The eighth Bundesliga title in a row, the DFB Pokal added and the opportunity to clinch an historic second treble with the Champions League still on the table would seem the perfect season for FC Bayern. Perfection was the end result, but that’s not to say the season was plain sailing for the Bavarians this time around.
Despite having won the double the year before, going into the new season there were still doubts as to whether Niko Kovac was indeed the right man for the job as Bayern trainer and those niggling doubts became increasingly clear as the opening weeks of the season passed.
Four wins in the opening six matches was a good start (with draws against Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig), but then trouble started brewing. A 2-1 home defeat to Hoffenheim was followed by a 2-2 draw at Augsburg. A disappointing display in Athens in the Champions League brought criticism of Bayern’s defending and of Kovac from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and the writing was on the wall for the Bayern trainer.
A 5-1 mauling at the hands of his former club Eintracht Frankfurt was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and he was duly removed from his position. The club turned to assistant Hansi Flick in the short term to steer Bayern back on course and it was to prove the best possible decision and would totally transform the team.
His first Bundesliga match saw him thrown in at the deep end in the first Klassiker of the season, but a 4-0 win saw Bayern emerge victorious. He followed that with a 4-0 victory over Fortuna Düsseldorf and it seemed the clouds had lifted. Two successive losses to Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach didn’t dampen spirits too much as the performances in both games were more than acceptable. They won their next three meaning they went into the Winterpause in third place, four points behind leaders RB Leipzig.
The Rückrunde saw Bayern become a results machine with Robert Lewandowski plundering goals left, right and centre, while Thomas Müller was also enjoying the season of his life. Bayern simply steamrollered everyone they encountered and not even the interruption caused by the corona virus lockdown could halt them.
A goalless draw at home to Leipzig was the only ‘blip’ in a run which saw them win 17 of their 18 Rückrunde fixtures. They scored 54 goals in that time and conceded just ten. Winning the second Klassiker on matchday 28 effectively took Dortmund out of the title race and the final weeks of the season were mainly a race for Bayern to try and reach the 100 goals mark, which they duly did with a 4-0 win at Wolfsburg on the final day.
It had been a very un-Bayern start to the season, but once Hansi Flick began to work his magic, the players responded and took the club to another level- one which none in the Bundesliga could match and one Bayern fans will hope none in Europe will be able to match either.
The entire Rückrunde was joy to behold for Bayern fans and perfection was only halted with the 0-0 draw against Leipzig. In terms of individual games, the first 4-0 win over Dortmund in Hansi Flick’s first game was a top display, while the return on matchday 28 at an empty Signal Iduna Park was a real display of Bayern’s winning mentality.
There were plenty of hammerings handed out this season but home game against Werder Bremen (6-1), home to Schalke (5-0), and away at Hoffenheim (6-0) stand out.
Aside from Robert Lewandowski’s goals, the arrival of Alphonso Davies as a world star was also one of the season highlights at the Allianz Arena
The underwhelming start to the season was a disappointment, with the home losses to Hoffenheim on matchday 7 and the 5-1 mauling at the Commerzbank Arena to Frankfurt on matchday 10 the particular lows that led to Bayern sacking Kovac.
Aside from the that, the rest of the campaign was one big high point for Bayern, much to the chagrin of the rest of the league.
Tale of the Tape
Record: 26-4-4, 82 points (2.41 per game), 1st in Bundesliga
Home Record: 41 points (13-2-2) Away Record: 41 points (13-2-2)
Goals: 100 (2.94 per game), Goals Against: 32 (0.94 per game), Diff: 68
xG: 82.9, xGA: 35.1, Diff: 47.9
Bayern reached 100 goals on the final day of the season giving them an average of 2.94 per game. The season was really all about Robert Lewandowski as just when you thought he had reached his peak; he goes and has his best-ever scoring season. With 34 league goals in 31 appearances he once again finished as the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer fighting off stiff competition from Timo Werner. He began the season with 16 goals in his opening 11 matches to set the tone for his season, and only failed to find the net in 6 matches.
Joining him amongst the goals were Serge Gnabry with 12 goals and 10 assists, while Thomas Müller set a new Bundesliga assists record with 21. He also contributed eight goals, which was the same figure as loanee Philippe Coutinho. Joshua Zirkzee was also a big plus this season with his four goals showing that he is ready to work as Lewandowski’s understudy.
Bayern’s attack this season was all about Lewandowski. The Pole looked a firm favourite for this season’s Ballon d’Or until it was controversially cancelled by organisers France Football.
This was an area in which Hansi Flick’s decision making paid absolute dividends. Long-tern injuries to both Niklas Süle and big money signing Lucas Hernandez didn’t derail Bayern with some inspired tactical switches. Moving David Alaba into the centre to partner Jerome Boateng proved a masterstroke as did using teenager Alphonso Davies as a left back.
Boateng looked to have no future at the club at the end of the previous season but proved all doubters wrong with an imperious season. Alaba shone in his new position instantly performing like a world-class centre back, while the pace and dynamism of Canadian Davies was a revelation. Add in a very solid first season in Bavaria.
Joshua Kimmich firmly established himself as a central midfielder and he continued to excel as the fulcrum around which Bayern operated. He missed just one match and scored the decisive goal in the second Klassiker with a sublime piece of insight and skill. He scored 4 and added 7 assists.
Thiago (20 starts) and an ever-increasingly impressive Leon Goretzka (17 starts) partnered him in the centre with the former Schalke midfielder scoring 6 and providing 5 assists. Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho provided the quality needed when called upon, although Corentin Tolisso was limited to just 7 starts through injury.
Bayern were thwarted in their pursuit of Leroy Sané, but there were plenty of other arrivals last summer at the club. The headlines were grabbed by the €80 million they spent on Atletico Madrid defender and World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez. He however arrived injured and then had his season ruined by an ankle ligament injury. He was limited to 10 starts, and now must be wondering where his position lies what with the success enjoyed by the back-four last season.
Benjamin Pavard arrived for €35 million and there was initial doubts as to whether he could cut it at Bayern after being relegated with Stuttgart, but he blossomed as the season progressed and looks now to have the right back slot to himself.
The €12 million signing of Michaël Cuisance was a strange one as Bayern didn’t really need another central midfielder and it felt more like one for the future. With no Sané due to his injury at Manchester City, Bayern opted to bring in two quality loanees in the shape of Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic. Both played their part but won’t be missed next season.
The January signing of Alvaro Odriozola was another strange one from Bayern with the Spaniard just coming in as an insurance policy and he notched up only 152 minutes of action.
Player of the Season
Hands down Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich striker was the season’s top scorer in Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal, and currently still leads the scoring in the Champions League, a competition Bayern are still very much alive in. At the age of 31, the Pole scored 51 goals in 43 games, and with or without Bayern winning the treble, would have been the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this year.
The period before Hansi Flick’s appointment would probably have been graded a B, but the period after certainly had Bayern at the very top of the class. A near-perfect Rückrunde of 17 wins out of 18, one hundred goals scored for the season and the DFB Pokal added in impressive fashion. It has to be an A+ for Bayern overall. Should they go on to win the Champions League, we’ll have to create a new A++ grade for the dominant Bavarians.