would no doubt jump at the chance. Right now, they are weak, by their standards at least.
A Tale of Two Extremes
Conversely, Borussia Dortmund’s tale was of woe — a total collapse; it was really frustrating to watch.
The Black and Yellows lost 5-0 in this fixture last season but there was now a lot more optimism. Their squad was much stronger and they had just impressively beaten Inter Milan in midweek. They were unfortunate that Marco Reus wasn’t fit to start and Jadon Sancho was well off the pace but the nature of their capitulation is worrying.
Dortmund really should be pushing for the title. Last season they were so close but ultimately fell short of Kovac’s distinctly average Bayern team. Now is surely their best time to achieve title glory. The Bavarians are in transition having lost Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery. Their formidable squad of players has almost completed a full cycle and the emphasis is now on youth. Dortmund manager Lucien Favre really needs to push them forward now because it is the best chance he will get to lift the Bundesliga.
Defeats like this make you question Favre’s man-management skills because the players were just outrun and outfought by their opponents. His players looked mentally weak after that first goal went in and it has become very frustrating to see it happen again and again, even when the Dortmund eleven has that experience and know-how.
A season of such optimism has been rather stop-start. A great Champions League comeback against Inter Milan in midweek and a resounding 4-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen are results that illustrate the ability of these players. But consistency has been an issue Favre’s side who drew three of their first four matches. Favre is under some pressure from supporters who feel he is not getting the most out of his team.
Underdogs can Rise
At the moment, neither of Germany’s two giants are where they really want to be and others are looking to take advantage. It is a great opportunity for the underdogs of Germany to rise.