At the beginning of October, Bayern’s experienced Board members decided that the Ancelotti experiment was not working; the signs that this was the case were everywhere to be seen in the first few months of the season, and this was when Jupp Heynckes’ fourth reign in charge of the German giants began. Board members, players, fans and even journalists were delighted to welcome back the legendary Heynckes from retirement and just like that ‘the old sun’ brought a new bright dawn in Munchen that is already shining directly into the eyes of all Bayern rivals with blinding brightness.
The moment Heynckes stepped onto the training pitch the atmosphere within the squad changed, and known for his punctuality and seriousness, the manager restored order and discipline in the dressing room immediately. As it turned out, this was what the players wanted and badly needed. The fans also adore the last manager to bring the Champions League trophy to Munchen, and incredibly since Heynckes took charge, an average of 18,000 fans visit every open training session. With so many fans watching them training, the players have a renewed motivation and this is producing immediate results. The six games since Heynckes took charge have brought six wins.
It is amazing how small details can transform results so quickly, but this is what has happened at Bayern. Less than four weeks since Heynckes arrived, they look as good as ever once again. The most impressive fact from these six recent wins is that only one goal has been conceded in the process, and this is directly credited to the gaffer. Heynckes hasn’t rotated the back line to any significant degree knowing how important defensive stability is. This has brought instant results. Hummels and Boateng needed that trust gelling experience and are gelling really well.
The forward actions also benefited from a small adjustment and the gaffer that signed Robben and Ribery for Bayern during his previous reign changed the role of his wide forward players straightaway. Heynckes trusts the quality of his full-backs when it comes to crossing and he also believes that the likes of Robben, Coman and James Rodriguez are much more damaging when cutting inside from the wings. This works for Bayern in two ways – first it frees channels for explosive runs of the full-backs as the defenders struggle to stop the dangerous wingers, and at the same time if there is hesitation and the likes of Robben and James are not closed down quickly, they can score from any position near the penalty area. That Bayern have scored 14 goals in the 6 games since Heynckes arrived is evidence of how well this small adjustment has worked.
The other obvious change contributed by the manager concerns Thomas Muller. Struggling to fit into the system under Guardiola and after that with Ancelotti, the German international immediately started scoring goals under Heynckes, the manager who introduced him to the big stage in the first place. Despite picking up a minor injury recently Muller’s stats demonstrate a significant change. In October and he has made 23 more touches to the ball per match compared to his stats from the first 12 fixtures of the season. More importantly, more than half of his touches have taken place inside the opponents’ penalty area, the zone where Muller needs to be, and where he is most effective. Heynckes is definitely not wasting his talent down the wings as his two predecessors did.
Lewandowski is also a much happier man compared to just a month ago, and the Polish goal-machine is no longer seen complaining on the pitch. His main issue with Ancelotti’s reign was that the Italian constantly tinkered with the line up and Lewandowski rarely played with the same teammates over two consecutive games. This made it harder for him to make the best possible runs and to find the best positions inside the box. Since Heynckes took charge there is stability in the team and this is only helping Lewandowski. He now knows exactly where the cross will be delivered, or in which channel the forward pass through the middle will be made. As a result Bayern’s efficiency in terms of balls delivered inside the box increased from 27% for the first 12 games of the season to the much more impressive 43% in recent weeks.
These small adjustments were all Bayern’s talented group of players needed to click and in no time the Bavarians reclaimed top spot in the Bundesliga. During that time they achieved back-to-back wins against one of their fierce local rivals RB Leipzig, and also secured their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. All this in just three weeks, in which they have achieved six wins out of six and registered a 14:2 goal difference (the stats are correct as of 1stNovember). It is abundantly clear that a new red dawn is rising in Munchen with the ‘old sun’ Heynckes shining as bright as ever. As is usually the case, he is succeeding in extracting the very best out of his players.