Five reasons why Bayern Munich have improved this season
Bayern Munich are looking to complete a treble this season - here's five reasons behind their success
After the hurt and disappointment of suffering the triple horror in the 2011/12 season as Bayern Munich were runners up in the Bundesliga, Deutscher Pokal and the Champions League, the Bavarians have responded in the best way possible this term.
They hold a staggering 20 point lead over second placed Borussia Dortmund and are in the semi-finals in the Deutscher Pokal having beaten Dortmund in the quarter finals thanks to Arjen Robben's spectacular effort. Their treble hopes in seemingly intact as they enter the second leg of their round of 16 clash with Arsenal with a 3-1 lead to all but book their place in the last eight.
For all their successes this season, the most impressive aspect of their outstanding season so far is the ruthlessness and the utter domination over the opposition that has caught the attention of all of Europe.
They are not labouring nor cruising to victory, they are simply annihilating teams in a manner that is almost painful to watch, except if your a Bayern supporter.
All their redeeming qualities were at work during their gripping comeback against Fortuna Dusseldorf as they clawed their way to victory from behind to maintain an almost faultless season.
In light of this latest exhibition of Bayern's outstanding football, here are five reasons why Bayern have become the complete article this season:
Given that there were so many near misses last season, this is a side that is determined to make amends and win more silverware. Having lost the 2010 Champions League final on top of missing out on the league title for two years running, it has not been the best of times at the Allianz Arena in terms of delivering trophies.
Experienced players who have been around the block for a long time such as Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, have been so close yet so far from winning major trophies for club and country in recent years and as the leaders of the club they will be driven more than anyone else to lead the club to trophies.
That motivation has certainly been infectious on the rest of the team as they have left no stone unturned so far this season as they have mercilessly put teams to the sword like a team possessed.
This is a team with one of the deepest squads in all of Europe. Mario Gomez, Mario Manzukic and Claudio Pizzaro have all played their part for the team in what is a competitive strikeforce.
Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Xherdan Shaqiri have all been fighting for the three spots just behind the lone striker this season in what is an embarrassment of riches in the attacking department. In midifield, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez, Luis Gustavo and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk have all provided strong competition for one another in the engine room.
At the back, David Alaba and Diego Contento have been options at left back while on the right Rafinha has been a more than able deputy for captain Philip Lahm. Holger Badstuber, Dante, Daniel Van Buyten and Jerome Boateng represent quality all round at the heart of defence where they have been inpenetrable with their immaculate defending. With such strong competition all over the squad, the bar has been raised higher in terms of the work put in off the field and that has surely translated onto the pitch.
Summer Signings have all fired
FC Hollywood certainly made their intentions clear at the start of the season as they splashed the cash on Javi Martinez for 40 millions Euros. Mario Manzukic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Dante and Claudio Pizzaro also arrived at the Allianz Arena to bolster depth and they have all worked a treat.
Depth can be seen as one of the reasons that cost Bayern trophies last season, especially in the Champions League final when key players were suspended. Bayern have reacted and their record signing in Martinez has established himself as one of the premier defensive midfielders in the world with his tactical nous and intelligent reading of the game which has alleviated a lot of pressure off the defence. Where these summer signings have really been of use is in the heart of defence where Holger Badstuber suffered a season ending injury early in the season.
With an ageing Van Buyten and the erratic Boateng the probable options to form the rearguard for the rest of the season, Dante has come to the rescue and has done a remarkable job as Bayern have only conceded 10 league goals with his top shelf performances earning him a cap for Brazil. It highlights a meteoric rise in the space of less than a season for the big Brazilian who has ensured the loss of Badstuber has been softened.
Xherdan Shaqiri has provided welcome competition on the flanks for Robben and Ribery, after years of being undisputed starters. He has shown flashes of brilliance in an encouraging debut campaign that suggest he will be reading to depose the current stars in the future. Mario Manzukic has had a superb season 15 league goals in just 21 games to become almost the clubs number one striker. Claudio Pizzaro has also played his part as deputy and found himself in the limelight after hitting a hat-trick against Lille.
Rewarding form over reputation
For much of their time at the Bavarian giants, stars such as Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have experienced very little competition for their spot in the team. This can be put down to the fact that Bayern's lack of depth has been one of the biggest criticisms in recent years, but this season Jupp Heynckes has had the squad depth to shake the team up.
Much of the negative aspects of the season have stemmed from the frustration exhibited from established stars such as Gomez and Robben. Both have been below par this season, and have been mostly playing off the bench as Heynckes has bravely rewarded form over reputation. This has meant Manzukic has led the line on most occasions and Thomas Muller has received more game-time in place of Robben.
As problematic as it could in the dressing room to satisfy the many egoes, the fact is that Heynckes's bold decision to lay down the gauntlet and challenge his fringe players to fight for a starting position with the guarantee that they will be assessed equally on form, has been a godsend for the team. Given Gomez and Robbens indifferent form, had Heynckes stuck by his stars, Bayern would not be flying so high.
Heynckes is under no pressure
With Jupp Heynckes retiring at season's end and handing over the reigns to Pep Guardiola, the German tactician has a new lease on life as he has been able to enjoy his last season without the pressure of meeting season objectives. With his management career coming to an end anyway, he has been able to manage the team to his own accord without worrying about the ramifications of any mistakes.
It has allowed him to think clearly and with conviction as he has nothing to lose, which is in complete contrast to the Bayern Munich team that is under immense pressure to deliver silverware, and therefore these Heynckes's liberty has helped focus the team.
The freedom in which Bayern are playing can be seen as reflection Heynckes's nothing to lose approach for this campaign.
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