Veteran coach faces a host of challenges in Munich
Veteran coach Jupp Heynckes, brought out of retirement to steady the Bayern Munich ship in the wake of Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking, is relishing the chance to return to work. All the signs are that he is energised by the challenge of restoring momentum to a becalmed team.
Now in his fourth spell at the Bayern helm, the 72-year-old Heynckes might technically be a pensioner. Yet remains the most competitive of leadership animals, obsessed with detail, intolerant of mediocrity and brimming over with will-to-win.
“Some are old at 45; others are young at 70,” declared Heynckes at his (re)introductory press conference. “I fall into the second category. I understand there will be sceptics who point out that I’ve been out of the business for four years and that football has moved on. My reply is that the game hasn’t been re-invented. I’ve kept a close eye on developments. I know how the game functions.”
Bayern’s decision to appoint of Heynckes until the end of the season makes perfect, practical sense. He knows the club intimately, many of the players from his last spell in charge (2011-13) are still on board and has previous experience as an interim boss there, succeeding the fired Jurgen Klinsmann in the spring of 2009.
An undisputed Bayern Hall of Famer since steering them to an historic Treble in 2012-13, Heynckes is the ideal man to rally around. Both the board and fan-base adore him and for his first game back in charge, a 5-0 victory at home to Freiburg, the euphoria at the Allianz-Arena was palpable.
Already there is a sense of renewal in the air, a conviction that the German champions are no longer drifting.
That said, Heynckes still has a mountain of problems to resolve. Uncharacteristically for Bayern, fear and hesitancy have crept into the matchday psyche of late, a number of their stars have taken to living on their individual desert islands, while tactics under Ancelotti
Heynckes is believed to be unhappy with the fitness levels of the group and also must find an antidote for the drop-off in form of the likes of Thomas Müller, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng.
So what can we expect from Heynckes Revisited? Certainly far less rotation, a greater team ethic and more intensity when pressing. In addition, a clear player pecking order, with everyone accepting their hierarchical position in the dressing room.
At the same time as his wife Iris undergoes an operation to fix a knee ligament complaint, Jupp has some surgery of his own to perform. “It’s a difficult situation,” commented Heynckes. “However, I’ve a precise plan and know exactly how to approach it. A lot will depend on my ability to communicate and what we achieve on the training ground.”
Over to you Dr Heynckes.
What We Learned This Week
1. Invincibles no more
Dortmund’s 3-2 home loss to RB Leipzig was very much a collector’s item – the Ruhr club’s first Bundesliga defeat at the Westfalenstadion since April 2015, a glorious sequence of 41 unbeaten fixtures. Top of the table Dortmund now only have a two-point cushion over second-placed Bayern and will be especially disappointed that they could not see off a less than full strength RB, whose two best attackers, Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg, spent the entire match on the bench.
2. Nouri’s conditional job guarantee
Without a victory this season and so lacking in firepower that they only have three goals to their credit, Werder Bremen stand for crisis with a capital ‘C’. Bremen director of sport Frank Baumann insists he will stand by coach Alexander Nouri. But soon may be forced to think again. Next weekend, Werder visit another winless club in Köln and should they lose once more, a job vacancy surely will arise.