Bayern Munich are champions of the Bundesliga for the eighth consecutive season and winners of this seasons DFB-Pokal. That lands them another league and cup double which takes them up to 30 league titles and 20 national cups in total in their history making them the most successful German team of all time. The Covid-19 pandemic was a hurdle to overcome as all competitions came to a grinding halt on March 13th but once consultation with the German government took place, the Bundesliga resumed behind closed doors on the 16th May. After the imposed break, Bayern were unstoppable winning all 11 of their remaining league and cup matches clinching the League title in mid June with 2 games to spare. They then added the League cup in early July with a 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern are also heading into the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 with a healthy 3-0 advantage over Chelsea FC. There is a good case to be made that they can reach the final and possibly end the season as treble winners but the past 12 months have not been as straight forward as their successes may suggest.
The season started with a 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the DFL Super Cup and their title defence was shaping up to be a hard fought one too. Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach all started the season well and were looking in dangerous form while Bayern were simply not playing their best football; sometimes only narrowly getting by opponents who they should have beaten easily. The criticism landed heavily on the shoulders of their then coach Niko Kovac, as he had Bayern playing in a more defensive style which goes against the DNA of the club. They looked vulnerable at the back and were overly reliant on moments of individual brilliance from their attackers, most especially Robert Lewandowski who routinely spared their blushes with his ingenuity and lethal finishing. They were looking a shadow of their once dominant selves who routinely swept opponents off the park with their dazzling yet efficient and cohesive football.
Although injuries to certain players contributed to the poor run, Kovac’s tenure was becoming divisive as was demonstrated in his undermining of club legend Thomas Müller by relegating him to the bench in favor of the newly loaned but underperforming Phillip Coutinho. After a 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt, which was their worst Bundesliga defeat in a decade, it was evident his position was untenable. Following a meeting with the Club President, chairman and sporting director, Kovac’s contract was mutually terminated. As a result of this termination, Kovac’s assistant manager Hans-Dieter Flick was given the role of interim manager. At this point Bayern had won only half of their opening 10 Bundesliga games with 3 draws, 2 losses and were languishing in the 4th position on the table.
Flick’s first game was in the Champions League against Greek champions Olympiacos. He appear to handle the game well with a professional 2-0 win but his true test would come back in the league on matchday 11, a home game against rivals Borussia Dortmund. An emphatic 4-0 mauling of Dortmund followed which moved Bayern above their title rivals. Although back to back defeats against Bayern Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach followed that result, Flick recorrected course by making a few minor adjustments to the team and never looked back. This earned him the role of permanent manager until the end of the season. What followed was a level of dominance as Flick’s team routinely brushed teams aside with ease. Bayern proceeded to win 25 of their following 26 games, drawing only once and giving Flick a record of 29 wins in 32 matches in all competitions. Bayern scored a record total of 100 goals in the Bundesliga and conceded only 32 goals in their 38 games.
The attacking prowess and defensive solidity shows that of a team that struck a perfect balance between attack and defence. It is no surprise that this coincided with a return to the old guard, both Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller became fixtures in the first team with Boateng marshalling the defence and Muller dovetailing seamlessly with Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski in attack. The trio finished the season in style with Lewandowski leading the league with 34 goals and scoring 54 in total in all competitions. Muller scored 8 and provided a record breaking 21 assists in the league while Gnabry added a further 21 goals and 11 assists to cap off a fine season for Bayern.
This run gave ‘Hansi’ Flick the best start any Bayern boss has ever managed, even better than that of Pep Guardiola’s 2013/2014 team. He also has a point-per-game ratio of 2.71 which surpasses that of Pep’s 2.6 and is slightly ahead of Juup Heynckes’ impressive 2.7 ratio. The manner in which the manager has turned around their fortunes is quite impressive and he is fully deserving of the contract extension given to him which keeps him as head coach until 2023.
A double already won and a treble well within their sights, this team which looked destined to be dethroned has once again found a way to navigate itself back to the summit of German football. All while doing so with a style and efficiency which can only be seen in that of a German Machine.