Bayern Munich, perennial Champions League contender, goes deep in the tournament more often than not. In fact, Bayern is ranked #1 by UEFA in club coefficient rankings, which averages teams’ performances over the last five years.
This well-run club has had a remarkably active summer transfer window, with lots of (big) names coming and going. All this movement is certain to impact our UCL fantasy teams, so who better to give us some pointers than Tom Adams, author of SB Nation’s very own Bayern blog, the Bavarian Football Works?
Sravan: Hello Tom, and thank you for agreeing to represent the Bavarian Football Works and take this Never Manage Alone interview! How about we “kick off” with a brief introduction to Bayern’s SB Nation blog and its crew?
Tom: At BFW, we cover all things Bayern Munich and the German national team, as well as branching out to the broader spectrum of the Bundesliga as a whole, especially with how German teams perform in European cups and competitions. The site started with SBN back in 2012, while it was previously the “Bayern Offside” prior to going under the SBN umbrella.
I’ve been with the site since the summer of 2017, and there are a few contributors and editors that have been around either longer than, or around the same time as me, such as Ineednoname, Chuck Smith, and Phil Quinn (who just recently stepped away), but what’s especially cool is the global coverage our staff is comprised of. We have people based in the United States, the U.K, the E.U, and Asia – I love our cultural diversity and how we all work off of one another!
Sravan: What got you interested in supporting Bayern? And who are your favorite players?
Tom: Personally, I grew an affinity for Bayern Munich during my college years and late high school playing days when I knew of all the streaming websites to watch Bundesliga matches on. I’ve been a Liverpool supporter since I was about 11, but Bayern, the Bundesliga fan culture, and their success in Europe really turned me on to supporting them as well as their rich history, much like Liverpool’s. I LOVED watching Ribery and Robben in their prime, and how easily I could demolish my friends in FIFA using the speed stick with either of those guys. As far as my favorite players other than them, though, I would have to say Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich – TRUE Bayern players, natural leaders, and one-of-a-kind personalities.
PAST SEASONS & MANAGERS
Sravan: Turning back to 2020, Hansi Flick’s swashbuckling Bayern side were the team to beat, winning an unprecedented sextuple. Flick chose to leave in favor of the NT, and Bayern replaced him with Julian Nagelsmann, making him the most expensive coach ever. Though Bayern could not replicate the same form in the Champions League last year, they did win the Bundesliga, making it the 10th in a row. What was the difference in both these coaches’ playing styles? Could you review the key points of last season for us?
Tom: With Flick, I feel that you had a manager who really knew how to set up his sides to control possession, alternate their high presses, and make the RIGHT mid-match adjustments. I think a lot of Bayern fans will recall the amount of times Bayern either went into the HT break losing or having conceded cheap goals, but then came out and completely dominated the second half en route to collecting maximum points. It was a bit of a recurring motif during the treble and sextuple season. We used to always joke and ask, “What, exactly, is Hansi saying at halftime in the dressing room?!”
With Nagelsmann, I think his career path at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig has always allowed him to be a bit more free with his decisions with less pressure than he faces at Bayern, and he’s always been a fan of the back-three systems, playing without a natural striker. With Lewandowski last season, he had to adjust to playing with a talisman up front, which he admittedly struggled with, and he could never really seem to get his during-match adjustments right when it mattered most, particularly in the Champions League. I do also think that last season was tough for him with regards to the amount of injuries, COVID cases, and suspensions he had to deal with. Not to mention, Kimmich was a massive miss during his absence from both having coronavirus and having to be quarantined from the team for having not initially gotten the vaccine. None of that made Nagelsmann’s job any easier, to be fair to him.
Sravan: Bayern started last season’s UCL in emphatic fashion as well, looking like one of, if not the strongest team in the tournament. But they eventually crashed out in the quarters to Villareal. This undoubtedly placed a lot of pressure on both the coach and the front office. Usually prudent in the transfer market, Bayern went out all guns blazing in the summer, splashing the cash on big names such as De Ligt and Mané. What was the reasoning behind this?
Tom: Hasan Salihamidzic (sporting director) has said that this summer’s moves were all pre-planned, well before the window even opened. They knew the amount of players that had come towards the end of their contracts and knew the quality players they had lost in the span of just two seasons prior to the window opening.
Adding Lewandowski to a list of David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Niklas Sule to have already left makes it a bit obvious that you’re going to have to invest more heavily than usual to replace that kind of experienced depth. Not to mention, Corentin Tolisso also left this summer, while he never really came to full fruition at Bayern, largely disrupted by persistent injury problems. Case in point, it was clear that this summer was a pivotal period for Bayern, and they delivered with Noussair Mazraoui, Ryan Gravenberch, Sadio Mané, Matthijs de Ligt and Mathys Tel.
Sravan: Lewandowski averaged around 40 goals a season in all but his first year at Bayern. He even broke the all-time Bundesliga season best, which was Gerd Muller’s 40, which is a tremendous feat in itself. How much is he missed? Who are the winners and losers?
Tom: I said this on a podcast episode recently, but ANY side that loses a goal scorer that can easily give you 20-30 goals per season is going to be a huge miss, no matter what club you are. As we know, Lewandowski was that type of striker and broke a long-standing Bundesliga record, having reached a tally of 41 two seasons ago, literally scoring the 41st with his last touch of the football for the 2020/21 season – you can’t write a script that good!
As far as winners and losers with him leaving, I try not to look at it that way. With our form in the beginning of the season, we’ve seen how deadly and dangerous we can be when you have guys like Mane, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Muller all running at you at once instead of having most focus placed on a striker like Lewandowski. It’s a different setup without a natural striker, but Nagelsmann will HAVE to be working on finishing with the players because three goals from over 90 chances in our last three league matches is nothing short of abysmal and alarming.
2022-23 SEASON & TACTICS
Sravan: Nagelsmann played around tactically, and his team had a blistering start to the season, scoring 15 goals in 3 matches. But then they turned a corner and Bayern are four matches without a win. This is the worst start in twelve years, and they even lost their record-breaking 87-game scoring streak dating Feb 2020. How would you rate the season so far? How is life at Bayern without a single focal point in the attack?
Tom: Man, this is hard to answer, especially with how good we’ve been in the Champions League thus far against difficult opponents in Inter Milan and Barcelona. We’ve seen how deadly our attack can be when we’re on our day, and we’ve still scored a league-best 19 goals in the Bundesliga, but we’ve just needlessly dropped points against Monchengladbach, VfB Stuttgart, Union Berlin and Augsburg – no excuses.
Our finishing as of late has been terrible, but that can’t take attention away from the lapses in concentration in defense, either. We failed to keep a clean sheet in any of those aforementioned matches. I’d say a B- thus far, and honestly, the evidence is there that we can produce without a main striker, but the onus is on Nagelsmann and his staff to get the decisions right so that we can start capitalizing on all of these chances created. I think we will still be able to find a good balance playing without a natural striker, but if things just get worse and worse, our front office might have to go against what they’ve already said and make a bit of a panic buy in January.
Sravan: These domestic tussles haven’t seemed to skew Bayern’s focus in the Champions League one bit. Were the wins just as effortless as the scorelines suggest? How do you predict the rest of the group stage games to go?
Tom: While Bayern assuredly was the better side against both Inter and Barca, both of those sides had their strong spells against us. Ironically enough, Lewandowski had two massive chances early on, and had just one of those gone in, that match probably would’ve finished with a different scoreline. Manuel Neuer also had to make a handful of Neuer-esque saves in either match, so I would say the 2-0 scoreline does perhaps flatter Bayern a bit, but the four goals they scored were all so well taken.
We joke that Sane and Bayern should just pretend that every match is a Champions League match at this point – Maybe that will work! Our position in the group is advantageous right now, as we have the MD-3 and MD-4 match-ups against Viktoria Plzen while Inter and Barca will be taking points off of each other. I think we will make it out of the group, and perhaps even win it... And I have confidence our form will turn around in all competitions, and we can make it to the quarters or semis.
Sravan: Are we going to witness another treble this season?
Tom: A treble might be pushing it, but I am a glass half-full type of person, so I will say it’s certainly possible. Football is a mad sport sometimes, and some stories simply write themselves, so… AUF GEHT’S BAYERN!
Sravan: Finally, coming to the question our readers are looking forward to the most: Who are some Bayern players that are must-haves to rake in some fantasy points? Are there any players who fly under the radar but potentially have big impacts on the continental stage? Is there anyone you wouldn’t place your bets on? (For fantasy points, we are mostly concerned with sure starts yileding goals, assists, ball recoveries, and clean sheets. Midfielders and defenders earn more points per goal than forwards. Lewandowski who?).
Tom: Fantasy-wise, I can tell I’ve personally been kicking myself every time I don’t have Jamal Musiala and Benjamin Pavard [stretchered off in UCL MD-2, now in PT], as they’ve both had some juicy returns in the Bundesliga so far this season.
Apart from maybe two or three match-days, being a Mane owner has been a little bit disappointing, as well as Kimmich. Bayern defenders are particularly tricky since we rarely keep clean sheets, but Pavard and Davies are also strong-ish shouts with how often they’re in the opposition third creating chances.
If you’re in any UCL fantasy league, Sane is your go-to! Coman has also been in great form when he’s been involved, and he’s back on the training pitch, so always worth a shout after the international break.
As far as overall consistency, though, I’d say that throughout the years, Muller is always in and around Bayern goals, so he is a must-have in my opinion, though this current rut Bayern has been in has been a little bit of an outlier stats-wise. As a Neuer owner too, some more clean sheets would be very much appreciated!
Something’s Roten in Germany
Sravan: Anything else you’d like to share?
Tom: To end, I would just like to say to Bayern fans to remain optimistic. Negativity really only breeds more negativity, and this is a club that has shown us countless times throughout the years how well they can respond with their backs against the wall. Let’s see how the boys respond and remain excited and hopeful.
On the fantasy front, make sure you keep the banter with your mates in your leagues alive and well – it keeps the world spinning around! I’m “Late Night de Ligt” on Bundesliga fantasy if anyone is curious.
And there you have it! Thanks Tom, and the Bavarian Football Works, for giving us insightful answers to my questions about all things Bayern. Don’t forget to check them out, they’re doing some good stuff over at www.bavarianfootballworks.com!
More blogger interviews will be included over the coming days, and in case you missed them, check out the previous Q & A articles on NMA by clicking on the club name: Cartilage Free Captain: Spurs, We Ain’t Got No History: Chelsea, Into the Calderon: Atletico
So what do you think about Bayern and its UCL fantasy assets? Have you been rewarded by any in your roster? Have you been disappointed? And what do you think of Bayern’s chances in the next two (mirror) rounds against the minnows of Viktoria Plzen? Please log in and share your thoughts in the comments below!