Just a little over a year ago if you asked Bayern fans what were the areas where their team had to improve then certainly the answers would have been 1) Defense and 2) Comebacks and mental weakness. It comes with no surprise that these 2 areas are the main reasons why Bayern went for two consecutive seasons without winning any silverware. As soon as these issues were solved, the Bundesliga trophy went right back to where it belongs, the Rekordmeister’s trophy cabinet.
“Strong offense wins games,strong defense wins tournaments.”
For the past few seasons, Bayern’s defense has been a laughing stock on both tactical and individual performances basis. Louis Van Gaal ignored defense tactics completely and during his time in charge Bayern have conceded a huge amount of goals in both Europe and the domestic front. The 2009-2010 season saw Bayern conceding 3 goals away from home to both Manchester United and Fiorentina and 1 goal at home from the same teams. In the 2010 Champions League final although Intermilan only had 32% of the possession, they had more shots on target than Bayern (7-6). In 2011, Bayern conceded 3 goals at home to a much weaker Intermilan side than the one from the 2010 final.
In the 2011-2012 campaign Bayern played a more balanced game between offense and defense under JuppHeynckes and conceded much less goals. However, this time it was individual mistakes that were costing the team important games. The 5-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the final of the Pokal and the last minute Drogba header in the Champions League final are all examples of individual mistakes (I will not point fingers at certain players) that cost Bayern precious trophies.
Comebacks & Mental Weakness
It is without doubt that these two areas are strongly related. Comebacks need mental strength and unfortunately Bayern have been lacking both for a long time now. It was almost a given that if the Bavarians conceded first they were going to lose the game. In all 7 losses last season, Bayern conceded the first goal and never managed to turn the game around. In Europe, Bayern had a big problem winning away from home. In the seasons between 2010 and 2012 Bayern suffered away losses to Roma, Manchester City, Basel and Real Madrid. This is a big indicator of mental weakness where you cannot overcome the barrier of fans chanting against your team.
Unlike what is widely known about Germans never losing on penalties, Bayern actually failed to win the 2012 Champions League final,because of penalties, to Chelsea. Not only that, they were wasteful on many other occasions. Robben missed a penalty during the game and refused to take a shot in the shootout. Toni Kroos and Tymoshchuck were too worried about missing and refused to shoot too. Worst of all, Schweinsteiger was too weak to watch Robben take that penalty and also failed to make his shot hit the back of the net.
Even before the Chelsea game, this weakness almost cost them their semifinal tie with Real Madrid. Bayern were so wasteful in the first leg at the Allianz Arena and missed on the chance of hammering an extremely poor Real Madrid side and could have been punished for these misses at the Santiago Bernabeu. Had it not been for some Manuel Neuer heroics, Bayern could also have been eliminated on penalties because of Toni Kroos and Lahm’s ridiculous misses.
The Magical 2013
The previously mentioned reasons are good enough to make any team lose 2 finals in 3 years even if they were the clear favorites. However, things are very different now. Heynckes has comprehensively solved these issues alongside a few others. In defensive terms, it has become an achievement for teams playing against Bayern to get a shot on target let alone score a goal. They have broken the record for the least goals conceded in a single Bundesliga season. Even the likes of Juventus and Barcelona who are doing wonders in their own domestic leagues could not score a single goal against Bayern in both home and away matches.
Mentally, Bayern are a totally different team than just one year ago. They have conceded first a few times and have done nothing except punish the opposing team for scoring that goal. The latest memory of this is the dramatic 4-3 win over Borussia Monchengladbach when they were 3-1 down just 10 minutes into the game. On the European front, Bayern have won 4, drawn 1 and lost only 1 game away from home including games at the Juventus Stadium and the Camp Nou.
As for the penalties issue, they found a magician in Thomas Müller who is yet to miss a penalty kick after being in charge of them this season. Sammer has probably dealt with the others about this issue since it was one of his objectives from the beginning of this season.
Bayern, in 2013, have solved every problem that was costing them trophies in the past and now they are stronger than ever especially that Borussia Dortmund have failed to beat them even once in four games this season. With the Champions League 2013 final starting in a little more than 48 hours, I can only see Bayern celebrating in the end of the 90 minutes.
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Bayern’s XI vs BVB: Neuer; Rafinha, Van Buyten, Boateng, Contento; Tymoshchuk, Gustavo; Xhaqiri, Pizarro, Alaba; Gomez
Leverkusen 1-2 Bayern.
Leverkusen 1-2 Bayern.
Bayern’s bench: Starke, van Buyten, Contento, Tymoshchuk, Can, Højbjerg, Pizarro.
Leverkusen’s XI vs Bayern: Leno - Carvajal, Wollscheid, Schwaab, Boenisch - Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes - Castro, Kießling, Schürrle.
Bayern 3-2 Düsseldorf.