Hansi Flick is not your regular big shot manager who has managed different teams across Europe. Before this, the German had only managed in divisions below the Bundesliga and was an assistant to Joachim Low and Niko Kovac. He was only appointed as Bayern Munich's interim manager in November last year after Kovac left the club.
No one expected Flick to make such an astonishing impact in such a short time. Despite being four points behind Borussia Monchengladbach when Kovac left the club, Bayern were expected to win the Bundesliga. However, they were not the favourites for the Champions League, given that just last year they crashed out in the round of 16.
Under Kovac, Bayern focused to attack from the wings, however, in the half-spaces they were unable to find a midfielder as Thiago would drop deep to help the build-up. It meant that the opposition would often have more men on the wings and create a two on three situation, while Bayern lacked direction when they had possession because they would fail to find space between the lines.
Flick changed that by giving more playing time to Thomas Muller and by bringing Joshua Kimmich into the midfield. Bayern's build-up play has since become better as both Thiago and Kimmich were comfortable to drop deep while Muller would then arrive in the space left by both of them. Both Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard were pushed wide and subsequently had plenty of passing options.
Under Kovac, they would often play in a U-shape and when they lost the ball and tried to press, it would mean that the opposition had spaces in the middle of the park. Thus, teams found it easier to bypass the press and counter-attack, with Bayern's wingers failing to track back leaving the full-backs in a two on one situation.
Hansi Flick changed the way Bayern Munich are being looked at
Bayern's backline was then seen as lazy, lethargic and unmotivated, but under Flick they have looked very hungry and aggressive. Perhaps a change in personnel helped, but Flick has also managed to motivate these players to give their best. As soon as they lose the ball they instinctively press with high intensity, something unseen under Kovac.
Under Flick, the Bundesliga champions try to be more compact while pressing. The wingers cut the passing lanes to opponents full-backs while the midfielders intensely press the opponents' midfielders. With Jerome Boateng in the side, they are confident of winning aerial duels and in case a ball gets in behind the defence, Davies or David Alaba use thier pace to cover.
Muller perfectly described how Flick has managed to make such an impact, he said:
"Hansi gives us clear guidelines – not options, but specifics. That’s why we were able to come back so well after he took charge. He makes sure we all muck in defensively, including the strikers, and consciously made the spine of the team – using the more vocal players – really strong".
The changes made by Flick are not only tactical, but he has also managed to maintain a good relationship with the players with excellent man-management skills.
A big credit should also go to experienced players like Boateng and Manuel Neuer who have managed to get back to thier best. Alaba's tactical awareness also made the transition from left-back to centre back extremely smooth and while Davies was a wildcard, he did not take a long time to settle into his new position.
Though no credit can be taken away from the Bavarians for their treble in 2019-20, they have been lucky as well. In the Bundesliga, Dortmund never really managed to threaten them for the title and other teams were simply not ready to challenge in the competition. It was the same story in the DFB Pokal.
In the Champions League, they faced a young Chelsea team in the round of 16. In the quarter-finals, they faced Barcelona's worst team in a decade which already had a bad season. In the semi-finals, it was an inexperienced Lyon team who had better chances than Bayern but failed to convert them. Rudi Garcia had his tactics spot on but Lyon players lacked composure and it cost them the game. In the final, Tuchel actually managed to tactically outsmart Flick but his players let him down in front of goal.
Regardless of what could have happened, the reality is that Bayern lived all of that under Flick and now must build on this success. Leroy Sane is already at the club and now potential long-term replacements for the likes of Robert Lewandoski and Neuer should be the next priorities.Published 11 Sep 2020, 11:29 IST