MSR Awards 20/21 Season: Disappointment of the season
After a 0-1 defeat at home to the Hallesche FC on the last matchday, a virtual certainty turned into an actual certainty: after only two years in the 3rd division, the Bayern reserves would be relegated again. How could it happen that in just a few months FC Bayern II were able to undo what they had previously built up for eight years? We go in search of clues.
As is so common in the 3. Liga, Bayern II’s squad was affected by major upheavals last summer. With Christian Früchtl, Lukas Mai, Derrick Köhn, Woo-yeong Jeong, Sarpreet Singh and Otschi Wriedt, most of the top performers of previous years left the club to further their own careers elsewhere, mostly in higher leagues. In their place, players like Chris Richards, newcomer Remy Vita, Leon Dajaku, Nicolas Kühn, Jamal Musiala and Malik Tillman were expected to fill their places and take on more responsibility. In addition, title winning coach Sebastian Hoeneß accepted TSG Hoffenheim’s offer to coach a Bundesliga team and FC Bayern let him go without having a successor ready. A decision that proved to be a mistake. According to media reports, the negotiations with the desired first choice replacement for Hoeneß failed due to the transfer fee demanded by the employing club. Hence, the team started its summer preparations without a head coach for three weeks before with Holger Seitz, the boss of the Bayern youth academy, an obvious emergency solution was presented. This of course was not communicated in this way although with Seitz exactly that coach returned who had deliberately left the coaching position a year earlier to be able to better focus on his duties in overseeing the youth academy. On top of that came a COVID-19 case in the team, which also caused a few additional training-free days.
Nevertheless, the team that played against Türkgücü München on the first matchday was a respectable one. With a midfield consisting of Adrian Fein, Angelo Stiller, Jamal Musiala and Malik Tillman as well as the strikers Fiete Arp and Joshua Zirkzee, there was a lot of quality on the pitch. Chris Richards also defended alongside Nicolas Feldhahn and highly touted talent Bright Arrey-Mbi.
Reading this, it should be clear to everyone: This team as described above was never again going to play for the amateurs in anywhere near this composition. Fein did not play another game for the team, leaving on loan to PSV, Musiala only one before being called up to the first team, and Zirkzee three before leaving on loan to Parma Calcio. In addition, Malik Tillman tore his cruciate ligament after only 14 minutes in his second appearance of the season, ruling him out for the entirety of it.
Especially Musiala and Tillman, who were planned as key players in the offensive, could not be replaced. Chris Richards too only made eight appearances in the season before he was loaned out to TSG Hoffenheim at the end of January. Incidentally, the amateurs won four of the eight games with Chris Richards, amounting to half of their victories of the season overall.
Neither captain Nico Feldhahn, whose speed deficits were becoming increasingly obvious at the age of 34, nor Bright Mbi were able to fill the gap left by Richards’ departure. The young defender, who was even given his Champions League debut with the first team in the autumn despite weak performances in the 3rd division, was sent off twice on a double booking in his twelve appearances and was rarely used in the second half of the season.
Nicolas Kühn and Leon Dajaku also completely failed to take on more responsibility. The two wingers played so poorly that coach Seitz even changed to a system without any wingers at all in November. So there was no sadness when Dajaku, who must have recorded record values in terms of ball losses, moved to FC Union Berlin in the winter.
Speaking of winter: Despite several transfer targets being reported in the media, the FC Bayern management did not manage to sign an experienced striker. Instead, Sarpreet Singh returned early from his disappointing loan to 1. FC Nürnberg and they signed Dimitri Oberlin, a fast player from FC Basel with Champions League experience. But Singh was like a changed man. Without any self-confidence he never managed to put his stamp on FC Bayern II’s play in the second half of the season.
Despite all the bad decisions and unlucky injuries: The squad was still good enough to avoid relegation. However, a meagre four points from the last twelve games meant that the previously comfortable cushion to the relegation places melted away like ice in the sun, until the team finally slipped into the relegation zone on matchday 34.
However, apart from the 4-0 defeat against Saarbrücken, they were never really inferior to their opponents. On the contrary, some games were lost despite a clear superiority and a host of chances, for example against the ultimately not relegated KFC Uerdingen, against VfB Lübeck, and against Hansa Rostock, who only had one serious chance to score in the entire match after a capital mistake by Bayern goalkeeper Ron-Thorben Hofmann. The late equalizer at FSV Zwickau in the 95th minute was also extremely painful, with neither the stoppage time appropriate nor the goal scored in a legal way. Just before that Nicolas Kühn failed to score an empty net goal. In retrospect, this late goal by Zwickau and the equally contentious and unfortunate circumstances surrounding it must have been the psychological knockout blow for the team.
Even on the final matchday, when it was still possible for the team to secure the league status, the fate of the whole season seemed to manifest itself in a single match as through a magnifying glass. Bayern conceded an early goal due to a defensive error, this time by Justin Che. And then they missed a series of good chances, especially in the second half, while the opponents did not have a single shot on target.
Now Bayern II will once again compete in the Regionalliga. At least the champions of the Bavarian division of the Regionalliga (Germany’s 4th tier) will gain automatic promotion next summer, without having to play relegation playoff matches against the champions of another division beforehand (which some champions have to do. Promotion from the Regionalliga to the 3. Liga is a complicated thing in Germany). The squad is once again facing a major upheaval. Of course, FC Bayern will be aiming for an immediate return to the 3. Liga. Which players they will bring in and be able to keep in order to achieve this goal will become clear in due course. But for us it is clear: The amateurs are our disappointment of the 2020/21 season.