Supporters give us updates on Nagelsmann, Upamecano, Lewandowski and much, much more
It's been business as usual so far this season for the nine-time consecutive Bundesliga winners, as they top the charts domestically and in Europe. Bayern currently lead challengers Borussia Dortmund at the top of the league and are set to win UEFA Champions League Group E with ease. They've scored 42 goals in 13 league games and 19 in 5 European matches, outscoring every other team in both competitions. Doing his bit as always, Polish superstar striker Robert Lewandowski is currently the top scorer in the Bundesliga (14) and in the Champions League (9). They've got world class players across the pitch, strength in depth, a highly sought after young coach, arguably the best forward on the planet and seemingly the world at their feet.
Things have dropped off slightly, very slightly in recent weeks. In October, Bayern scored four or more goals in four of their five matches in all competitions, the only anomaly being their shocking exit from the DFB Pokal at the hands of Monchengladbach 5-0. Since beating Benfica 5-2 in the UCL at the start of November, they've failed to score more than twice in a game, and slipped to another disappointing loss, this time in the league 2-1 to Augsburg. By most teams standards, being at the top of your domestic league having lost only two in thirteen, and topping your Champions League group on maximum points while winning all five games and only one of those by less than three goals, would be considered a success.
However, given the recent downturn in total annihilation, some supporters may be worried that a dry spell is on the horizon. Borussia Dortmund fans, on the other hand, will be praying for just that. They sit one point behind their rivals in second place waiting to pounce if Bayern make any more mistakes. Will the champions give them such an opportunity, and if so will Marco Rose's men take it? Is Nagelsmann the right man to take this Bayern side forward? Are the new signings he brought with him from Leipzig performing to the right standard? Are there any bright sparks ready to step up from the academy?
We were scratching our heads about these things and many more, so we asked for some guidance from three prominent members of the Bayern Munich online community. We reached out to Kiran Thakare, Site Expert over at Bayern Strikes; Chuck Smith, Site Manager and Podcaster for Bavarian Football Works; and Augustus, popular Twitter user and Bayern fan, to get their views on some of the most pressing topics in Munich on and off the pitch.
Q. How well is Julian Nagelsmann fitting in at Bayern and do you see him continuing the good work laid down by Hansi Flick?
Kiran: The pre-season was not exactly the best for Nagelsmann in terms of results, but the team got into its groove as the season progressed. After sharing points against Monchengladbach, Bayern steadily improved during August and September. The collective pressing from the team was on the money, and the team was efficient in both boxes. During October, Bayern hit its first run of poor form as the defence was leaking poor goals including in the erratic performance in the DFB Pokal defeat against Gladbach. Nevertheless, it has been a steady start for Nagelsmann. The team has shown both positives and negatives in the last three months. It will be interesting to see how Nagelsmann irons out any negatives and makes Bayern the best team in Europe.
Q. What about Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer who followed him from Leipzig? Which of the two is more likely to be a success in Bavaria?
Kiran: Upamecano has enjoyed a good start to his career in Bavaria. He has looked solid at the back. His ability on the ball does give Bayern another dimension when they look to pin down the opposition. The French defender has had the odd poor game, but overall it has been decent start. Meanwhile, Sabitzer has endured a testing start to his career at Bayern. He has found it difficult to get an extended run in the starting XI. As the season progresses, the Austrian will get more chances to impress. In the long run, Upamecano is likely to be an overwhelming success since his ceiling is much higher than that of Sabitzer.
Q. Do you envisage Dortmund or Leipzig putting up any kind of real challenge for the title this season? Will Bayern drop enough points for that to even be possible?
Kiran: Whenever Dortmund or Leipzig have had the chance to pile pressure on Bayern, they have fumbled this season. However, both teams have very good squads that could give Bayern a good run for their money this season. Dortmund will be hoping for Erling Haaland to make his return as soon as possible to make a push for the Bundesliga title.
Q. It seems like every year Germany produces another crop of outstanding prospects. Who are the latest few popping up in the Bayern ranks who we’re likely to be raving about in a few years?
Chuck: It is kind of funny. Bayern Munich — for all of its success — has been unable to really develop many youth players successfully as of late when compared to say a club like Bayer Leverkusen (Kai Havertz, Florian Wirtz). The talent and depth on the first-team roster have created a dead-end for many youngsters as we saw Niklas Dorsch, Angelo Stiller, and many others bolt the campus. Right now, Bayern Munich’s top-tier youngsters are Jamal Musiala and Tanguy Nianzou, who are both subs on the first team roster. Chris Richards is out on loan with Hoffenheim or he would be on that list as well, but Bayern Munich II and the youth teams have a few to keep an eye on including Arijon Ibrahimovic, Taylor Booth, Malik Tillman, Armindo Sieb, Gabriel Vidović, Nemanja Motika, and Christopher Scott just to name a few.
Q. Could you give us a little bit of insight into how things are going off the pitch at the club? Is everything going well financially? How’s the current relationship between the fans and the ownership?
Chuck: Off the pitch, it’s the Wild Wild West. COVID-19 is running rampant through the campus as players, coaches, and team personnel are all getting hit. Of course, there is the ongoing controversy with five players not currently being vaccinated (two have likely made the decision to take the jab now). Financially, the team is prudent and conservative, so they are still afloat and in good shape, but the recent restrictions on crowd sizes in Germany will hurt the team’s coffers. In addition, the club’s sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways has also taken a hit as fans are rising up against that relationship in protest. For once, the action on the pitch is far more peaceful than what is going on off of it.
Q. Do you think if Bayern cruise to a tenth consecutive title that the organisations responsible need to do something to make the league more competitive and thus, more interesting to viewers?
Augustus: I think it's time we shift the focus from Bayern, you can't blame someone for being successful. No one asked Usain Bolt to lose some races to make the others look more interesting/challenging. I think it's time to hold the other clubs accountable for the big inconsistency their teams suffer from or maybe the solution is to stop allowing billionaires to buy clubs. We talk about FFP but it has never been a real solution and in the end Bundesliga talents will end up leaving anyway, either to Bayern or somewhere else and it's hard to build competitive teams if most clubs lose their best players.
Q. With the legendary Robert Lewandowski approaching the latter stages of his career, is there an idea among fans about who could potentially take on his mantle?
Augustus: It's a hard question, he is showing no signs of slowing down but he is indeed getting older. I think at this rate he might get extended which means we will for sure not sign Haaland /or Vlahovic but we are keeping an eye on the market, probably scouting the most interesting talents. I think we will have to ask this question again in two years because Lewandowski is 99% staying.
Q. With the side one point clear at the top of the league and into the knockout stages of the Champions League, what are fans expectations for this season? What would be considered a success, and what would be considered a failure?
Augustus: Only one point clear in the league, so we do expect a tough title race, it will be exciting for the fans and for the players. For the Champions League, Flick raised the bar so high. The expectations are really tough. We want to see the team destroy its opponents, play attractive football, score lots of goals and at least reach the semi finals I'd say.
Next up for Bayern is a huge clash at the top of the Bundesliga, the biggest, as Julian Nagelsmann and his team gear up for Der Klassiker. They travel to Dortmund this Saturday for a match that may determine which way the title race is going to go this season. Following that, they will aim to be one of a few teams in history to qualify from the Champions League group stage on maximum points having won all six matches. To do so they will need to beat Barcelona at the Allianz Arena.
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