We can now forget the tiring pre-season. The Super Cup is in the locker, and the DFB-Pokal campaign is smoothly underway. Things are slowly returning to normal in Munich, just in time for the start of the Bundesliga. No ranting this time, just a gentle ramble.
The memory of FC Bayern’s pointless and painful preseason is slowly beginning to recede. While rivals Borussia Dortmund are still having to beat last-minute player poachers away with more than a forceful swat, things are slowly returning to normal in Munich. Well, as normal as things can get at Germany’s biggest club.
Bayern’s squad looks settled, club chairman Uli Hoeneß has closed the book on incoming players, and the first two weeks of what can be called the “proper” season has gone well. Injuries are still an issue, but the players are looking ready. Not perhaps as fine-tuned as we all would like, but ready all the same.
Having looked tired and jaded after an unnecessarily busy summer schedule, there is a sign of a spark in the squad – and more than a glint in the eyes of coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Good old fighting spirit
The Super Cup is seen as the crossover between preseason and the “proper” season. Pointless enough to throw away if you lose, but something to crow about if you win. Both Bayern and Dortmund were carrying injuries into the match, but both teams would give as good as they got in an exciting if error-riddled encounter.
Javi Martínez once again showed that he will never be a decent centre-back and Die Roten’s susceptibility to the fast counterattack continues to be a worry, but there were plenty of positives to take away. Robert Lewandowski was back on the scoreboard after a poor pre-season, and the team’s generally tired demeanour was replaced by some of that good old fighting spirit.
Had Bayern played like they had in their final two summer friendlies against Liverpool and Napoli, Dortmund may well have finished the Bavarians off after going 2:1 up. Instead, inspired by young tyro Joshua Kimmich, Bayern fought their way back into the match, equalising with a goal that was as priceless as it was ugly.
Even the penalty shootout jitters had seemingly been banished. Kimmich’s spot-kick was saved by Dortmund ‘keeper Roman Bürki, but all of the others were excellent. Perhaps the standouts were the new boys, Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy. There were was ‘keeper Sven Ulreich, who pulled off two cracking saves.
Rudy in particular is showing all the “best buy” signs. A quiet player who lets his football do the talking.
Paris Qatar Saint-Germain can have their overpriced Brazilian prima donna. I am happier with a player who is clearly looking to punch above his weight, work hard and make an impression.
Easy in Chemnitz
With the Super Cup safely in the bag, it was time to turn to the DFB-Pokal and a meeting with third-tier outfit Chemnitzer FC. No great concerns on paper, but the sort of fixture that should never be taken lightly. Just have a venture on Google and check out names like FC Homburg, FV 09 Weinheim and TSV Vestenbergsgreuth. Alternatively, get a copy of Red Odyssey and read up on them.
Not wanting to take any chances, Ancelotti named a full-strength Bayern team. After a fairly competitive first half at the wonderfully named community4you ARENA, the Bavarians started to rack up the goals as they eased to a 5:0 win. Two more goals for Lewy, a lovely free-kick from Franck Ribéry, and further goals from Kingsley Coman and Mats Hummels.
Throw in some slapstick from Ribéry, and you have a Bayern team that are starting to have fun again. Next time she awards Bayern a free-kick, referee Bibiana Steinhaus will be watching her bootlaces. Especially if a nimble-fingered Frenchman is about. Ooh la la.
Getting back to normal
It was far from perfect against Dortmund, and nothing concrete can be taken from an easy stroll against third-tier opposition. But things are slowly getting back to normal in Munich. The new players have integrated well, and the older heads have shown a renewed enthusiasm. Not everybody is fully fit, but we are getting there. Manuel Neuer is almost ready. The coach is happy.
Having moaned almost incessantly about the pre-season shenanigans, I am happy now. One more domestic trophy in the cabinet. Potential cup banana skin safely negotiated. Then HSV, a team I have loathed since I was a kid, come unstuck against the ten men of third-tier VfL Osnabrück. Yes, everything is normal again. Marvellous.
Just in time for the opening match of the Bundesliga season against Bayer Leverkusen. I’ll be there, too.