It’s unusual to see the same youth player below the U19 in the same team for two years in a row. In most cases the whole squad moves up. For this year’s U17 it’s different. Last season the coaching team of Tim Walter and Tobi Schweinsteiger have already pulled up the most talented U16 prospects. Goalkeeper Christian Früchtl, the centre-backs Alex Nitzl and Lars Lukas Mai, midfielder Tobi Heiland as well as forward Franck Evina were leading players in their team, which just missed out on winning the Bundesliga South. All five of them are still with the U17 and should lead the team due to their past experience. They’re joined by several players from last season’s U16 team, players like Marcel Zylla or Aleksandar Kovacevic, who have already featured for the U17.
They’re facing only two external arrivals. From 1. FC Kaiserslautern Oliver Batista-Meier arrives at the Isar. He played for Kaiserslautern’s U17 in the second half of last season, despite being born in 2001 and still being eligible for the U15. Batista-Meier is a youth international for the DFB and plays on the wing, however he can also be deployed as a centre-forward. The second signing is Yannick Brugger from the blue local rivals in Munich. He joined last winter but had to restrict himself to practice. The blue rivals, which Brugger had already featured for, refused the necessary agreement to change the playing permission. Born in 2001 too, Brugger is physically strong for his age and can play either centre-back or defensive midfielder.
Promising preseason results
The start of the preseason was a dominant 6-0 win against Tennis Borussia Berlin, a Bundesliga side in the group North/Northeast. Afterwards Walter’s team defeated the older U18s of Arsenal (2-1) and Manchester United (2-0). A real indicator was also the Bundesligacup in Wüstenrot. There, our team beat Schalke 04 in the preliminary round and picked up a point against Hertha BSC and VfB Stuttgart respectively. In the semi-final Borussia Dortmund was defeated with 1-0, before losing the final against Eintracht Frankfurt despite playing superior football due to two individual errors with 0-2. Considering that more and more starting players got injured as the tournament progressed, a very promising result.
The only setback in preseason was the clear 1-7 loss against the U18s of RB Salzburg, the high scoreline being attributed to low stamina after a very intense week at training camp in Ruhpolding. Two days later the squad drew 3-3 against FC Basel. After our boys were 3-1 up and two missed penalties, the high workload took its toll. That FC Basel, who won the Swiss U16 championship in that particular setup, were clearly dominated was a good sign once more. The conclusion to preseason was provided by a distinctive 8-0 win against the older U18s of FC Southampton. That the game didn’t finish in double digits exposes one weakness of the team, which the coaching staff might has to worry about, the poor finishing.
Classic Bayern style
With the 4-3-3 Tim Walter is using the same formation as last season. Starter in goal is Christian Früchtl. In front of him last season’s regulars Nitzl and Mai are set as centre-backs, which has to be more stable than last season though. At the full-back positions Alexander Lungwitz and Elias Kratzer are the first choice. In midfield Tobi Heiland and Marcel Zylla are a given, the third position is still slightly open. Marin Pudic and Daniel Jelisic, brother of our former youth player Nikola, are competing for the starting spot, while Toni Trograncic will have to deal with a role as a back-up for now.
In attack Franck Evina is the starter in the middle, as is Oliver Batista-Meier out on the wing. In the last friendly against Southampton Daniels Ontuzans started, he has already practised with Carlo Ancelotti. However Rainer D’Almeida has chances too. Tidiane M’Baye, who had an unbelievable goal ratio in his age group earlier, is still injured, his return unforeseeable. The quality in attack is good, only issue is the squad depth in that area. An absence of Evina or Batista-Meier wouldn’t be replaced adequately.
What is to be expected from the U17?
Our U17 is starting this upcoming Sunday into the season with an away game at SC Freiburg. The strength of SC Freiburg is tough to estimate. The club from the Breisgau has frequently had rather good youth squads. The same goes for the match on the second gameday facing Stuttgarter Kickers. The first real indicator will be the following week, when an away game against TSG Hoffenheim awaits. Undoubtedly a direct competitor for one of the top spots. After this game our performance levels will be easier to assess.
Going by the good results in preseason and the self-understanding of FC Bayern, one can expect a top three finish of our U17. If it’ll be enough for first place will depend on the form in the top matches and the magnitude of FC Bayern’s traditional bad luck with injuries. Both of these aspects were the deciding factors against our team last season. Traditionally Hoffenheim and VfB Stuttgart are the main rivals. Even Eintracht Frankfurt who had a successful preseason will compete up there. Only the winner of the group will qualify for the preliminary round of the German championship at the end of the season.
The last participation in a preliminary round was reached by our U17 in 2008/2009 with a certain David Alaba, but the final was lost against VfB Stuttgart. Let’s hope in next June an U17 of FC Bayern finally makes it to the preliminary round again after eight years. This team has undoubtedly got the potential for that!