When Jupp Heynckes took over from Carlo Ancelotti, his first piece of business was to get the mighty Bayern Munich ship back on course. Consider that task complete, as Heynckes has guided Die Roten to 20 wins in 21 games across all competitions.
The coaching and player management of Heynckes has been nothing short of brilliant. With the return of Thiago Alcantara to the star-studded Bayern Munich roster, however, it has finally come time for the overflow of talent to be handled with care. Prior to this point, the Bundesliga‘s top dogs have had at least one or more players on the mend from one injury, sickness, or malady. Now, however, Heynckes is going to have to manage his game day egos like he does his game day lineups. With little, if any, missteps in assembling his starters, the Bayern faithful should have confidence that Heynckes can tip-toe through this minefield with aplomb.
The first-world soccer problem facing Heynckes is that he simply has too much talent on his roster – and some of those players will have to watch from the stands because Bayern is limited to including 18 on its bench for game days.
The primary cause of heartburn Heynckes may face is choosing which players feature in the 6, 8, and 10 positions. With Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez, Thiago, Arturo Vidal, Javi Martinez, Sebastian Rudy, and Corentin Tolisso all worthy of consideration, and offering diversified skill-sets, Heynckes will have to use his preferred squad rotation. Building this consistency will be key if Bayern are to succesfully charge towards another treble.
While Heynckes has some options for how to best align his team, he will still face tough choices on who is on the outside looking in during match days. Some of the aforementioned versatility – along with the option to rest players at other spots – could help Heynckes wade through these choppy waters, but with the abundance of talent, comes the expectation of field time.
The 6-8-10 Debate
Thiago, Vidal, and Rudy can all seamlessly transition between the 6 and 8 spots, while Martinez (6) and Tolisso (8) are a bit more limited with their ability to move. Rodriguez and Muller can work through the 8 and 10 spots, along with spot duty at both the 7 and 11 positions. It offers Heynckes some ability to flex players around keep legs fresh for the stretch run of the season, but won’t help smooth out the congestion enough to keep everyone happy.
Unfortunately for these players, it looks as if some rotation of Rudy, Tolisso, Juan Bernat, and Sandro Wagner could be the primary pool of players used to draw who that will be in the stands on game day. Tolisso and Rudy are caught in the aforementioned midfield logjam, while Bernat is a luxury at outside back and Wagner’s role is not a necessity for game day.
Rafinha’s versatility and veteran presence will almost always sure he is a part of the game day unit, but Bernat has either been injured or failed to majorly impress during his game time this year. Similarly, Wagner is the backup to Robert Lewandowski, but it is easy to think he may find himself in the bleachers for some games as Muller or Kingsley Coman could be employed as False 9s in a pinch for Heynckes.
Even with Coman looking to be superior to Franck Ribery at this stage of the season, it would be hard to think Heynckes would place a revered veteran like Ribery or Arjen Robben in the stands. In the accompanying graphic, we attempted to visually show just how the talent stacks up and how we predict Heynckes will roll out his team on most game days.
Where do Bayern Munich go from here?
With all of this, Heynckes is the key to not only making the play on the field stay consistently good, but also keeping the seemingly bonded locker room from unraveling. There is, without question, a level of cohesion that Heynckes has implemented since taking over for Ancelotti and it is evident through the player interactions on the field.
Inevitably, Bayern will experience injuries that may alleviate some of the concerns around these issues, but when healthy, Heynckes is going to have to use all of the goodwill he has gained from his players to weather this unlikely storm.
Perhaps this is one of the factors in Heynckes’ apparent lack of interest in returning for another season. Getting a team to buy-in to team goals for three months is a lot less daunting than managing this core + the incoming phenom Leon Goretzka through next season’s slate.
But looking to next season – as tempting as it may be – would be a disservice to how incredible Bayern has been under Heynckes to this point. The squad is arguably as talented as any team in the world and if Heynckes can continue to press the right buttons, it could be a repeat of his 2012/2013 treble winning campaign, even if there are momentary lapses in navigated these tricky waters.
Editorial credit: Iurii Osadchi / Shutterstock.com