Following the disappointing tenure of Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern decided to bring back Jupp Heynckes out of retirement. This will be Heynckes’ fourth managerial stint at the Bavarians, with whom he won the treble in 2012/13.
Ancelotti was controversially dismissed after a subpar start to the season a day after his side capitulated to Paris Saint-Germain. He was criticised of having naïve tactics and poor man-management, despite leading Bayern to their fifth successive Bundesliga title in the previous season.
Return of pressing
A major reason Bayern soared in the treble-winning campaign five years ago was down to the tactical brilliance of Jupp Heynckes. Taking the reins following the ruinous tenure of Louis van Gaal—under whom Bayern catastrophically finished 3rd in the league—Heynckes immediately set to restore the glory days.
The Gladbach legend immediately implemented an intense man-orientated pressing style. The tactic essentially involved the ball-near player (the runner) to close down the man in possession high up the pitch. Meanwhile, teammates would man-mark potential passing options to suffocate the opposition. Like other high-pitch pressing styles, this meant the opposition could not build from the back and the ball was won in an advanced position close to the goal.
Ancelotti’s tactics were mixed last season, but hit a reef this campaign. Bayern more than have the adequate personnel to resurrect the constant pressing. Heynckes’ first match since his return gave a good indication that the pressing is to return—albeit gradually—as the Bavarians looked cohesive in their 5-0 win over Freiburg.
A more stable, involved defence
There was a notable gap between the defence and midfield during the era of Ancelotti. Starting full-backs Philipp Lahm and David Alaba were not as involved as they were previously. The Austrian international, in particular, has severely regressed of late. Heynckes will be inclined to involve his full-backs more in off-the-ball movement to narrow play.
Moreover, Alaba and Joshua Kimmich—as well as back-ups Rafinha and Juan Bernat—may well be used to accommodate to the attack more. It’s no secret wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry have, naturally, become less effective with both well in their 30s, so it’s a possibility that full-backs will be used to make overlapping runs to provide relief.
Heynckes may be convinced to return to the abundantly successful 4-2-3-1, though he has indicated he may stick with the 4-3-3 Ancelotti largely relied on. Either way, the 1974 World Cup winner will need to ensure better screening for his defence in the way Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger did. The match at home to Anderlecht showed Bayern can be exposed in the heart of defence, but Heynckes may rely on Sebastian Rudy for such a role, following his impressive final season at Hoffenheim.
Team of individuals no more
“Fight for the name on the shirt, and they will remember the name on the back,” famously said Arsenal legend Tony Adams. An old quote it may be, but it resonates now more than ever in this fickle, money-driven day and age—and Bayern are no different.
In the season of 2011/12, die Roten finished as runners-up in all three competitions—losing out on the Meisterschale, falling behind in the league, then being outclassed yet again by Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final. But it was the Champions League final loss on home soil to Chelsea that sparked the turnaround.
Bayern’s president, Uli Hoeneß, and CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, can be difficult to get along with. Heynckes managed to not only coincide with both, but assure he was the man to put the club back on its feet.
Heynckes was famous for his galvanisation of the squad. Indeed, Bayern did improve their squad with the arrival of Dante and Mario Mandžukić—both from fellow Bundesliga sides—but it was the squad belief to push on that left the lasting impression.
The situation is now oddly like 2011. Van Gaal was guilty of losing the dressing room, just as Ancelotti has done, and it is up to Heynckes to pick up the pieces and make (some) trophies. The biggest man-management concerns will likely be Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski.
The German international excelled in Heynckes’ last spell, and could re-find his form from then, as well as a place amongst the starters. While it seems likely Müller’s mood will improve, the club’s top-scorer is a whole other story altogether. Lewandowski is the personification of a powder keg. Heynckes will have the unenviable task of trying to channel the Pole’s deep frustrations into vintage performances.