Bayern Munich: Why Past Failures Are the Driving Force for Schweinsteiger and Co

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2013

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 19: Philipp Lahm (L) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) of Bayern Muenchen look dejected after their defeat in the UEFA Champions League Final between FC Bayern Muenchen and Chelsea at the Fussball Arena München on May 19, 2012 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Bayern Munich are on the brink of a quarterfinal place in this season's UEFA Champions League, with a 3-1 advantage over Arsenal to take into their Last 16 second leg clash on Wednesday.

The Bundesliga club have been devastating this season, taking some terrific domestic form and bringing it onto the European stage when it most matters.

An almost certainty at this point for the last eight, Bayern will look at those left in the competition alongside them and believe that this, finally, could be their year.

Perennial contenders for the Bundesliga title back home, Bayern have been usurped over the past two years by the re-emergence of Borussia Dortmund, who under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp have secured back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012.

Such similar "nearly" moments and losses over the past decade are what give Bayern Munich their present desire and consistency—that, and a decade of waiting for the youth system to provide the talent which has now flourished, aligned to an impressive record of exterior signings.

Since the turn of the century, Bayern have reached three Champions League finals, seven DFB-Pokal (German Cup) finals and been in the top two of the Bundesliga on 10 occasions.

Such consistency is not easy to maintain, especially while the club is in the throes of self-regeneration to an extent, but Bayern have failed to quite pull themselves over the line in their most recent escapades, both domestically and on the continent.

A 2001 Champions League win has been followed up by final defeats in '10 and '12.

Five Bundesliga title wins between '01 and '08 gave way to just one victory in the four seasons since.

And finally, even in the Cup, where Bayern's dominance seemed absolute, a run of six final appearances in a row which ended in victory, was ended last year with defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

If 2010-11 saw Bayern in a deep slumber as they sought to improve, to reassert not only their authority in Germany but also attempt to dominate Europe once more, then 2011-12 saw the Bavarians in a hypnopompic state.

Bayern came second in the league to Dortmund, finishing eight points behind the winners, and also lost to the same rival in the DFB-Pokal, losing 5-2 in the final.

The final blow came in the Champions League final, where they led against Chelsea with only seven minutes remaining—only to concede an equaliser with two minutes left, and then lose on penalties.

So close to a treble, and yet they ended with nothing.

In 2012-13, then, Bayern Munich are well and truly re-awoken.

Spurred on by the possibility of going three years without a league championship for the first time since the early 1990s, Bayern have roared back into business this season, currently enjoying a 20-point lead at the top of the league, and still with nine matches to play.

They have lost only once this season and conceded just 10 goals in their 25 games, with only a single goal being put past them in their 12 away matches.

In the Cup, Bayern face a semifinal tie against Wolfsburg, having knocked out the holders Dortmund in the quarters.

And in the Champions League, they face an Arsenal team who were soundly beaten by them in the first leg in England, with a two-goal safety cushion to take to the Allianz Arena.

Led by their German an homegrown warriors such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich are on course to this time around complete the coveted treble they wanted last season.

Having come so close to achieving it a year ago, and having tasted the despair of defeat that came on all three occasions, don't bet against those winners going the extra step this time around and proving that Bayern are, once more, very much a force amongst the game's elite.