Hansi Flick confirmed as permanent head coach: Laying a foundation
In times of Corona, even clubs like FC Bayern have to weigh carefully how and where to spend their money. However, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has made it crystal clear that this would not necessarily affect the upcoming contract renewals. Bayern’s CEO spoke of “fair offers” to everyone.
On Friday afternoon, Germany’s record champions were able to announce that the first of the open cases could be closed. Club and current head coach Hansi Flick have agreed to extend his contract until 2023, which means that for the time being there is security in what is perhaps the most important sporting position in a football club.
Although it is the players who make the difference on the pitch with their decisions and their quality, the coaches are the ones providing a framework in which the players can develop in the best possible way. They are, as Tobias Escher so aptly put it in his book “Die Zeit der Strategen” (the age of the strategists), the central wheel around which everything revolves.
It is therefore not surprising that Hansi Flick demanded a “veto right” on transfers and thus a certain influence in squad decisions. The media has used this fact to conjure up a potential area of conflict with the soon-to-be board member for sport, Hasan Salihamidžić. It should be normal in a professionally managed football club that a head coach, once he has been awarded a long-term contract and given full confidence by the board, should have a meaningful say in the composition of the squad.
FC Bayern’s press release on Flick’s contract extension shows that this is the case. In there Salihamidžić is quoted as follows: “Hansi and I know in which direction we want to develop the team.” And Flick also showed himself confident: “We have determined the direction for the coming years together.”
“We”, “together” – it becomes clear that Flick’s input is key to future planning. The 55-year-old has earned trust at various levels in recent months. Firstly, he has unfailingly presented himself in public in a calm and composed manner. In his limbo-like situation, this could not be taken for granted. Secondly, the mood within the squad is better than it has been in a long time. Even those players who have played a secondary role in recent months are singing his praise. Flick knows how to deal with the players. And thirdly, the results on the pitch speak for themselves.
“Results” in this context does not just refer to the 18 of 21 matches that the team has won under Flick and the goal ratio of 67 to 14 goals under his reign. No, above all it is the manner in which the team has achieved these results. In a nutshell, Bayern are back to playing an attractive attacking football again.
Specifically, this means that they do not only press their opponents aggressively and high, but in a very well organised fashion too. Fast ball wins and recoveries as well as quick reorganization in transitional play are among the core elements of the football that Flick has established at Bayern. In addition, the team has established a well-structured possession game, which has shifted the center of play back to central midfield.
Bayern have for the most part managed to lose their predictable horseshoe shape in attack and shift the focus on commanding players in the center. Organization and timing of movements in attack appear increasingly better coordinated under Flick as well. Space-opening runs from the outside to the inside or vice versa as well as overlapping runs in behind have become recurring elements in Bayern’s attacking game.
And yet, it is also clear that not everything has been perfect. Especially in the first few weeks, the team had problems in finding stability at the back the team after losing the ball. Teams like Gladbach, Leverkusen, and Leipzig revealed weaknesses in Bayern’s attacking game, which we analyzed here and here, for example.
In these three games, Flick was unable to react to the tide of play with his adjustments from the sidelines. His so-called “in-game coaching” was not optimal in each case. Nevertheless: Against Leipzig he managed to calm down the game after a wild beginning to the second half with clever substitutions. Yet a final phase of attack failed to materialize.
These are the details Flick will have to work on in the coming months, perhaps years. But the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. Too promising is the coach’s overall package, too much reminiscent of someone who was not thought capable of much at first: Jupp Heynckes.
When Heynckes took over at Bayern in 2011 and lead his team to the runner-up spot in all three competitions of Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, and Champions League in his first season, Heynckes came under fierce criticism. His detractors considered his system too old-fashioned, he himself was seen as too inflexible and lacking the charisma befitting a club like FC Bayern. The end of the story is well known: He silenced his critics with the treble the following year.
With Flick the situation is a little different in that he is currently receiving great advance laurels, even though he has not yet been able to show his mettle on equal terms with Europe’s best. But even with him, there have been and still are sceptical voices which question his charisma and perhaps even doubt his flexibility for a big club.
What is certain, however, is that Flick has earned the chance to prove the opposite. The path he has chosen is undoubtedly the right one. The press release on his contract extension shows that Flick now enjoys the full confidence of the club. After all, such a clear commitment to a coach in terms of joint planning for the future has not been the norm at Bayern in recent years. And the harmony with which all those responsible are talking about the future is also significant.
Often enough, Bayern have signed players in recent years who did not fit in perfectly with the coach’s philosophy. Or they have hired coaches who didn’t fit in with the players and the club’s philosophy. As a result, the coaches may have had to make too many compromises. It is particularly interesting that both Ancelotti and Kovač failed to sufficiently involve Thomas Müller. Under Flick, however, the attacker has flourished again. One could say that, in a way, the “Thomas Müller test” provides information about whether or not a coach is a good fit for FC Bayern.
But because Flick seems to be a fit at all levels, it could well be that Bayern’s squad planning will benefit from this. It remains to be seen what the squad will look like in the future. The fact that with Flick the man who was mainly responsible for the overall upswing of the past few months has now been retained for the long term is likely to play an important role, at least for the players who recently received “fair offers” from Rummenigge. Flick’s extension is the important cornerstone for almost everything else that will happen now.