Reserves start into the new season
The team has been through two disappointing seasons under coach Heiko Vogel, who eventually resigned from the job after several weak appearances of his team in March. Interim coach Danny Schwarz led them to a fairly good third place in the end. Championship was never really within reach, especially last season with an all-dominating SpVgg Unterhaching, but even so, there was no visible development in the team or in single players.
With Unterhaching getting promoted to the third division, hopes were high for the new season to finally be the time for the team to return to the 3. Liga after seven years. After Würzburg, Regensburg, and Unterhaching got promoted, there was no other “uber team” in sight that could seriously challenge Bayern. While Schweinfurt claimed to be increasing their budget and aiming for the league title, the resulting squad looks anything but intimidating. Still, Schweinfurt will likely be part of the top teams.
TSV 1860 getting relegated from the second division has changed things completely, however. After the squad that the Lions would be able to field was unclear for a long time, it now seems inevitable that they will win the league. The core of the reserves team that secured second spot last season has remained virtually unchanged, and it was improved further by adding experienced players in all parts of the team, with Mauersberger, Gebhart, and Mölders having played Bundesliga, and Daniel Wein and Kindsvater having played third-division football. On top of that, coach Daniel Bierofka has shown more than once his ability to make the most of a squad. The quality of the team is at least level with Unterhaching’s – and they dominated the league with a 20-point lead.
This has changed things dramatically for Bayern’s reserves, particularly because the coaching team decided early on to go into the new season with an extremely young team. The most talented squad Bayern’s Under-23s team fielded in years they might be, but they’re also the youngest and least experienced. The best starting eleven (on paper) averages 19.4 years of age, making it the second-youngest team to start for Bayern’s reserves in this millennium. It’s one of the reasons why there was an intense search for an experienced striker, even though it ended with no results. Tim Walter has now adjusted his goal for the season: “We want to win as many games as possible and improve our young talents.”
It is in a reserves team’s nature that there is huge turnover in players every summer, but it has been extreme this year, with 14 players in total leaving: Riccardo Basta, Sebastian Bösel, Bernard Mwarome, Ilias Becker, Marcel Leib, Patrick Puchegger, Felix Pohl, Bastian Grahovac, Korbinian Burger, Torsten Oehrl, Karl-Heinz Lappe, Tim Häußler, Erdal Öztürk, and Leon Fesser. Players will move up from the Under-19s to fill the ranks (Früchtl, Isherwood, Tillmann, Türkkalesi, Fein, Awoudja, Friedl, Crnicki, and Tarnat), plus there are two new external signings in Derrick Köhn and Angelo Mayer for the vacant left wing. Last year’s Under-19s left-back Marco Friedl is expected to play centre-back, causing that gap.
In goal, Christian Früchtl is designated number one, but isn’t back to full fitness yet for the beginning of the season. There are solid replacements in Leo Weinkauf and the experienced Andi Rössl.
In the back four, Felix Götze and Marco Friedl both should have booked their spot permanently, however there is a chance they will be playing with the first team, especially in pre-season – both have professional contracts. Behind them, Maxime Awoudja is in 3rd ahead of Isherwood and Feldhahn, with only slight chances of actually playing. Currently injured Alexander Gschwend will likely not play a role.
Raphael Obermair seems to be the favourite as right-back, except if he’s needed further up the field. He’s competing for the spot against Resul Türkkalesi, who, however, was only second-best even in last year’s Under-19s season. On the other side, Derrik Köhn and Angelo Mayer are fighting for the starting spot, with Köhn, a new signing from Hamburger SV, ahead in the race due to an injury on Mayer’s side.
There shouldn’t be any question about central midfield; Niklas Dorsch, who will be captain, and Adrian Fein are sure to start. Niklas Tarnat is ready to be backup. The three offensive positions are likely to be filled by Timothy Tillman, currently injured Fabian Benko, and Milos Pantovic, but Marco Hingerl should get his fair share of games, too. Michael Strein will be able to challenge from the bench, after playing a good second half of the season last season.
The one spot that had caused most worries and where recruitment efforts had failed for months was a good striker. Manuel Wintzheimer played there for the majority of preseason, although he was planned to be part of the Under-19s team. Franck Evina’s good performances with the first team have lead to a restructure and it looks like the young talent will play for the reserves after returning from the first team’s trip to Asia.
The team started preparing for the new season on 8 June, meaning Tim Walter and Tobias Schweinsteiger were in charge of two teams for about ten days – after all, they won the final for the German championship with the Under-17s. Preseason after that, however, was littered with unfortunate circumstances. Several important players missed out on the team’s efforts due to injuries (Fabian Benko, Angelo Mayer), the Under-19s European championship (Felix Götze, Maxime Awoudja, Thomas Isherwood), and training with the first team (Marco Friedl). An important friendly against FC Liefering had to be cancelled with no plans to reschedule, and in the first team’s first week of training, the reserves were almost unable to have training sessions of their own as they had to fill up the first team’s squad.
And it will continue in that vein: parts of the team are currently in Asia with the first team, returning only shortly before the reserves’ second official match against FC Unterföhring on 30 July. It’s unlikely they will play in that match. Everything points to the team facing a difficult first phase of the season, despite the comparatively easy opponents (except 1. FC Schweinfurt). It would have been easy to make up for that in a league as balanced as originally expected, however, a high-class, well-practised team like TSV 1860 will likely mean the season will be decided soon.
The focus will therefore have to lie on teasing the Lions in the direct duels – with the match set to happen shortly before the end of the first half of the season, it’s not completely unlikely. After all, this will give the team more time to find out how to work together and to implement the coach’s concept. Walter proved during the last two years with the Under-17s that his teams develop in leaps and bounds over the course of a season. Looking at the table, however, 2nd place will be as high as it will get.
Much important, however, is the development of each player. After two, three fairly weak years with hardly any players that would later make the next step to Bundesliga football, there is a fair number of them now. These players will have to master the transition into professional senior football that has proven to be an insurmountable challenge for many young talents in the past. They’ll have to understand and implement the coach’s concepts, which include very modern ideas about counterpressing. And they will have to find a way to work with the destructive way of playing of many teams, which will require solutions quite different from those in counterpressing-focused youth football.
The team is somewhat reminiscent of the first Regionalliga season under coach Mehmet Scholl, when FC Bayern played the majority of the season with an extremely young team. They had extreme problems at the start but slowly developed and a year later, won the title with a virtually unchanged team. Something similar could happen again now: the team might need a year to learn and then aim for promotion the following year. But that’s still quite a ways ahead. For now, the challenge is to survive the season start mostly unscathed – that will be difficult enough.