The situation at the Bayern reserves as the 3. Liga resumes – An interview
Christoph Leischwitz has been writing about the football in Munich for more than 20 years for Süddeutsche – and since the days of coach Andries Jonker he has covered Bayern’s reserves too. He is also a correspondent on FC Bayern for the German magazine “Der Spiegel” and an author for the German football magazine “11Freunde”. He calls himself a “journalist ground hopper”, because he finds it “often more entertaining to visit a ground in the lower leagues to watch a match than an arena right next to a motorway intersection.”
Many predicted Bayern’s second team to be a likely relegation candidate before the beginning of the season. After the first half of the season, they are in fifteenth place three points above the drop. How has their season developed?
It was not a good start at all. I think many in the coaching staff started wondering on day one if they had the quality to stay up. But after an early adjustment period, the team surprisingly started to earn points. What was so surprising about it was that they mainly won against bigger teams, but had a very hard time against hopeless bottom dwellers Jena – a match which they justly lost. Although this is their first season in professional football, Bayern’s U23 usually do not have difficulties making the game. They are much stronger against teams just like them who want to have the ball and be active than against teams that embody the qualities you would typically connect with the 3. Liga, that is robust challenges, compact defense and so on.
42 goals against means Bayern have the second leakiest defense of the league. On the other hand, 35 goals scored is the league’s fifth highest return. What has to improve in the second half of the season? Which strengths does the team have to strengthen further?
The team has to cope with the usual problems of a youth team competing in a professional league. This also explains why the matches of the Bayern reserves have yielded the highest number of goals (77 in all). It is typical for the team to have several stronger and weaker phases during a game, which sometimes even take turns in quick succession. Afterwards, this is commonly attributed to a lack of defensive stability in analysis, but that is only half of the story: during the weaker spells, the team’s issues already begin much higher up the pitch when they fail to cover their opponents tightly enough and close them down. The common plan is not properly implemented any more.
The team sometimes seems to be unsettled quickly and then manages to lose the game despite an often strong attack. The game in Meppen at the beginning of November was a prime example of this: Bayern were very composedly taking advantage of the chances they got and deservedly led 3-1, but in the final 15 minutes they did just about everything wrong and Meppen cooly exploited their mistakes. Joshua Zirkzee, for example, let the opposition provoke him into a booking and then a send off within a matter of seconds – Meppen knew that he can be easily ruffled.
Are there individual players who stand out from the team and are able to carry them?
There is of course a difference in quality between the campus players (i.e. Bayern’s academy players) and those who train with the first team. Because Bayern are always trying to get into the opponent’s penalty area at high speed, you can tell the difference between players who are able to keep an overview of the game and those who are not. This also applies to self-confidence. The derby against 1860 (1-1) would probably have turned out differently without Mickaël Cuisance, who really gave his all in the game. A guy like Alphonso Davies is now also sorely missed, of course. The team’s life insurance is clearly “Otschi” Wriedt: Without his calmness in front of goal, Bayern would have scored many fewer goals. Timo Kern’s cleverness also often helps.
During the poorer spells, the team’s issues begin much higher up the pitch already where they fail to cover their opponents tightly and close them down. The team sometimes seems to be unsettled quickly and then manages to lose the game despite an often strong attack. The common plan is not properly executed any more.Christoph Leischwitz, about the problems of FC Bayern’s second team
It’s hard to single out any of the young players, but some have clearly taken a step forward. These include goalkeeper Christian Früchtl, who is one of the best keepers in the league, and Sarpreet Singh and Leon Dajaku. Personally, I think Derrick Köhn has made a big leap – but he had to do so too to maintain his position as a regular player. Jannik Rochelt deserves more 90-minute appearances. But the second string offensive players will have a hard time from now on, if Nicolas Kühn makes the splash he is expected to do, Fiete Arp gets some playing practice – and Oliver Batista-Meier’s performances spark into life at some point as everyone hopes and expects.
At the start of the season we spoke to Julian Koch from the online portal liga3-online.de in an interview titled “Can talent compensate for lack of experience?” Over the first half of the season, the team dropped fourteen points from a winning position. Is there a definitive answer to this question after twenty matchdays from your point of view?
I think the team deserves to be in 15th place in the standings. A little help from the first team is always necessary, but many players are showing signs of improvement and that is why U23 teams often have an easier time in the second half of a season. I cannot imagine the team getting relegated, especially as they are currently bringing in some really good talent with the clear aim of staying in the league.
How much does it influence individual and ultimately team performance that several players sometimes have to travel back and forth between first team training, Bundesliga bench, 3. Liga games, and the Youth League? Is this kind of multitasking in its current form beneficial and sustainable?
At Bayern’s campus, it is seen as an ideal scenario when about a third of a year’s age group can establish itself among the higher age groups. It is therefore intentional that this sometimes makes the youth academy look like a marshalling yard. The disadvantages that come with this situation are accepted – for example the fact that the U19 and U17 would probably be in a better position if they could always draw on their respective top players. Overall, however, the difficulties of adjustment do not seem to be very great. For example, when you see how smoothly the first team players adapt to the second team, even though they hardly know many of the players.
One problem, however, seems to be the coordination with Bayern’s senior management. They have to ask themselves whether it really makes sense to let Lars Lukas Mai languish on the substitute bench at first team games. He is not even used when there is a real shortage of personnel, but his call up to the first team squad means that he is often not available for the U23. Sometimes it is just like in a game: Young players are easily thrown off balance. With Mai this seems to be happening right now.
Where are the amateurs at the end of the season? Will they be strong enough to stay up?
Predicting final table positions in this league borders on gambling. I would say they will finish a little above their current position, because the new arrivals will probably give them a boost and they can draw on players from the first team if push comes to shove.