What are the biggest differences between Heynckes’ Bayern from last year and the team this season under Guardiola?
Their record in the Bundesliga showed impressive 29 victories with only four draws and one defeat. Many people at that time said that it will be impossible for the new coach Guardiola to improve this work done by Heynckes. They were wrong.
Maybe this was exactly Guardiola’s motivation, to achieve the impossible, to improve a team which had won all possible titles in the season before. He himself used the words “super super” after a Bayern match that had obviously pleased him to describe their performance. So he’s looking for the super-superlative of football, perfection in the game.
The major tactical change was that he changed the 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders under Heynckes to a 4-1-4-1 with only one defensive midfielder and another midfielder, normally the bargain Thiago who came from Barcelona last summer, a little bit more centrally.
Without that central midfielder Heynckes’ playing style was clearly more vertical and faster up front, whereas Guardiola is always looking for the control of the ball which is for him equal to the dominance of the game.
At the beginning of this season the two defensive midfielders under Heynckes, Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger, were both injured which is why he moved Lahm from his position of a right wing defender to the defensive midfield (a strategy which meanwhile has been copied by German’s national coach) and Rafinha moved to the right wing.
These changes were so successful that Guardiola kept them by even though both Martinez and Schweinsteiger are fit now. So interestingly his Spanish compatriot Martinez has to be seen as the player who lost most of his playing time under Guardiola and Rafinha is so far the biggest winner under him as he now has even good chances to play with Brazil at the World Cup.
Heynckes was the perfect diplomat and managed to keep a team functioning despite of many unhappy players as Gomez or Robben when he didn’t play. This was probably the key to Heynckes’ success.
Guardiola has a different strategy. If he sees the slightest sign of undisciplined behavior from a player he won’t let him play until this attitude has changed. Mandzukic and Kroos have already experienced these kind of measures. Guardiola won’t accept anything that could put this super super season into danger and the players are absolutely aware of that.
Bayern under Guardiola work like a machine. Every player knows exactly what he has to do and eventually they will crack every defense with their dominant playing style as long as they are patient enough. The Spanish coach sees his work as an art and enjoys the beautifulness of the game.
In a press conference before the Bundesliga match against Hannover and just two days after the victory in the Emirates Stadium, he said that “Champions League is like a good meal in a nice restaurant” and that in contrast “Bundesliga is like every day Pizza or Hamburger.” As he is not famous for his passion for fast food one can assume what that means.
In conclusion, one can say that Bayern’s playing style has changed. It is more mechanical and organized instead of their vertical and faster style from last season. Of course it’s in the eye of the beholder which style one enjoys watching more.
So far Guardiola is on track to top last year’s numbers. Bayern is just one little step away from the Champions League quarter finals and will play a second division team at home in the German cup semifinal. In the Bundesliga they have an incredible record of 22 victories in 24 matches with just 2 draws and no defeat. The goal difference there amounts 72-11.
So far Guardiola is doing a super super job but it will still take him a few good meals more in the Champions League to top Heynckes’ balance from last year. Manchester City showed in the last match of the group stage with a 3-2 victory in Munich how easy it can be to choke on such a good meal.
image: © tpower1978