Mailbag Roundtable: January 2020
The first question is from @me_unplugged20 on Twitter: “Do you think we need to make any signings this winter? If so what positions?“
Justin: I am a big friend of listening to the coach. He knows what he needs and he knows how many players he needs. Hansi Flick has said he needs some more players. So I agree with him. Since he plans to use Kimmich as a 6, Bayern needs to sign a RB. Maybe someone who is a little bit more attacking minded than Pavard. I really appreciate how good Pavard is when it comes to defending – maybe even better than Kimmich. But he isn’t as good in the final third. Also Bayern should be on the look out for another winger. That said, you have to understand Hasan Salihamidžić. He has a point, when he‘s telling us that the market is not that easy in winter. I am sure that he has a long term plan for the squad and maybe that one includes Sané and Havertz in summer. For this reason he can’t spend much money in winter. All in all I think that one more player will come to Bayern in winter. Maybe on loan.
Daniel: I don’t think Bayern is in such a do-or-die situation that they absolutely need to buy players, but there are certain gaps in the squad. Since Kimmich is now set to remain in midfield as long as they have enough defenders, Bayern does need a right-back. Pavard is fine there and would probably remain first-choice in the Champions League even if Bayern signed somebody, but in Bundesliga games in particular, it is detrimental to the team that the first-choice right-back is not comfortable in the final third. Well, if Pavard’s not busy scoring screamers, that is. This is even more amplified by both Boateng and Martínez seemingly not being up to the task of being regular starting centre-backs, prompting Pavard being needed in central defense as long as Hernández and Süle are out. Problem is, for almost two decades now the entire world has been in dire need of world-class full-backs. I very much rate Monaco’s Benjamin Henrich, but I suspect if the club shared my assessment, a transfer would have already been completed.
As for wingers, I actually don’t really think Bayern needs them that much this winter. In the summer Sané should obviously come in, but now with Coman returning from injury soon, I don’t believe it to be wise to just buy in sheer panic. Money that is already planned for Havertz and Sané should not be just wasted now for short term success. Plus, you do have some solid youth players. I just refuse to believe that if the team is working well, Singh, Batista-Meier or even centre-forward Zirkzee can’t rise up to the task.
Marc: I’m between the two here. I think there is a clear need in defense given the unwillingness to use Mai in the first team and Boateng and Martinez’s decline this season. Whether it be fullback or central defender is debatable. I think if Boateng were to leave this winter, a CB is more likely, but if they are unable to move him, a fullback is more likely.
Additionally, I think there is a good argument that another 6 would be just as beneficial. Even if you plan to keep Kimmich in that position, it is still a thin area within the squad. There are plenty of players who you can slot into the position but only two who are really suited to it.
As for the attack, I tend to think this is a non issue. By all accounts Sané is coming in the summer. If Coman and Gnabry aren’t healthy on the wings for key stretches, I sincerely doubt that anyone Bayern might acquire this January is really going to put the squad over the top against the top sides in Europe or even the Bundesliga. That is even more true for Lewandowski, without whom this season would have been lost long ago.
The second question, also comes from @me_unplugged20: “As of right now, do you think Flick should remain our permanent coach assuming the season goes well?“
Justin: If the season goes well he will have done many things right and fewer things wrong. I appreciate Flick as a coach but also as a good guy who is liked by many players. If Bayern comes to the conclusion that Flick is the best option, it’s okay by me. But there are some details that Flick needs to improve upon in his tactics: defending after losing the ball, being compact even if the team attacks very high on the pitch and also the players need more options with the ball. He’s made good progress and all the required changes need time. But if he is successful, he has a real chance to continue. Nevertheless ten Hag is still my favourite option even if I rate Flick very high.
Daniel: (Sigh) I am really torn here. I think his performance has been remarkable… for a caretaker manager. Since the very beginning I was very much in favour of giving him the chance until winter and beyond, but promoting him to head-coach on a permanent basis? I think a bunch of people in the club are very happy that Kovač is gone and are relieved to have a coach again, who is willing to play dominant attacking football. They are so happy in fact, that they are willfully overlooking any flaws.
I have been consistently underwhelmed by Flick’s in-game coaching. The only time I think he was really good there was against Bremen. But I suspect the substitution of Boateng and the subsequent changes in the team stemmed more from Boateng being in desperate need of getting substituted and less due to remarkable in-game coaching. Especially because the changes made were rather obvious (moving Coutinho in the middle etc.).
What I’m essentially trying to say is, I think Hansi Flick absolutely is a quality coach. A really good coach. But is he good enough? Is he the world-class coach a world-class team needs to win the Champions League? I have my doubts and fear that in this second half of the season, Bayern drunk on short-term success will just choose the easy option very early on. A coach who plays quality football, is well-liked by the the team and will not be too much of a hassle for the newbies Kahn and Brazzo to deal with. Then again, I might be wrong. With preparation time he could very well be all of that and the truly great coach Bayern needs. I just have the feeling Hansi Flick would be the comfortable solution, not necessarily the best solution.
Marc: This to me is dependant on the rest of the season, by which I mean the progress of the club under his care. Of course the results matter, but there are times where trophies tend to obscure the actual play (cough…last season).
Bayern visibly improved from November 3rd when Hansi took over, but a month and a half is hardly enough time to say that he has earned the right to remain head coach after the season. It’s also unfortunate for him that Bayern have so many injuries as it is limiting the time he has to work with the players and instill his ideas.
If the top choices (i.e. ten Hag) were for some reason unavailable this summer, I could see Flick remaining assuming that the squad continues to improve and results are reasonably good. However, assuming that those choices are available, I think Flick will need to have a pretty exceptional second half, maybe even needing to win the Champions League, but certainly winning at least one title with gusto, to stay past the end of the season.
What are your predictions for the second half? How do you think we’ll fare in all competitions?
Justin: Bayern is 4 points behind Leipzig and 3 in front of Dortmund. I think that these 3 clubs will be the main contenders for the title. Leipzig is a true contender with Nagelsmann as their coach and great squad depth. They have also played consistently good football. Dortmund also has a great squad but they lack self confidence and character when it comes to decisive moments. But everything will depend on Bayern. If they play their best football, they will win the title again. The German cup and especially the Champions League aren’t predictable. Bayern can beat everyone but they need a very good day, especially in the Champions League. I don’t see them winning every title because they are too inconsistent. But it doesn’t have to be a problem: If they improve on the pitch and buy some great additions in summer, I see them making a big step forward next season. That has to be the target.
Daniel: Honestly, I think Bayern will comfortably win the Bundesliga. I know it’s a crazy thing to say with Bayern being third but I can already picture the other teams crumbling in the second half of the season. Leipzig played a remarkable first half but they’re still five points behind Dortmund last season, and they did not win it. They are only a single point better than Kovač’s first half. And Kovač is gone now. If Leipzig duplicates their remarkable half-season, it will not be enough. And I doubt they can duplicate it. I believe Bayern will play a roughly 40 point second half of the season and that will be enough to beat Leipzig. Mönchengladbach will crash out of the title race anyway, celebrating if they get Champions League football next season. And Dortmund…Well, let’s just I wasn’t exactly surprised seeing them only getting a single point on the last two matchdays. They will continue their is-this-a-good-or-bad-season discussions they’ve been having since their campaign started until their title challenge will be virtually over. So yeah, in my mind Bayern wins the league because the Bundesliga can’t keep up. Wouldn’t be the first time.
As for the Champions League I was hoping Bayern would get Chelsea and I’m very happy they did. I am not one of those people who want to play the best teams immediately. Liverpool in the last 16? No thanks, they really could have waited with that one! But I’m also not the biggest fan of playing teams like Beşiktaş in this stage of the competition because if you do, by the time you are facing the Liverpools and Real Madrids, you haven’t been tested enough before. In an ideal situation, your opponent’s strength should scale with how deep you are in said competition. Chelsea is a perfect opponent for the last 16, a big name and a really good team but not uber-world-class like Liverpool. I think Bayern will win at Stamford Bridge and proceed. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.
Marc: Until proven otherwise I think Bayern is always the favorite to win the league. Leipzig appears to be the real competition here. Nagelsmann has set them up well and they have a very talented squad. Whether that squad is deep enough if injuries start to bite, is a real question but there is certainly a threat there. The Borussia’s on the other hand I do not buy at all. Dortmund is in desperate need of leadership and until that is addressed, I don’t think they will seriously contend despite the raw talent they have. As opposed to my two colleagues however, I think Monchengladbach will have a relatively good second half, just not as good as their first. I suspect they’ll easily remain in the Top 4 but will fall behind in the title race.
The cups as the others have mentioned are too unpredictable. If Bayern can get healthy they have a chance in both competitions. As for the Pokal, I predict they will be playing in Berlin and would be shocked if they didn’t at least make the Semi’s.
As for the Champions League, I think they should get past Chelsea and then things will come down to quite a bit of luck. Who is healthy and the draws will have a massive impact on who wins in Europe, as I don’t honestly think there is one team that is clearly dominant, maybe Liverpool but even they have had some bumps. I think Bayern fall within the group of six or so teams with a chance depending on how things go. That being said, the Champions League odds are always very long and that is certainly no different this season. I’ll hazard a guess that Bayern make the Semi’s and go out there.