How have the FC Bayern youth teams developed so far this season? We started with the youngest teams. This is part two of our festive triptych review series: everything about the under-19s and under-17s.
U19 close to the league leaders
Without looking at the standings, I would’ve said that the Bavarian under-19s have played a streaky campaign with an offense that looks far too harmless. The league table however shows the team at a respectable third place, only one point away from the top. Furthermore, Holger Seitz‘ boys have the league’s best goal difference and have scored the joint-most goals (together with Fürth and Hoffenheim). How come that personal impressions were a lot more negative than the actual results?
As usual, it’s pointless to look at numbers out of context. The league is a very equal and balanced one this time. The league leaders from Augsburg currently stand at 28 points – a year ago, the best team had already collected 40 points. Bayern’s under-19s have played a slightly subpar first half of the season, standing at 27 points. The team’s average throughout the 13 years of league history lies at 27.8 points. Both the goals scored (currently 30, an average of 34.9) and goals conceded (currently 20, an average of 19.2) are similarly underwhelming in a historical sense. Disappointing numbers for what many inside the club think is the best under-19s team in years.
Expectations were high, even more so after two glorious wins in August (2-1 against the local rivals, 5-2 in Hoffenheim). However, following that was a winless streak lasting five matches, including a shocking loss against last-placed Karlsruhe. The team looked disunited, the offense appeared to lack any gameplan. Coach Holger Seitz kept switching between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1, ultimately settling for the former. Using said formation, the team managed to win three of their last four matches. That being said, they’re not as dominant in possession as you’d like to see from an FC Bayern team. They do benefit from being highly efficient finishers.
In the UEFA Youth League, after winning the first two matches against Rostov and Atletico, there was reason to hope that a Bayern team would finally survive the group stages of this competition. Two deserved losses against PSV brought everyone back to earth and led to a decisive matchup against Atletico. A 1-1 draw wasn’t enough, thus Bayern’s under-19s fail to reach the knockout stages for the fourth consecutive time.
All in all, the impression remains that the team can’t fulfil its potential, neither in terms of playing style nor in terms of results. After the most recent match, coach Seitz said that “we can be pleased with the first half of the Bundesliga season”. I wouldn’t exactly agree with that. While recent results made sure that the league position is a decent one, a lot more should be expected from this team in 2017, as they can now put all their focus on the league. Everything but the first place would be a bit of a disappointment with such a talented team and with such mediocre opponents.
U17: No consistency, smaller gap
Just like last year, it’s again the under-17s that bring the most joy to Säbener Straße – at least when you only look at the standings. They’re leading the league after 16 of 26 matches, three points ahead of the competition from Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. After closely missing out on a league win last season, the coaching team led by Tim Walter and Tobi Schweinsteiger once again managed to build a strong and successful team.
It is noticeable that three of their four losses came against lower midtable teams – Kaiserslautern (8th), Unterhaching (9th) and Freiburg (10th) are all situated in the lower half of the 14-team league. The only top match they lost was the clash against second-placed Karlsruhe. Due to that, the season evaluation doesn’t only bring the good news of leading the league and seeing several players develop well but also the bothersome news that points were dropped in unnecessary fashion. In Kaiserslautern, they squandered a lead and conceded a late winner due to a goalkeeper mistake made by Christian Früchtl. In Unterhaching, the team failed to take advantage of 80% possession against a completely harmless opponent, conceding a late goal due to a build-up error. The loss against Freiburg was a different story, as the Bavarian under-17s simply had a bad day and never gained control against the Breisgau boys that deservedly won 4-1.
The best performances were saved for the big occasions: fifth-placed Hoffenheim were beaten both at home (3-2) and away (4-2) in convincing fashion. The match against the physically superior Augsburg only wasn’t won due to some set pieces, Bayern clearly were the better team that day. Stuttgart (3rd), Frankfurt (6th) and Mainz (7th) all lost in Munich. The under-17s are seemingly at their best when opponents try to play attacking football themselves. Against defensive teams however, the offense’s lack of physicality becomes apparent. Franck Evina is the only attacking player who is strong enough to win battles against massive defenders. Of course that’s only possible if he gets the chance to enter those battles, something that didn’t happen in Unterhaching or Augsburg as the wingers in particular were completely invisible.
In the two most recent matches, coach Tim Walter made some adjustments (mainly caused by Daniels Ontuzans’ injury). Franck Evina, formerly the lone man up front, was moved to the left wing and played his best matches. Oliver Batista Meier shifted from the right to the center – as an attacking midfielder in Stuttgart, as a striker against Hoffenheim. Both of these changes proved to be good decisions. Furthermore, Benedict Hollerbach was promoted from the under-16s, even starting against Hoffenheim, and did a solid job. It will be interesting to see how the coaching team will approach the first matches after the winter break. Will Evina continue to be a left winger? Will the 4-1-4-1 system be used more frequently against deep-lying opponents? One thing is for certain: the under-17s will have to do without Christian Früchtl who will play for the reserves instead. In Aleksander Kovacevic, the team will lose another player, albeit a less influential one, as he is about to join a league rival. A center-back might be signed soon but that’s not certain yet.
This team once again has the chance to win the Southern league and reach the final championship round. In order to achieve this, no expense is spared, they’ll even have a 10-day training camp in Qatar. Not because it’s such a “nice” place but so that they can participate in a high-quality tournament with Real Madrid, Roma, PSV and PSG. It is likely that there are going to be live streams for those matches.
The third part of our youth series will be all about the Bayern reserves.