No team have marked European football in 2013 as Bayern Munich have. When Pep Guardiola’s side sealed the Club World Cup four days before Christmas with victory over Raja Casablanca, they made it five trophies for the year, following the Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB Pokal and UEFA Super Cup. It is a fact that bears repeating.
They are the history makers, having become the first German side to manage the league/cup/European champions treble, and since set a new record in the Bundesliga of 41 matches unbeaten, incorporating a (record) 16-match opening to the current season without defeat.
The last time Bayern lost a league game was in October 2012, against Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena. Such is the Bavarians’ untouchable aura that one has to pinch oneself to believe they lost that match, rather than to take in the fact that no domestic rival has bested them since.
If the first half of Bayern’s 2013 wasn’t quite the power shift in the European game that some claimed—after all, they played their third Champions League final in four years at Wembley—it did see them pull away from the competition.
|Won / Lost / Drawn||14-0-2|
|Average Possession||61 percent|
|Total Chances Created||207|
|Average Pass Accuracy||88 percent|
|Average Pass Length||18 metres|
|Average Duels Won||57 percent|
The sheer strength with which Jupp Heynckes’ side brushed aside Barcelona may have felt seismic, but it was really just an inevitable expression of where this extraordinary team were.
It showed the world exactly how much more Heynckes was getting out of Bayern’s existing resources, particularly Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, and how well-chosen signings like Javi Martinez and Mario Mandzukic had been.
The final victory over Borussia Dortmund showed another side of Bayern’s excellence, in retaining their composure and patience in the face of their own demons from 2012, as well as against excellent opposition.
That Guardiola has made his own mark at the Allianz without diluting the team’s inexorable pace is worthy of fulsome praise. Many wondered whether he was changing too much too quickly in the opening weeks of his tenure (the switch from 4-2-3-1 to a variation of 4-1-4-1 was especially contentious), but now it seems logical that after such a stellar season, Bayern’s players needed a challenge in order not to drop the baton.
It has been more than just a case of keeping the fire burning for Guardiola. The additions of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara are a strong indication that the evolution is not yet complete, but that more is to come.
Thiago’s impact has yet to be fully felt—an ankle problem means that he’s only made four Bundesliga matches to date, even though like Gotze, he made a considerable impact as substitute in November’s pivotal win at Dortmund. What we can expect from the 22-year-old during the rest of the season is representative of exactly why Europe should be scared.
Bayern still have plenty in the tank for the rest of this campaign. It’s not just Thiago; on the contrary, he’s the thin end of the wedge. Martinez, who did as much as anyone to power Heynckes’ team through the back end of last season, has also only started four times due to injury.
Gotze has started seven in the league, and Robben nine. Even Bastian Schweinsteiger has played only 10 of 16 league matches to date. Without needing to lift a finger in the transfer market this January, Bayern have incredible options.
One could argue that not having everybody fit at once to date has saved Guardiola a few tough decisions, and dropped him out of the awkwardness of bruising a few egos. Perhaps that will be the coach’s greatest challenge as the home straight of 2013/14 opens up. Domestically and continentally, Bayern will be pretty hard to break otherwise.