Bundesliga champions in early April with a 20-point lead and five games to spare – it’s all been easy peasy for Bayern Munich, right? No, in fact – at least not until Jupp Heynckes took over as head coach. So how exactly did the 72-year-old turn the club’s fortunes around?
After all, when he took over at the start of October, Bayern were five points behind Borussia Dortmund in the domestic standings and had just been outclassed by Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League group stage. bundesliga.com takes a look at how the silver-haired supremo steadied the ship.
- MAN MANAGEMENT
With Bayern flailing back in September, several of the club’s senior players voiced their displeasure as the rift grew between Carlo Ancelotti and the team. “Obviously my qualities are not entirely wanted,” said Thomas Müller after being dropped to the bench. “I don’t know what the coach expects of me.”
There are no such outbursts under Heynckes, who has the dressing room firmly on his side. “I’m a down-to-earth person,” Heynckes said in an interview with German newspaper TZ. “My biggest strength is my authenticity. [The players] know that I’m a coach who makes decisions based on performances and that I make an effort to keep everyone as happy as possible.”
Not only has Müller been restored to the starting XI, Heynckes has also tickled out the best in playmaker James Rodriguez, who now has six goals and 10 assists in the Bundesliga this season. The Colombian has admitted the fact that Heynckes speaks fluent Spanish has helped him flourish.
While Heynckes may also come across as a doting grandfather-figure, he is, in fact, a strict disciplinarian. Upon his arrival for a fourth spell as Bayern boss, he imposed a series of rules designed to foster togetherness and team spirit.
These include the players having to tidy up the changing room themselves, obligatory communal meal times, a ban on mobile phones at the meal table and in the gym, strict adherence to punctuality and no cliques.
4️⃣ titles playing for Gladbach.
4️⃣ titles managing Bayern.
1️⃣ Bundesliga legend. pic.twitter.com/DJ0Ks4926P
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) April 7, 2018
You might expect world-class stars to reject such limitations as beneath them, but the opposite is true. “The discipline, the clear structure [Jupp] brings – they’re all things that are doing the lads the power of good,” revealed Mats Hummels.”When he came in, he spoke to everyone at length. It’s great for players if they know exactly what he does and doesn’t want to see.”
Heynckes confirmed there would be no big title celebrations after the Meisterschale was secured following the 4-1 win in Augsburg on Matchday 29, highlighting the fact that his side have important fixtures coming up in the Champions League and the DFB Cup. He also cancelled the championship parties during the unprecedented treble campaign in 2012/13 in his last spell at the helm – a success that gives an extra weight of authority to his decisions.
- TACTICAL TWEAKS
One of Heynckes’ smartest moves was to do very little in terms of the team’s tactics. Rather than making wholesale changes or introducing a revolutionary system, he kept things simple. Indeed, the biggest difference to his team, compared to the Ancelotti era, was to move Javi Martinez back into defensive midfield from centre-back.
“You have to put in a lot more legwork midfield compared to central defence, and he does it brilliantly,” said Heynckes of the 29-year-old, who was an essential component of the club’s treble-winning vintage. “Since he’s been playing in midfield we’ve improved our stability and the quality of our defensive work.”
He has also kept key players fresh by rotating his starting line-up. Veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have been used sparingly, often saved for the big games, and have produced 10 goals and eight assists between them this term. Robert Lewandowski is now also afforded the occasional breather following the signing of Sandro Wagner in January.
All of which bodes well for the club as they look to add two more pieces of silverware to their collection before the season is out.
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