Just over a fortnight into the reign of Jupp IV, things are starting to look up for Bayern after their early season trauma. We cannot count our chickens quite yet, but a corner has been turned.
What a difference two weeks can make. The first fortnight in Munich of the latest Jupp Heynckes era (let us call it Jupp IV) has just flown by, and in many respects it feels like 2012/13 again. The stability has returned, and a short but shaky FC Hollywood chapter has been closed. FC Bayern are edging their way back to normality.
But let us not be too hasty.
Warm red glow
It is far too soon to draw conclusions, let alone make predictions and talking about where things might be come next May. Jupp Heynckes is back in charge until the end of the season (at the very least), and the mission is to take things slowly. Month by month. Week by week. Match by match.
It is true that the first two matches under Jupp IV were fantastic, with the third more workmanlike. Overall, there has been clear sense of order about the team, and a sense of purpose appears to have returned. The squad has responded, and everybody has upped their game.
It would be monumentally foolish to start making predictions. But I think we can safely say that a dangerous corner has been turned. The players were left staring like startled rabbits into bright white lights after the demoralising defeat in Paris three weeks ago. Right now, they are basking in a warm red glow.
A warm “Osram” red glow.
On hearing that Jupp Heynckes was returning to the Bavarian capital, there was much media gossip about what was going to happen next. About who was going to be in the team and who was not. Arturo Vidal was on his way out. James Rodríguez had no place in any post-Carletto lineup. The past two matches have shown this to be abject rubbish.
Heynckes has started to work well with the entire squad, not just those he left behind in 2013. Far from sitting things out, James has been involved. The Colombian may have been an Carlo Ancelotti pick, but Heynckes has a plan. He is not there not to take things in a new direction, but to work with what he has. This involves maximising all of the resources at his disposal.
One things is certain. Heynckes is not in Munich to mess around. He is not there to establish the foundations for a new vision. He is not there to give the tabloid scribblers stories. Simply, he is there to do a job.
That job has started solidly, and not just on the pitch. Ancelotti’s laissez-faire approach has been summarily swept away. While there has been no “cracking of the whip” as this article suggests, good old-fashioned rules have been weaved back into the daily routine at the Säbener Straße. Mobile telephones have been banned during training time, and players are being made to clean up after themselves.
When Ancelotti was dismissed at the end of September, the media was quick to create a sense of panic. Off the pitch, it was FC Hollywood. On it, the wheels were coming off. While Bayern were blowing two-goal leads against the likes of VfL Wolfsburg and Hertha BSC, table-toppers Borussia Dortmund were finding their range against domestic cannon fodder.
So it went. Bayern are not as good as they were. Dortmund, five points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, are the team to beat. Bayern might not even be good enough to finish in the top four. Und so weiter.
In the end it was, as I predicted in a previous ramble, only a slight apocalypse. Fast forward to where we are now, with many of the scribblers having put down their pens and closed their laptops.
After Bayern had smashed five goals without reply against lowly SC Freiburg in Heynckes’ first match back in charge, the mighty Dortmund went down like a big lead yellow balloon at home in the grudge match against RB Leipzig.
Even when Bayern were not that great and their most profligate in labouring to a 1:0 win in Hamburg, Dortmund were “doing a Bayern” as they blew a two goal advantage in Frankfurt. Suddenly, the yawning five-point gap had been reduced to a matter of goal difference. Had the Bavarians been a little sharper in front of goal and the woodwork not such an obstacle, they could have been back on top.
In the Champions League, Bayern provided Scottish champions Celtic with a footballing lesson. They had to settle for three unanswered goals, but it could have easily been double that. The mighty Dortmund, meanwhile, were dropping points in Cyprus against their group’s whipping boys Apoel Nicosia. Ah, what a funny and fickle game football can be.
Having recovered from their Paris shock, Die Roten are well on track to still be in the Champions League when the real business begins after the Winterpause. The mighty Dortmund, meanwhile, look as though they are going to be “Boszing it” in the Europa League. Ludogorets, Steaua București and Östersund are waiting for you, fellas. Oh, and a certain North London club too.
Of course, it follows that Dortmund fans will then argue that their dismal failure in Europe is a deliberate ploy, so that they can concentrate more on winning the Bundesliga. Or something.
The perfect man
The temporary nature of Heynckes’ appointment, sadly, means that FC Bayern will continue to remain a hot subject for clickbait creators and gossip mongers until the end of the season. The stories will continue to buzz around the likes of Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel, as straightforward stories about winning football matches are somehow not as interesting these days. It is just something that we will all have to put up with.
With the media following every movement at the Säbener Straße, one could understand how and why it might be difficult for the players to keep their heads down and remain focused. In Jupp Heynckes, FC Bayern have the perfect man to manage such a situation.
For some Bayern fans, the treble-winning Heynckes’ return to Munich has rekindled memories of the not-so-distant good old days. For the club, and particularly Uli Hoeneß, the reasons are far less sentimental.
Yes, the Bayern president and the septugenarian coach are old friends. But the reasons behind Heynckes’ reappointment run far deeper than that. Despite spending the majority of his playing career at Borussia Moenchengladbach, Heynckes is cut from the same cloth as Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. He is part of the fabric of FC Bayern Munchen.
For me as an FC Bayern fan, the drama is now over. Things have settled down far better than hoped, and the team are building a head of steam again. For every supporter of Die Roten, the recent furore is over. For the rest of the gossiping world however, Bayern will be bringing in Jose Mourinho next summer.