CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCHDAY 05 PREVIEW: RED STAR BELGRADE – FC BAYERN MUNICH
Translating the exceptional situation to everyday life. Before the Dusseldorf match, we called it Flick’s central quest that his team should be able to consistently deliver a performance like that against Dortmund even against much more ordinary opposition. At the weekend it became apparent that he could be equal to this challenge.
Bayern showed a dominant performance over long stretches of the game, which was sufficient to defeat Düsseldorf comprehensively and without ever needing to worry. Within a minimum amount of time, Flick has managed to imprint his handwriting on Bayern’s game. The changes are there for everyone to see, but much more important, the players obviously feel very comfortable with the new direction.
In the recent past, it was no longer a matter of course at Bayern that the players and their coach would stick together in the media. At the moment, however, it is particularly noticeable that there is harmony all around and that all the statements made by those involved radiate comfort. These developments can clearly be traced back to Flick.
Nevertheless, the team remains self-critical. Both Flick and Goretzka said after the match against Dusseldorf that not everything has been going as it should be. Taking that into account, the early form of Bayern under their new coach is all the more impressive.
Flick has turned the right screws. His team deploys a more aggressive and offensive pressing, yet without letting it devolve into chaos. When the players attack at the front, there is a clear plan to their actions. One key ingredient is that they try to force certain passes from their opponent in order to exert pressure.
Under Flick, Bayern manage to steer their opponents. Thus, they are in control of the game even when they do not have the ball. The distances between the players are really important here. Manuel Neuer has analysed this aptly:
“Our attack and defense are not so far apart, which is why we also get into situations in the opponent’s half where we have a fast, direct route on goal. We have a lot more control than before, of course we’re also a bit higher and that’s good for us.”Manuel Neuer after the match against Dusseldorf in the Mixed Zone.
Actually, there’s not much to add. Thomas Müller said that you always wanted to make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to build up in a controlled way. Under Flick, (gegen-)pressing becomes the best playmaker, as Jürgen Klopp once famously said.
But it is not only the work against the ball. It is also the shorter distances between the players in possession that lead to a more harmonious interplay. In Dusseldorf the Bavarians had not only fun, but were also successful in their combinational play. Their game was based on quick passes, high speed and taking a lot of risk, but it was well protected by a good positional play at the same time.
We see such progress because Flick has taken to heart what was a huge problem under Niko Kovač: For him stability and safety in defense follow naturally from a coordinated approach in offense. Defense is a result of offense. The 2014 World Champion assistant coach’s goal is a possession-based football, for which he needs a well-organized pressing to get the ball in the first place, as well as an equally well-organized positional play when in possession to be ready to gegenpress after a turnover.
Of course it would be too early to praise Flick to high heaven now. The sample of only three games is too small for that. The 54-year-old was also right to point out that his team’s performance in second half against Düsseldorf was far from perfect. He may have alluded to Bayern’s lack of calm and patience in possession when Dusseldorf tried to play a more active role going forward.
Only after the games against Red Star, Leverkusen, Gladbach and Tottenham will it be possible to draw first preliminary conclusions about Flick’s tenure. If Flick manages to continue his convincing run till then, the coaching debate will become even more exciting than previously assumed. Because it seems to make little sense for Bayern to change their coach if their current one can develop the team in the right direction.
His popularity with the players and the developments on the pitch indicate that Flick is doing everything right at the moment. When after the match against Dusseldorf a journalist talking to Gnabry observed that he had got the impression that Gnabry would like to work longer under his new coach and that there was no reason for change anyway, the winger’s pithy reply simply was: “Correct!”
It is striking to see how strongly the players praise Flick. Maybe his time as head coach at Bayern is limited. But if he continues his successful run until the winter break, at least there could be another discussion on Säbener Straße as to whether other coaches could do better at all.
This is the future, however. For now, Flick seems to enjoy his situation. And he transfers his relaxed state of mind to his team. If he is able to elicit a strong performance from his team on a cold night in Belgrade too, that would be another important step. And another indication that Flick’s successful start was not the exception but the rule.
But above all, a win against Red Star would also secure the group win for Bayern. But it is not uncommon for teams to stumble in Belgrade. Liverpool lost there 0:2 about a year ago. Bayern should consider themselves warned.