Reserves have run out of steam
It’s almost a tradition by now: for the third time in a row, Bayern’s reserves have lost their first game after the winter break. Just like in 2015 in Augsburg and in 2016 against Bayreuth, the first league game of 2017 was a 1-0 defeat, this time against FC Ingolstadt. After following that with a 1-1 draw with SpVgg Bayreuth, Heiko Vogel’s side lost their third home game in nine days against TSV 1860 Munich by two goals to nil.
Precisely this derby loss was symbolic for the dilemma in which the team finds itself at the moment. In terms of catching up with Unterhaching, who have built up a healthy lead, the ship has long since sailed. Alongside the departure of manager Heiko Vogel at the end of the season, countless players already know that they’ll be leaving in the summer too. The three experienced players – who are supposed to lead the team – were fighting with various illnesses and knocks during preparation, and are completely out of form.
And the players who have already been in and around the first team are fighting with the typical problem of already feeling themselves to be too good for the fourth division Regionalliga Bayern, although their performances there tell another story. And that’s exactly why the team are playing as they are. That is: without passion, without bite. Without those two qualities, you won’t pick up points in the Regionalliga either. A reserve player spoke to this previously in the first half of the season, saying that he was shocked by the indifference with which some of his team-mates would go into games, while at his previous team he was used to treating every game like a cup final.
The wake-up call for the players will probably come mostly during the summer break, when they’re suddenly left without a club, or the name of their new club isn’t quite so impressive or high-calibre as they’d expected. The hope remains that the players recognise that they aren’t only shaming FC Bayern with their performances, but are also damaging their careers in the long-run.
After Heiko Vogel departs, the position of reserve manager will be filled by a new face. In fact, the face might not be so new: it seems that the decision makers are seeking an internal solution. A final decision hasn’t been reached quite yet though.
Under-19s cement lead at the top
Our A-youth find themselves already at the final stretch of the season. Holger Seitz’s team, five matchdays before the end of the season, are top by three points, with 1. FC Kaiserslautern in second. It’s only three and not six because of a 2-1 defeat this past weekend to 1. FC Nürnberg. Above all Holger Seitz may bemoan the circumstances of the defeat, with his usually so defensively-secure side letting themselves be hit by a classic counter-attack in added time.
Just before that, Christian Früchtl saved a Nürnberg penalty. The 17-year-old goalkeeper, already in possession of a pro contract, had actually been designated for the reserves as early as this second part of the season. Surprisingly, it turned out that in the Regionalliga Bayern there are differing rules from the Bundesliga and UEFA regarding the appearance of academy players. And so Christian Früchtl has been eligible to play in the Champions League since his birthday on the 28th of January, but not yet in the Regionalliga Bayern.
The only players allowed to appear there are those whose age comes under the Under-19s age group. Früchtl, however, was born in 2000, and technically belongs to the Under-17s age group. So he can be moved up into the Under-19s, but not the reserves. The second new arrival, Theo Rieg from VfR Aalen, was mostly a signing for next season, and will probably not play much of a role as this season draws to a close.
The team’s greatest strengths are undoubtedly defensive, as emphasised clearly by only having conceded four goals in their six games during 2017. “Defence wins championships” is often quoted – a motto that manager Holger Seitz clearly has faith in. He’s invested a lot of work on the training ground in defensive organisation, which constantly pays off and of course may be decisive at the end of the fight for the title.
In contrast, the attack remains a flaw in the side. There were indeed 12 goals in those same six games, but seven of those came from set pieces. The team are far too rarely able to generate scoring chances. Unfortunately the Under-19s-Bundesliga doesn’t record the statistics that would be necessary to underline that with numbers.
In this year’s balanced campaign, in which no team has really risen above the rest, the Bayern Under-19s now have a good chance to qualify for the final round of the German championship for the first time since 2013. If they manage this, our A-youth will meet whoever finishes in second place in the Regionalliga West in the semi-final, with a possible final taking place away from home. The rest of their schedule looks doable, with FC Augsburg the only top five opponent.
The two faces of the Under-17s
Our B-youth ended 2016 as winter champions, and began the new year with an intense 3-0 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt, notoriously strong at home, before supposedly easier games. The first was against 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and went terribly wrong. Similar to what we already saw at times in the first half of the season, the team have big problems with reacting well to set-backs, coming back into the game and to their way of playing.
Against Kaiserslautern, the team had already withstood the high press of the guests and gone 1-0 up, before conceding the equaliser out of nothing to a deflected free-kick. Subsequently the team lost almost every tackle and seemed completely uncertain. Good individual work from Ontuzans did indeed bring an equaliser before the final whistle to make things 2-2, but Lautern scored again just before the end to make it 3-2.
The team did win both of the following games at TSV 1860 Munich (second bottom, 2-0) and Kickers Offenbach (bottom, 4-1) convincingly, though both of those harmless sides demonstrated clearly why they’re rightly at the bottom of the table. The remaining games will show what the Under-17s are made of. With games in Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and Mainz, three away games at top teams are coming up, with FC Augsburg (6th), SV Sandhausen (12th) and SpVgg Unterhaching (10th) awaiting at home.
Our Under-17s go into this difficult final stretch with a four-point lead over second-placed Karlsruhe, with a head-to-head coming as early as the 1st of April at the Wildparkstadion. A battle that could indeed swing things in our favour, but could of course go the other way too.
The departures of Sasa Kovacevic (TSG Hoffenheim) and the well-known Toni Trongrancic to Ajax were hot topics in the media during the winter. Both players, however, were not able to advance beyond the status of back-up player, and so FC Bayern granted their wishes to leave.
So it’s not at all about the departures of huge talents, but rather the completely normal comings and goings in youth football. In Josip Stanisic from SC Furstenfeldbruch, the team brought in a new centre-back, who was supposed to make it possible for German youth international Alex Nitzl to play permanently as a right-back. But Stanisic got badly injured in training and will, if at all, be able to join the action in May.
Yannick Brugger has also joined the Under-17s permanently from the Under-16s set-up. Other Under-16s like Flavius Daniliuc or Benedict Hollerbach could also be used when necessary, but in principle will remain with the Under-16s.
Goalfests for Under-16s in opening game
Speaking of the Under-16s: The class of 2001 of FC Bayern is probably the most balanced class in quite some time. Our team finished as the best Bavarian Under-16s team in the Under-17s Bayernliga sitting in 4th. Only the Under-17s teams of 1. FC Nuremberg, Greuther Fürth and FC Ingolstadt are ahead of them. The latter have already been surpassed by the side of Danny Schwarz in the meantime.
The Under-16s kicked off with a 12-0 victory rock bottom Viktoria Aschaffenburg and triumphed 7-0 against second to last in Deggendorf. Although both opponents are the worst teams in the league, both games were their highest defeats of the season by some margin.
It’s going to be exciting to see how the team will perform in the upcoming matches against Ingolstadt and Fürth. Second place is definitely possible behind Nürnberg’s immaculate Under-17s (13 games, 13 wins) considering Danny Schwarz’s side are performing more consistent so far. A higher spot in the table in the first half of the season was denied by draws against Deggendorf (1-1) and Regensburg (1-1) as well as a loss to Erlangen-Bruck (1-2).
In the Under-16s a lot of things have changed in terms of personnel: With Tidiane M’Baye a player is leaving, who has not progressed in terms of technique nor understanding of the game because of being injury-prone. Yannick Brugger has moved up to the Under-17s and goalkeeper Niklas Theile has transferred back to DFI Bad Aibling. Marin Topic has gone the opposite way and will fill out the vacant third goalkeeper spot.
Justin Butler, who missed the whole first half of the season due to a muscle injury, is back in the match squad. Jalen Hawkins isn’t there yet, after tearing his ACL in summer but has returned to team training. From the Under-15s Malik Tillman (brother of Timothy Tillman) und Moritz Mosandl have moved up to the Under-16s. Especially the attacking department now doesn’t only have good depth, there is also a lot of quality.
Under-15s lose key player
The Under-15s of FC Bayern received bad news in an in-door tournament already: Starting goalkeeper Lukas Brandl broke his leg and had to undergo surgery. Thus means Manuel Kainz is the only remaining goalkeeper for the rest of the season, as the Under-14s starting goalkeeper is also injured. Until the winter break the Under-15s were the problem child of sorts when they lost against Eintracht Frankfurt and VfB Stuttgart (both games 0-3). Showing that FC Bayern doesn’t have one of the best classes of 2002. Making their furious start to the second half of the season more surprising, winning 7-0 in Ingolstadt and a 4-1 victory against Darmstadt.
Coach Peter Wenninger adjusted the team slightly. Malik Tillman was moved forward from attacking midfield to striker, Moritz Mosandl went from central midfield to attacking midfield. From the Under-14s right-back Roman Reinelt and the basically unchallenged winger Lasse Günther have been moved up. This seems to have given the team the missing impulses going forward, even though the third game after the winter break was lost 1-3 against Stuttgarter Kickers. How the team will perform for the rest of the season is extremely tough to judge, as the team lost their two best players in Malik Tillamn and Moritz Mosandl. Here FC Bayern is definitely following the principle of “individual development over team success”, because at the end of the day it’s about developing players.
Comment on the current discussion in the media
In the course of the new appointments for the club academy positions in Jochen Sauer and Herrmann Gerland and the headlines about it, one could often read how bad the youth development of FC Bayern really is and the two have to rebuild it. Unfortunately, it became obvious that most of the articles in tabloids were thrown together in minutes without doing any research.
The success of concepts and certain measures in the youth sector isn’t going to become visible in one or two years, but rather five or six years. The calculation is simple, the youngest players of FC Bayern are eight years old. The core of a youth team is developed until the Under-15s, until that point players can’t be tied to a club through a contract. Until the first class is on the brink of entering senior football, which was assembled with the new scouting concept and has been coached with innovations in coaching, a lot of time will pass.
Changes made several years ago by Wolfgang Dremmler, Michael Tarnat and Jürgen Jung are starting to deliver positive results, the positions of the Under-17s and Under-19s in their respective leagues are showing that. Meaning, the task of Hermann Gerland and Jochen Sauer won’t be to overhaul the youth sector or to proclaim a new start.
It’s more about continuing the good work of their predecessors and creating a concept for the transition phase to slowly introduce the big prospects to our senior team, the ones who are set to shape the next generation of FC Bayern. If talents from the own ranks are going to be as fascinating as David Alaba and Thomas Müller are today, the media will probably only credit Hermann Gerland. However, it would be the result of whole department’s great work over many years.