Bayern Munich's defender Verena Faisst (R) vies with Paris Saint-Germain's Spain defender Irene Paredes during the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on March 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Reinventing Bayern’s Women’s Team pt. 3 – Looking Ahead

In the first part of the FCB women series, the last three seasons were reviewed. In the second we took a look at the possible reasons for the departures. Author: Jolle • Translator: Sam

Now we want to look forwards. What can the squad offer right now, where does it need to be improved and how is the women’s department looking overall?

The current Bayern women’s squad packs a punch

In the context of the departures, it’s easy to forget how much horsepower Bayern have in their squad. A realm of seasoned internationals are in the team and more than a few of them belong or belonged to the German international setup. USA, Japan and France are fantastic countries for women’s football, which Germany can’t always keep up with and not at all levels. But Germany is top of the international rankings in women’s football, reigning European and Olympic champion, and also reached the semi-final of the World Cup in Canada two years ago.

PlayerCountryOlympic GamesWord CupEUROs
BeerensteynNL2017
BehringerDE2008, 20162007, 2011, 20152009, 2013
DäbritzDE201620152013, 2017
DemannDE2017
IslackerDE20162017
KorpelaFI2009, 2013
LaudehrDE2008, 20162007, 2011, 20152009, 2013
LeupolzDE201620152013
LotzenDE20152013
MaierDE201620152013, 2017
RolföSE20162017
RoordNL2017
SchnaderbeckAT2017
WenningerAT2017
ZinsbergerAT2017

Then you have players whose home countries haven’t always managed to qualify for the big tournaments, but have developed hugely in the last few years. For example the Austrians who are now at the World Cup for the first time, or the hosts of the coming Euros, the Netherlands. Gina Lewandowski would be a key member of any other country’s national team. As an American, she shares the same problem that many of her male colleagues from Brazil have: her country is an enormous pool of talent.

Yet at club level, the players have already fought many a decisive battle. Adding champions, semi-finalists or finalists from the academy sides would make the list considerably longer, but even in this rather strict interpretation it should be clear how much experience Bayern have in the squad.

PlayerBig Games
Tinja-Riikka KorpelaChampions League Final 2014
Verena FaißtChampions League Final, German Cup Final 2015
Gina LewandowskiGerman Cup Finals 2008, 2011
Viktoria SchnaderbeckGerman Cup Final 2012
Carina WenningerGerman Cup Final 2012
Jovana DamnjanovićGerman Cup Finals 2016, 2017
Dominika ŠkorvánkováGerman Cup Finals 2016, 2017, Slovakian Cup Finals 2009, 2011, 2012
Lena LotzenEURO Final 2013, German Cup Final 2012
Lineth BeerensteynKNVB Cup Finals 2013, 2016
Jill RoordKNVB Cup Finals 2015
Sara DäbritzOlympic Games Final 2016
Melanie LeupolzOlympic Games Final 2016
Leonie MaierOlympic Games Final 2016, EURO Final 2013
Mandy IslackerOlympic Games Semifinal 2016, Champions League Final 2015
Lucie VoňkováCzech Cup Final 2013
Simone LaudehrWorld Cup Final 2007, EURO Finals 2009, 2013, Champions League Final 2015, German Cup Finals 2009, 2010, 2014
Melanie BehringerWorld Cup Final 2007, Olympic Games Final 2016, EURO Final 2009, German Cup Finals 2011, 2012, 2014

While the squad is pretty well-stocked in midfield and in goal, the departures at centre-back and up front have revealed a need for action.

Goalkeepers

Anyone with questions about the quality of our number one Tinja-Riikka Korpela should treat themselves to a rewatch of the second leg against PSG. Manuela Zinsberger has proven every time she has had the chance that she can be trusted with the role of back-up goalkeeper. If she gets through another year of job sharing, she can dominate the goalkeeper position at Bayern for years to come.

Defence

The departure of Holstad, Abbé and Van der Gragt means a new arrival at centre-back, or rather half-back, is necessary. In Kristin Demann the club has already snapped up a player with a lot of Bundesliga experience who plays in that position. In her two years at Potsdam (2011-13) she rarely played, but in her four years that followed at Hoffenheim she was an undisputed key player, contesting almost every single minute (7,847 out of 7,920), and chipped in with an average of 2.5 goals per season.

Then, in Gina Lewandowski and Verena Faißt, Bayern have two versatile players who may be pencilled in for other positions (left wing; attacking midfield) but have already proven that they can keep things tight at the back too. Viktoria Schnaderbeck and Carina Wenninger are top-class centre-backs anyway, with creative qualities that also make them fit to play in defensive midfield.

Leonie Maier has the right hand-side of defence firmly in her grasp, but if she can support the team elsewhere on the pitch, then it’s in defensive midfield in build-up play or parallel to Faißt and Lewandowski on the flank in attack. Bayern’s defence is stable, yet with three competitions to contest and three positions to be filled, the centre of defence is a bit threadbare. With the departures of Holstad and Abbé, Bayern have also been robbed entirely of a competitive advantage, namely aerial strength. A reinforcement is still needed, someone who can defend centrally and offer potential goals from headers.

Midfield and attack

The gap left wide open by the exit of Vivianne Miedema as a goalscorer can’t simply be filled with a like-for-like replacement. There’s not just a player wandering around on the market that just has to be snapped up.

PlayerMinutesGoalsGoals/90
Vivianne Miedema1807140.6973
Melanie Behringer167850.2682
Nicole Rolser98540.3655
Caroline Abbé96220.1871
Gina Lewandowski187620.0959
Lena Lotzen9810.9184
Vanessa Bürki27210.3309
Anna Gerhardt29110.3093
Katharina Baunach54910.1639
Simone Laudehr55710.1616
Nora Holstad Berge114510.0786
Carina Wenninger129210.0697
Sara Däbritz187010.0481

“Seeking top players on the market is futile, nobody is available […], unless you want to pay horrific fees, and we’re not going down that path.”
Karin Danner, Manager of FC Bayern Women, ovb-online.de

While Miedema became more and more dangerous in front of goal in her three years at Bayern, doubling her output and then maintaining that high level, FCB as a team has scored fewer and fewer goals. The dependence on the Dutchwoman’s goals resulted in an unhealthy imbalance. Even if she had stayed, other players would have needed to take on more responsibility in the danger zones going forward.

FC Bayern Women Goals Allianz Frauen Bundesliga 2016/ 17
Too reliant on Miedema, fewer goals scored, more conceded
SeasonGoals scoredGoals concededGoal differenceGoals Miedema
2014/15567497
2015/164783914
2016/1736152114

Some reinforcements are already to hand. The Swedish striker Fridolina Rolfö was meant to already provide a solution in the second half of last season, but just like Lena Lotzen and Simone Laudehr she was frustrated by injury. All three of them, alongside Nicole Rolser, will have to contribute with goals.

“[Fridolina Rolfö] is getting better and better [and Nicole Rosler] is working and toiling for three. […] The new arrivals are crowbars, we have a lot of workers, we just need a poacher.”
Karin Danner, Manager of FC Bayern Women, ovb-online.de

Whether Danner was already counting the two newcomers from Twente is unclear. What is clear, however, is this: Jill Roord was top scorer and league champion with Twente in 2015/16. Bayern were already interested in signing her at the time, along with Stefanie van der Gragt. She felt, however, that she was not yet ready to make the step abroad, and wanted to gain experience at Twente for one more year.

Yet more firepower, however, was brought over from Twente to Bavaria. Dutch international striker Lineth Beerensteyn scored 48 goals in 106 first division games over five seasons (four at ADO den Haag, one at Twente), before she signed a three-year contract at Bayern. Hopefully she can make the necessary leap forward to produce good numbers in the defensively-strong Bundesliga.

Update: Former Munich forward Mandy Islacker returns
The perfect solution: Islacker played for the Reds between 2007 and 2010. She was top scorer of the Bundesliga twice in the last two years at Frankfurt.

Signings from Sand

Bayern will remember how dangerous Jovana Damnjanović is in front of goal, and with some horror. In April 2016 she turned the tables with her 1-1 equaliser in the semi-final of the DFB Pokal in Sand, helping to knock Bayern out in the process. She also scored in the most recent DFB Pokal final, and not just against anybody, but against her former club, VfL Wolfsburg. If she hadn’t missed almost three months from September to December 2016 due to a broken metatarsal, she would obviously have scored more for Sand last season than two goals. Indeed, she has already won the cup, league and Champions League with Wolfsburg, albeit from the bench. She brings precisely the hunger and willpower to take Bayern to the next level.

“I’m a fighter and I always give everything for the team. I want to show that at Bayern too […] I said yes straight away. I want to win titles with Bayern. League, cup and Champions League.”
Jovana Damnjanović, new signing from SC Sand, fcbayern.com

NameSeasonMinutesGoalsStartingGamesTeam
Dominika Škorvánková2015/16147531717SC Sand
Dominika Škorvánková2016/17118231314SC Sand
Jovana Damnjanović2014/1522003VfL Wolfsburg
Jovana Damnjanović2015/16123361419SC Sand
Jovana Damnjanović2016/178412813SC Sand
Kristin Demann2014/151984422221899 Hoffenheim
Kristin Demann2015/161992222221899 Hoffenheim
Kristin Demann2016/171891321211899 Hoffenheim
Lucie Voňková2013/1421001VfL Wolfsburg
Lucie Voňková2013/1487011014FCR 2001 Duisburg / MSV Duisburg
Lucie Voňková2014/15128311418MSV Duisburg
Lucie Voňková2015/16141961820FF USV Jena
Lucie Voňková2016/17109361214FF USV Jena
Mandy Islacker2011/121470101719FCR 2001 Duisburg
Mandy Islacker2012/131589151820FCR 2001 Duisburg
Mandy Islacker2012/1390011VfL Wolfsburg
Mandy Islacker2013/141922122222BV Cloppenburg
Mandy Islacker2014/15956510201. FFC Frankfurt
Mandy Islacker2015/1618561722221. FFC Frankfurt
Mandy Islacker2016/1716621919191. FFC Frankfurt

Damnjanović brings with her from Sand the Slovakian title chaser Dominika Škorvánková. With her thrusts from midfield she’s always good for goals too, and will add presence and strength in the tackle to the middle of the park. Her pepper will give Bayern more chances on the counter in their transition game, and make sure fewer of those are available to the opposition.

Update: Bayern signed Lucie Voňková
The Czech forward joins from Jena, after playing for Duisburg and the two Prague clubs Slavia and Sparta.

Chances for youngsters: internal “newcomers”

Promotions from within, however, will also increase competition in attack. Whether Sydney Lohmann and Verena Wieder will be able to get involved regularly already remains to be seen, but last season Bayern already began to lay the tracks towards the future with the signing of Anna Gerhardt. In her first year she was unable to nail down a role in the team.

On the one hand she was put out of action by injury, and on the other she spent a lot of time with the international youth sides. Last July she put her speed and dribbling skills to use at the under-19 Euros for Germany, and in November the under-20 World Cup was on the agenda. Her skillset could be compared with that of the departing Lisa Evans, although her ceiling is supposedly higher than the Scot’s.

The engine room

In the past, Bayern’s strengths in combinations and technical ability have always been a plus. In fact, Behringer, Leupolz and Däbritz make up a trio that can absolutely dominate a match from the centre of the pitch. In defence, Leupolz and Behringer tidy everything up, with great vision in attack, added to the speed of action and technical ingenuity to move the game forwards and to spring their team free in the dangerous areas of the pitch with few touches. In the second line, Behringer brings a goal threat, while from outside the area Däbritz and Leupolz can supply the decisive pass to strikers like Rolser who excel at combination play, or indeed find their own way to the goal with one-twos or dribbles.

With precisely these qualities in mind, it’s important to play Däbritz as a box-to-box midfielder or just off the striker, rather than on the wing. She absolutely is effective from wide too, and from there she can initiate combinations and dribble into the left half-space. But what Bayern are missing, after the departures of Mana Iwabuchi and Vero Boquete, is a playmaker type in the number ten position to supply the final pass. This role in Bayern’s system, in contrast for example to a 4-2-3-1, isn’t completely fixed. The zone must be occupied dynamically by the midfield trio and also the strikers dropping back. It’ll be a huge task for the new attackers in the squad to take on the opposing defence, to push forwards at the right moments or drop back selectively in midfield in order to be available for passes and to lure their markers out of defence.

It won’t be enough to go down the wings with pace and cross into the middle. Bayern will have to bypass the opponent in the centre. The question here is also where Simone Laudehr should be played. She has all of the strategic abilities to control the game from deep like Behringer, but her speed and strength in one-on-ones have dwindled somewhat. Because of that she often started on the left wing with a lot of freedom, able to cut inside to great extent. Bayern aren’t as dangerous on the right at the moment, which brings problems with it. Firstly the right half-space hasn’t been as effectively overloaded as the left. Secondly, switches of play from the left half-space often ended up at the feet of Leonie Maier, who’s fantastic for combinations around the penalty area and the by-line, but not so much for shooting directly at goal. That’s not her job anyway – think of Philipp Lahm.

The team has to reinvent itself – including the coaching team

After the squad upheaval three years ago came the league title. Things won’t always work like that.

“That shows us that an upheaval always has its positives too.”
Karin Danner, Manager of FC Bayern Women, ovb-online.de

What’s important, however, is that Bayern women stay like they were then. They won’t start from zero again. And yet the basics must be freshened up. Otherwise going around in circles will lead to a downward spiral.

To spread the goal-scoring burden onto more shoulders, the coaching team has to develop ways of making the team systematically more dangerous. One the one hand that means working on set pieces that consistently overwhelm the opposition. Lots of underdog sides like Ingolstadt under Hasenhüttl, Iceland at the Euros or the then-champions of Denmark Midtjylland FC two years ago have employed this strategy successfully. Women can manage to engineer for themselves an even greater advantage in this, since the goals are equal in size to those in men’s football, making them harder to defend for the comparatively smaller women with less jumping power. The lack in heading ability in Bayern’s current squad has already been pointed out as a problem.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of work needed in order to coordinate and automate the movement of all eleven players on the pitch so that Bayern can systematically play themselves into dangerous areas and also be able to use the small windows in which the opponents are a step too slow to the ball or shift their weight wrong. Simply relying on strokes of genius from individual players isn’t enough in football today. The movements of the players should be more crucial in the foundations, allowing the players to then let loose with their ability and ideas.

If Bayern’s midfield, technically strong and full of talented passers, also works on their speed with the ball and their precise use of the ball, as was the case in the past with technical and creative coach Matthias Nowak, then Behringer can also be more dangerous from the second line; then Rosler can also bring two markers onto her and play in Laudehr or Däbritz; then Leupolz and Däbritz can also overload the centre with one-twos. Letting the sparks fly from the new signings and reigniting those in the current team, rewiring the synapses for the new movements and automatisms required, will be a tough task for the head – and for the coaching staff.

Age structure

The upheaval in the squad will lead to a younger squad. Last season, Bayern had the fourth oldest squad in the league. At the end of May 2017, the average age was 24 years old. However, due to some injury misfortune, some of Bayern’s own academy talents had the chance to gain minutes in the Bundesliga. Verena Wieder and Sydney Lohmann have only recently turned 16, Barbara Brecht 17 and Ivana Slipčević will only be 19 in August. These four lowered the average by around a year and a half, meaning only Wolfsburg started out with an older squad.

TeamAverage Age May, 2017
Wolfsburg25.67
Sand25.23
Duisburg24.59
Bayern24.00
Essen23.13
Frankfurt22.93
Jena22.93
Potsdam22.69
Leverkusen22.65
Hoffenheim22.22
Freiburg22.14
Gladbach22.10

This move to a younger squad will also mean that players like Schnaderbeck, Däbritz or Leupolz will need to take on bigger leadership roles. Looking at Däbritz, the process of going from a talent with a lot of potential to a player who leads the way in difficult situations is a good example. We’ll see how much consistency she can bring to her responsibility and who else can grow into a leadership role.

European position

Bayern women are both lucky and unlucky to be a part of FC Bayern Munich. The advantages are huge. They’re clearly more lucky than unlucky. Bayern Munich is a big name, bringing with it viewers as well as colleagues in the management team and good footballers. The club has a wealth of experience in how to run a successful football club. The club is located in an attractive state capital. FC Bayern Munich’s financial power is second to none globally. The size of the budget in the women’s side of things is then more of a question of negotiation within the club than a question of world finance. The women also profit from the on-site infrastructure. That will be even more the case from August, when the women will move from Aschheim into the new academy performance centre.

And yet many make the mistake of equating the standing of the men’s team with that of the women. “We should probably be able to keep up with Wolfsburg.” “We should be aspiring to be on the same level as PSG,” is what you hear then. The fantasy breaks down a little when you realise that the budget for Wolfsburg’s women’s team is more than twice as big as Bayern’s. Lyon and PSG’s budgets are four or even five times as big.

In this department, the exact numbers aren’t revealed (some – in part no longer up-to-date – statements allow us to make calculations here, here and there). However, it is rumoured that Bayern spend around €1.5 million a year, Frankfurt around €1.8 million and Wolfsburg roughly €3.5 million. PSG and Lyon come in at around €5-7 million yearly.

“Before, the women’s teams were just allowed to do their own thing per the motto ‘Nice to have them’. In the meantime, we’ve noticed what a great contribution they make to FC Bayern’s image. It stands the whole club in good stead to have such a likeable and successful women’s team.”
Uli Hoeneß, FC Bayern President, fcbayern.com

“And when I see how much they cost us in terms of budget, it makes the heart jump for joy.”
Uli Hoeneß, FC Bayern President, taz.de

Now, a budget doesn’t have a 1:1 impact on the quality of the players. Smaller clubs like SC Freiburg have had success with an academy that brings football and school in harmony. Or, as in the case of Clara Schöne, making sure that a player can complete their education when they transfer, being picked up by car overnight. Tom Wörle manages to not just market the location of Munich, but to motivate potential players towards a transfer with pure passion for the project. This engagement comes from the heart and can’t be replaced by money.

It’s also possible with a small budget to go over the financial pain barrier for a certain player here and there. What that means for the framework of the squad shouldn’t be overlooked. Women footballers have decent salaries in the here and now, but their careers end sooner or later and sometimes very abruptly. Then they’re left standing there at about 30 years old, with huge character and a lot of valuable experiences, but with the same traditional career experience as the competition on the employment market, who are ten years younger. Nothing about that will change just by giving every player €1,000 more per month. One thing is clear: you don’t sign Marta, Dzsenifer Marozsán, Ramona Bachmann or Carli Lloyd with that.

“Captain of the national team Dzsenifer Marozsan supposedly reels in €300,000 in a year in Lyon – in Frankfurt it was €3,500 a month.”
Frank Hellmann, Journalist, taz.de

The topic of salary is, however, only one of the decisive aspects for players in the women’s game. What would bring the Bayern women side decisively forwards isn’t just one or two superstars. They would help, for sure, but it’s about the organisation of the women’s department. About professional structures. About infrastructure. About expertise in scouting, in marketing, in medical care, in opposition analysis, in the management of training.

It’s not a problem that the players have to bring their own material onto the pitch themselves. It’s okay that the changing rooms look like those from school sports. It’s also not the end of the world if the fans have to help shovel snow from the pitch before the game in winter.

It is, however, a problem if the team can’t access the most modern testing and treatment procedures from medicine and sports science to the extent that the burden can be managed optimally. It is a problem if the coaching staff do not have enough time for developing plays and set pieces because, alongside opposition analysis, the daily training exercises have to be planned and the cones have to be set out on the pitch. It’s a disadvantage when your small staff size means you can’t permanently take small groups to the side and oversee them in order to make automatisms out of ideas. We can safely presume that the people in the supporting staff do their best, but time is limited and you can’t be everywhere.

Even if players can always point to FC Bayern’s great conditions and be happy about the academy performance centre when they come to renew their contracts, most recently the away game at PSG must have opened their eyes to the fact that they are far from being at the very cutting edge. Just a trip to Wolfsburg would shows that.

“PSG are well-stocked in every position and are also at a very high level physically. They were very homogeneous as a team, very experienced, smart and ruthless. It was almost men’s football. […] We have to recognise that we still have to turn a few screws to at some point be able to have a real chance against an opponent like that.”
Thomas Wörle, FC Bayern Women First Team Coach, fcbayern.com

“That was a visual lesson and it obviously hurt. A lot has to change in the club, we can’t continue like this. […] We went out against a superior opponent who plays in another league financially and sportingly.”
Thomas Wörle, FC Bayern Women First Team Coach, taz.de

“With the possibilities that we have at the moment, we can’t keep up with the best in Europe.”
Thomas Wörle, FC Bayern Women First Team Coach, sport1.de

The wrong comparison

In the club one notices that there’s more and more engagement for women’s football. More in comparison to previously. However, the benchmark isn’t what was done X years ago, but what the market leader is doing today and will do tomorrow. The competition isn’t getting smaller. Manchester City and Chelsea are emulating the French model, which has seen clubs go from nothing to the top of the world in ten years. Real Madrid are working to build up a women’s team and Barcelona are opening up a branch in the American league.

Two years ago, coach Tom Wörle said he would be the wrong man for the job if it were just about opening the coffers and throwing money around. He said he wanted to build the team up in a solid way, step by step, from the bottom.

It’s time for the next step.

Part 1: Reviewing the last three seasons

Part 2: Why the turnover



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