Student writer Chris Lierly discusses the moving and shaking that the Bayern Munich manager will have to do to leave his mark on the club.
In May of 2013, FC Bayern Munich lifted the Champions League trophy in Wembley Stadium after defeating their rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final. Every season since, the team has struggled to reclaim the glory of that night in London. As Bayern Munich wins the Bundesliga title nearly every year, managers of the team need to win the Champions League to leave their mark. Two Champions League winning managers, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, tried to bring that same success back to Bavaria since 2013 and both failed. The hiring of Niko Kovač promises, among many things, a divergence from the Ancelotti era that ended in disaster.
When Kovač was hired, he made it clear that he wanted to appraise the entire team to best build a system of his own. To help the new manager, the club presented him with new signings Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry and recalled former prodigy Renato Sanches, who was on loan at Swansea City. Kovač then endured a summer full of transfer rumors that culminated in the midfield engine of Arturo Vidal transferring to FC Barcelona. However, Bayern thwarted a bid by the same club to buy their other anchoring midfielder, Thiago Alacantara, and a money-loaded attempt by Jose Mourinho to bring center-back Jerome Boateng to Manchester United. Luckily for Kovač, he starts this year off with many options at all levels of the game.
Other than goalkeeper and striker, filled by superstars Manuel Neur and Robert Lewandowski respectively, almost every position is interchangeable in the 2018/19 Bayern Munich squad. Up front veterans Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery will have to share time with Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman. In the middle of the field, it gets crowded as James Rodriguez, Thiago, Corentin Tolisso, Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez all have good shots at starting roles. Not to mention that the defense behind this midfield has about six starting quality defenders for a team that has historically utilized a back four set. You might have noticed that all these players add up to a few over the legally allowed eleven on a pitch at once, and there lies Kovač’s first decision. On a team with talent like this, who do you bench?
Another decision the Croatian manager must make regards contracts and whether to part ways with players that have defined the last decade of Bayern Munich’s success. Ribery and Robben have both come through in big moments for Bayern. However, the club cannot continue to forfeit so much speed in the attack by starting both. Kovač will likely have to choose one, if not both, to decline signing a new contract with in favor of buying a new attacker or promoting from within.
Kovač will make changes at the Allianz Arena this season. He will have to. The changes he makes and whether he utilizes the players in ways that recent managers could not will decide whether Kovač’s tenure at Bayern will be a storied one that reclaims the glory of 2013 or one to forget.