It would be pretty hard to give anything less than top marks for Bayern’s first half performance. Even by their lofty standards, they’ve played some impressive football up through winter break
Bayern was certainly wounded last season, as they struggled and watched Dortmund romp home to the title. So in typical Bayern fashion, they vowed not to let that happen again. They plumped down some 45 million euros to shore up the squad, and let some marginalized players leave. The big move was of course grabbing German international keeper Manuel Neuer from Schalke. Initially, some of the Bayern fans were unhappy, because Neuer had previously stated he was a die-hard Schalker. (And why not, he grew up in Gelsenkirchen?! But I suppose nobody has ever accused the Bayern fans of intelligence, hehehe). But Neuer has proved to be the real deal as Bayern management promised. He still has instances like a wanker, where he gets himself in trouble, but his reaction/reflexes and skill make him one of the world’s best keepers. Bayern has always relied upon solid long-term GKs (Maier, Pfaff, Kahn), and they probably are set for at least 10 years now. Already 10 shutouts, a league leading defense, I’d say the Bayern fans are shut up now…
But Bayern also made a couple of other clever buys to shore up last season’s shaky defense. Jerome Boateng came from Manchester City, and Rafinha returned from Italy. Whereas Boateng certainly could have stayed, Rafinha was one of these players who did well in Germany, but couldn’t adjust in Serie A. (Can you say “Diego”?). Another “addition” is Holger Badstuber. He has basically sucked for several seasons, but under Jupp Heynckes has seemingly found his way, and appears to be a solid defender. Even oldtimers like Daniel Van Buyten seem to be enjoying a recovery. Plus you have captain Philip Lahm, one of the world’s best outside backs.
Up front, Mario Gomez is banging them in, and Miroslav Klose is forgotten. (Although doing quite nicely at Lazio. Klose doesn’t do much except score a lot of goals where ever he is). Franck Ribery is terrorizing defenses, and Thomas Müller has been solid. Youngster Toni Kroos has shown lots of improvement. He was heralded as the next great super talent, but was eclipsed by Müller. However he’s become a solid starter, and looks to be on the way to fufilling his potential.
So after a stunning opening defeat, Bayern was off to the races and ripping up the league. In fact, the title looked wrapped up. But then Bastian Schweinsteiger got injured, and Bayern looked somewhat vulnerable to charging teams like Dortmund and Schalke. Schweinsteiger was truly in world-class form, and the squad lost some of it’s focus. Even though Arjen Robben is back from long injury, he’s more of a prima-donna. “Schweini” provided steel, and Bayern was brought back to earth.
Not all things have been rosy on the squad either. Defender Breno burned down his house and now faces legal problems. Maybe it was just a cry for help and attention since he wasn’t playing. I would say that players like Ivica Olic and Daniel Pranjic feel a bit underutilized and could want to jump ship. Certainly they would be starters somewhere else, but hell, if Robben often starts on the bench, what do you expect?
Appointing Jupp Heynckes as boss seems to have worked nicely. He’s been able to manage the egos and keep the squad focused in all competitions.
All things said, they’re still Germany’s strongest club, and the Bundesliga title is their’s to lose.