Beginning of the season for the academy sides
When the ball leapt from Benedict Hollerbach’s foot into the back of the net in added time on the 18th of June, FC Bayern sealed their first academy title in exactly ten years. Almost four weeks before, the under-19s had been beaten unfortunately on penalties in Dortmund, while the under-17s in their own final left no doubt as to who was the best German team in that age-group. They defeated Werder Bremen deservedly by two goals to nil.
At the turn of the month, the youth department moved into their new campus grounds in the north of the city, thus shedding their infrastructural disadvantages compared to their domestic and international competitors. Despite that, the new grounds, above all in the international realm, aren’t setting a new yard-stick. On the FC Bayern campus, there is no roofed pitch like in Salzburg or innovative training additions like in Hoffenheim (Footbonaut, Helix). The area originally planned as a club shop will now be used for a top-secret project called “FC Bayern Campus Lab”. What is actually behind all of that will be revealed in due time.
At the very end of last season, it was announced that in Adrian Fein and Timothy Tillman two of the under-19s’ key players, who could well have played for another season in the A-youth team, will move up to the reserves. An understandable decision from which both players will benefit in their development. Slightly more notable were the decisions finally made this week. Franck Evina, who performed superbly in the regional league crunch match against Schweinfurt, will play in the under-19s this season. Directly against the explicit desire of the reserves’ coaching team, who were eager to have Evina as well as Wintzheimer – who, likewise, is going back to the under-19s – in their squad as regular players.
This doesn’t just mean that the success of the under-19s appears more important to the sporting leadership team than that of the reserves. It also seems that cropping the under-19s is more important than the individual advancement of the players. Both Wintzheimer and Evina have proved that they can more than hold their own in the men’s game. And there’s great hope that in Evina Bayern can finally integrate another of their own youth players into their squad for the long-term. In his time as reserve coach, Hermann Gerland was a big proponent of promoting top talents as early as possible. Both Evina and Wintzheimer have shown that they’re ready for the challenge, and yet have to play out another year of youth football.
As a further consequence, Oliver Batista Meier moves back into the under-17s. The attacker, who joined from Kaiserslauten in 2016, will thus play his third under-17 season already. In the final part of the season a few weeks ago, he was probably the outstanding player in the team, and now he’ll play another season in the B-youth team with even younger opponents. Presumably he’ll dominate that even more easily, instead of having to stake a claim in the under-19 against older players.
From Leipzig’s under-17s, Dieter Hoeneß’s son, Sebastian, moves to Munich and will oversee the flag-ship of the academy sides for the foreseeable future. The task for the president’s nephew is clear: the team should be competing for the championship this year too, which should be expected with the quality in the squad. They should also finally get past the group stages in the UEFA Youth League.
Ron-Thorben Hoffmann should be between the sticks ahead of under-17 champions Michael Wagner and Maurice König. In front of him in the back four, Thomas Rausch, Lukas Mai and Alex Nitzl probably have their places nailed down. Since neither left back (Alex Lungwitz and Jonathan Meier) will be fit enough for the start of the season, Nitzl should start on the left side of defence, while Theo Rieg and Josip Stanisic will battle over the remaining spot in central defence. Because Alex Lungwitz is close to his comeback, however, the proven back four of last year’s under-17s should be back together on the pitch soon.
It was clear to see in pre-season that the coach’s system tends towards a 4-1-4-1. Because of the injuries to Daniel Jelisic, Meritan Shabani and Marcel Zylla during preparation, it’s difficult to predict what the coach’s preferred line-up will be. Evina and Wintzheimer should be set in stone; Meritan Shabani should play too, as soon as he recovers from his hip operation. Can Karatas was impressive in pre-season, which Daniels Ontuzans missed completely due to ongoing muscular complaints. Big opportunities are also available for Marcel Zylla, who was fully involved again at the Ruhrcup after his own injury problems. The defensive position will be contested by Marin Pudic, Tobias Heiland and Daniel Jelisic. Maximilian Zaiser can operate offensively or defensively, having played absolutely no role last season as he too was plagued by injury. The biggest losers in the decision about Evina and Wintzheimer may well be Mathis Lange, Philipp Hermann, Maximilian Franzke and Rainer D’Almeida, who will all probably see less game time as a result.
Sebastian Hoeneß’s team started the new season with a goal-friendly 4-3 against league competitors Unterhaching, before a somewhat unlucky defeat (0-1) to Arsenal. Slavia Prague were beaten 3-0, before the team couldn’t do better than a 1-1 against Sparta Prague. The performance in the Ruhrcup was truly impressive, and at that without Mai, Lungwitz, Shabani, Evina and Wintzheimer. In the preliminary rounds, the team were the only side to beat the eventual winners Real Madrid (1-0) and AS Monaco (3-0). After a defeat against Rapid Vienna (0-1), a 1-1 in the final group game against Schalke 04 wasn’t quite enough. Level on points with group winners Real Madrid, with just one goal the decisive factor on goal difference, the Rekordmeister’s under-19s were knocked out extremely unluckily in third place.
Despite missing a number of players, the team have shown that they’re fully competitive. And that’s also the clear expectation of the team: winning the south division and getting into the semi-final of the German championship. VfB Stuttgart and TSG Hoffenheim are traditionally among the main competitors. And yet the squad is so deep that even high-quality absences can be dealt with very well. The early fixtures should help towards that goal, with nine points expected from three games in the first week. First up the team visit SC Freiburg, who at the end of the day are more likely to battle relegation and shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge to Bayern.
FC Bayern’s under-17s go into the new season officially as defending champions. Even if the team in terms of their year group had very little to do with last year’s title, the burden will weigh on them.
They will be coached by Holger Seitz, the previous manager of the under-19s. The man from Lower Bavaria will take over last year’s under-16s, who finished the season not just as the best Bavarian under-16 team, but also finished ahead of FC Ingolstadt’s under-17s in the table. If the team had gotten more points in the tight games, even more would have been possible, however. They only won two games by a single goal, and threw away countless unnecessary points against teams from the bottom third of the table. Seitz will have to teach the team how to profit more directly from their game dominance.
That was only slightly successful in pre-season, with the team slumping to dead last without a goal scored in the star-studded Bundesliga Cup in Öhringen. There were, however, also middling to good results, among those a 1-1 against RB Leipzig and a thoroughly-deserved 2-0 over Bayer Leverkusen. In the final friendly the team lost 3-2 to Hertha BSC. Still, they were without four key players (Kehl, Stiller, Daniliuc, Batista-Meier) who were travelling with the under-19s in the Ruhrcup. Coach Seitz recently criticised the team’s lack of bite, which will be necessary to achieve their lofty aims.
In goal, Seitz has the choice between Lukas Schneller and Jakob Mayer. Schneller was number one for the under-16s last season and has the same number on his shirt this season. However, Jakob Mayer was between the sticks in both of the final pre-season games, and so it’s very possible that Seitz will make a different decision to the one made by Danny Schwarz, in charge of the under-16s last season. In the back four, youth internationals Jonas Kehl and Flavius Daniliuc, out wide and central respectively, are staples of the team. Alongside Daniliuc, Yannick Brugger and Julian Höllen are battling for the available place. Out wide, the left-back Kimberly Ezekwem seems to have his nose ahead of Favian Cavadias, with the latter a right-back. Jonas Kehl will switch sides accordingly.
Alongside captain Angelo Stiller, Moritz Mosandl will be trusted by the manager in central midfield. The Frenchman, who joined from Nürnberg in 2016, was born in 2002 and so is the youngest player in a team that, beyond Malik Tillmann, otherwise consists only of 2001-borns. With four positions left in attack, a lot will depend on where Holger Seitz decides to put Batista-Meier. Jahn Herrmann, Marvin Cuni, Benedict Hollerbach, Malik Tillman and Justin Butler will battle for the remaining three positions, five players who all have designs on a starting place. Then there’s also Jaleen Hawkins, supposedly the biggest attacking talent of the year group, who almost missed the entire season with a ruptured ligament and so missed an entire year of development. The author tends towards Cuni, Hollerbach and Tillman having their noses just ahead of the rest.
If you speak to the higher-ups at FC Bayern, they’re expecting a rather more difficult season for the new under-17s. The fact that Holger Seitz’s under-19 teams have often needed a bit of time to reach their best form also speaks to that. On top of that, the higher quality in the Bundesliga will give the team more tight games in which they’ll need to show that they’re not just flat-track bullies but can also beat the competition on the same level as them. If they can do that better than last season, the team could find themselves back in the top three.
If not, the fall to the depression of mid-table is a quick one. However, in Batista-Meier Bayern have probably the outstanding attacker of the 2001 year group nationwide. He alone can decide games with his individual quality. The top third of the table should, then, be within reach. The teams from Stuttgart and Hoffenheim can be expected to be the strongest in this age group too, with both being faced at the very end of the first half of the season. The start of the season will be important for the team: lots of points from the first thoroughly-doable games will get them the confidence to be able to pass the test against the top teams later in the season.
Bayern’s under-16s won’t start the season until the beginning of September, and as a result of their summer holidays are in the middle of an interruption to their preparation. The under-15s too, who have unbelievable strength in terms of quality and quantity, will have to wait until next month. Peter Wenninger’s team started their pre-season with the opening of the campus, and have already impressed in their first two friendlies against Darmstadt 98 (4-1) and league competitors Deggendorf (12-1). It’s already foreseeable that the under-15s will be very under-challenged in the new Bavarian regional league, and so will contest a lot of high-quality friendlies and tournaments to enable match practice at a high level. Downwards from the under-15s Bayern have managed a lot of interesting transfers which promise an exciting season. Some have already been covered by the press, others meanwhile have only been noted by the experts. In September we’ll update you on how the academy teams get started in the new season!