Is this the season Bayern Munich’s dominance of the Bundesliga finally ends?
There is typically an aura of invincibility about Bayern that, when combined with a ruthless efficiency both on the field and in the transfer market, explains why they have won seven consecutive Bundesliga titles. But as the new season dawns in Germany, there is a sense that for the first time in several years, Bayern look genuinely vulnerable. Lewandowski’s comments were just the latest evidence things aren’t entirely groovy in Bavaria.
‘I think we need three new players,’ he said last week. ‘We lost three players in attack with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and James [Rodriguez] and so far we have not had a [proven] new signing in that area.’
After winning the Bundesliga by margins of 25, 19, 10, 10, 15 and 21 points between 2012-13 and 2017-18, Bayern were rattled by Borussia Dortmund last season before ultimately scraping home by two points.This time around, there is an increasing belief that Dortmund could and possibly break Bayern’s vice-like grip on the Meisterschale. Typically, Bayern have their principal transfer businesses done and dusted before the squad report to their Sabener Strasse base for the pre-season training.
This summer, their market dealings have been pretty chaotic. Fair enough, they concluded the £68million purchase of Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez – a World Cup winner with France – in March. And, it was way back in January they reached agreement with Stuttgart for the acquisition of another French world champion – Benjamin Pavard – for £31.4m. So far, so efficient!
However, their quest to sign the spec of attacking talent Lewandowski was speaking about this summer has not been close to a success. Indeed, given they knew a year ago that stalwarts, Robben and Ribery would be ending their time with the club, fans and onlookers alike are stunned a proper contingency plan isn’t in place.They tested Chelsea’s resolve with various bids for Callum Hudson-Odoi, only for the 18-year-old to sign a new five-year contract to play under Frank Lampard.
Similarly, Manchester City’s winger, Leroy Sane was tipped to succeed Robben and Ribery in chance creation. But, despite Sane’s desire to leave City, Bayern allowed the deal to drag on all summer and had just about agreed terms to sign him for £90m when the Germany international damaged his anterior cruciate ligament in the Community Shield.
Lewandowski also pointed out that summer departures have left Bayern short of depth in several areas, whereas Dortmund strengthened in most parts of the pitch. Youngsters Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry have big boots to fill in replacing Robben and Ribery, with a history of recurrent injuries to be risked.
During the Super Cup, Thomas Muller was dragged out of his comfort zone to play on the right and, unfortunately for him, it could well be a case of adapt or fester on the bench. But such fears don’t appear to be shared by the fans. All 17 of Bayern’s Bundesliga fixtures at the 75,000-capacity Allianz Arena are already sold out. There is such a grinding inevitability about Bayern’s success that they remain odds-on to make it eight in a row. But there are enough little troubles and doubts, both on and off the field, to ensure it will at least be an interesting season.