Monday, August 02, 2021
Kahn sees “excellent” squad
A very risky assessment by FC Bayern
By Tobias Nordmann
FC Bayern is stumbling heavily into the new season. The team of coach Julian Nagelsmann played four games in preparation, not winning a single one. Now a discussion breaks out about whether the quality in the squad is really sufficient for the top goals.
Panic is (still) not appropriate. FC Bayern did not win again on Saturday, not even in the fourth preparatory game for the new season. But nothing has happened yet that justifies a panic reaction (because “only preparation”.) Now one can discuss what a panic reaction is or would be. For example, a new addition. That would help the team a lot. Some say. The others say: No, it doesn’t have to be. Club boss Oliver Kahn is on the side of the other. He said on Saturday at RTL, even before his Munich team had lost to Napoli (3-0), that the squad was “excellent”. And that in all parts of the team. So suitable for the big goals: championship and at least top four in Europe.
Kahn also said on Saturday that they had won “at least seven titles” with this squad in the past two seasons. The thing about the titles is of course true. What is not quite right, however: The squad looked a little different in the furious title years under coach Hansi Flick. Thiago, the Spanish playmaker, was already missing last season. He wasn’t just missing because he was no longer there, but at Liverpool FC. He was also missing because he could have given the sometimes tired and exhausted star ensemble with his feeling for the rhythm important time-outs.
And this season also missing David Alaba, who gambled away his eternal place in Munich in a fatal, greedy way (as club patriarch Uli Hoeneß says) at the poker table, and Jérôme Boateng, who no one wanted in Munich anymore, except Hansi Flick. But he didn’t have much to say (if he ever had), after all, he too left the club. Worn down by the eternal squad disputes with sports director Hasan Salihamidžić. Part of the complete truth is: Javi Martinez is gone too. The physically exhausted Basque had only a few highlights recently, but was decisive for a title: A header from him made the European Supercup clear.
Bavaria has also upgraded, but …
Now, of course, it is not the case that the Munich team wrecked their squad with their eyesight. With Leroy Sané, they treated themselves to their much sought-after luxury gift last summer. And this season came with Dayot Upamecano a new, expensive head of defense at RB Leipzig. The French had also been one of the preferred candidates of the Munich bosses for a long time. At Sané the situation is like this: He played well. Considering the massive investment in his skills, decent is not what you expected. In other words: There has to be something more to come. On the other hand, not much can be said about Upamecano. So far there has been preparation for him. The not so beautiful.
In addition to the royal transfers, Salihamidžić also brought in plenty of decorative accessories. There are a few promises. Defensive talent Tanguy Nianzou (19), for example, who was almost always injured last season and is now a winner of the jerky season star. Or Omar Richards (23), who came from the second English division and has also been enthusiastic about the bosses so far. He can play both defensively and offensively on the left. Like Alphonso Davies. Other players such as Marc Roca or Bouna Sarr meanwhile have to make an astonishing increase in order to switch to the “good deal” page in the sports board’s transfer balance. So far they are more on the “misunderstanding” side.
No, the Munich squad is not bad. Of course it isn’t. It’s good, very good in fact. But excellent? It might be if all the plans with the players work out. If all top performers play at the top level (which would be phenomenal with striker Robert Lewandowski), if there are no major form crises (Niklas Süle and Benjamin Pavard had to struggle with it), if there are no (or only a few) injured, if badly shaken Players like Lucas Hernández or, above all, Corentin Tolisso can finally train and play consistently. And when more talents than Jamal Musiala are a permanent strong option. Nothing can go wrong on the path to excellence.
However, there is already growing skepticism that the upcoming Bundesliga season will lead to the tenth championship party of FC Bayern in a row. Dietmar Hamann, admittedly controversial, but sometimes also a competent expert at Sky, is about to put an end to the permanent Munich title celebrations. “There has to be a lot first,” says the former national player, referring to the reorganized central defense without the previous regular duo Alaba and Boateng, but also Nagelsmann as the new coach with a new game idea and Oliver Kahn, who succeeds Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as CEO and still have to develop their own leadership style.
“What should I do with the big Zampano?”
Julian Nagelsmann takes the most bumpy preparation of the club’s past calmly. After the screwed up dress rehearsal (against Naples) for the competitive start of the coming weekend, in the DFB Cup at Bremer SV, he said: “Of course it doesn’t feel good. What should I do with the big Zampano? Everything will be fine.” What gives him hope: “Now three more valuable players will come back, and then we will have a week of training together. That must be enough.” Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich will return. Three types that are indispensable for stability and leadership in the squad.
The importance, the indispensability of the stars, made the duel with the Italian top team more than clear: After the test failures against 1. FC Köln (2: 3) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (0: 2) as well as the partial success against Ajax Amsterdam (2-2) gave Lewandowski, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané their debut after just three training sessions. They already provided noticeably more stability and flow of the game. Napoli only met after an extensive rotation in the FC Bayern team. It was a rotation that whirled the young players onto the pitch. So those players that Kahn and Salihamidžić are hoping for. Because breakthroughs by talent, that is thick in the trainer’s workbook for the next few years. This is intended to compensate for possible disadvantages in the insane competition on the international transfer market. Nagelsmann’s verdict should not please the bosses: “They did their job well, but they all still need time. Hardly any of them will play in the Bundesliga this season.”
The coach did not want to be understood as a call for help for reinforcements. Good idea from him. Because loud calls for help are not so well received in Munich. We still know that from Hansi Flick. “If there is nothing on the market, then we have a good squad,” said the Bayern coach. A sentence that sounds kind of weird. Basically, he was “not afraid. I will take over a functioning team. The players know the processes. We will manage that.”