Bayern Munich Show Plenty of Positives Post-Bastian Schweinsteiger

Andy Brassell@@andybrassellFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2015

Pep Guardiola's Bayern project is moving on after Bastian Schweinsteiger's departure.
Pep Guardiola's Bayern project is moving on after Bastian Schweinsteiger's departure.Associated Press

Two defeats in a single day isn't great by any standards, but for Bayern Munich, it's something that looks barely believable written down. It must be underlined that, yes, it's still only pre-season and that it was in the Telekom Cup, a mini-tournament comprising of a pair of 45-minute matches for each participant.

It still mattered at least a little, certainly to Pep Guardiola. The coach had been a picture of relaxed authority at the start of proceedings, merrily chatting with his Augsburg counterpart Markus Weinzierl on the touchline as the tournament opener between hosts Borussia Monchengladbach and Hamburg unfolded.

Less than an hour later, that famous brow was well and truly furrowed as Weinzierl's side (who are becoming an authentic bogey team for Guardiola) made a surprising comeback in a lively game, which Bayern had dominated. Subsequently, losing the third-place play-off to Gladbach after a penalty shootout was perhaps little more than an irritant even if the home side's coach, Lucien Favre, allowed himself a short celebration in his dugout.

Whichever way you dice it, it was a rough weekend for Bayern. The departure of the iconic Bastian Schweinsteiger has been keenly felt in the dressing room—even if the club's decision is well justified when one considers both Schweinsteiger's recent fitness record and Bayern's avowed objective to cut the average age of the squad.

Philipp Lahm, the team captain and now arguably alone as a senior, homegrown spokesman for the side, described Schweinsteiger's then-pending move to Manchester United as "an absolute pity" (as per Sky Sports) after the tournament. This advertisement chronicling his exit, starring Schweinsteiger himself (for Beats By Dre), is a reminder of exactly why he will be missed beyond what he could continue to provide on the pitch.

It's the feeling that Schweini's ups and downs were an intrinsic part of Bayern's journey to the very top of the tree in Europe. He, and they, had setbacks (like the 2012 Champions League final), but they overcame them together. For this, he was part of the club's very soul.

That feeling also makes it easier to delude oneself, of course, that Bayern didn't need to move on when in the cold light of day, they probably did. They began to do so at the weekend even if the results weren't to Pep's pleasure.

The summer's major signing to date, Douglas Costa, made a strong start to his first public action with the team, setting up the opener for Thiago Alcantara against Augsburg and bristling with intent and enterprise. The Brazilian always looked more incisive in the number 10 role for Shakhtar Donetsk rather than farmed out on the right, but he popped up right, left and in the centre on Saturday. The fluidity of Bayern could really suit him.

Perhaps even more germane in the dawn of the post-Schweinsteiger era were the performances of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Joshua Kimmich, who both played in the Gladbach match. Both impressed sporadically in the recent European Under-21 Championship in the Czech Republic, and Hojbjerg in particular showed real promise here.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, here in action for Denmark's Under-21 side, is keen to firmly establish himself in Guardiola's plans.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, here in action for Denmark's Under-21 side, is keen to firmly establish himself in Guardiola's plans.Petr David Josek/Associated Press/Associated Press

The young Dane is perhaps the most obvious beneficiary of Schweinsteiger going, and Guardiola's faith in him has been clear for some time. The Catalan's insistence on coaching Hojbjerg intensively is clear, as he spent most of the buildup to the penalty shootout against Gladbach talking him through a tactical point—firstly with his trademark animated body language and then with the aid of a pen and paper.

It was perhaps little wonder that a distracted Hojbjerg became the first player to miss in the shootout shortly afterwards though that moment will not even be a footnote in Bayern's season if he goes on to influence it positively.

It is already plain in pre-season that Thiago will boss the midfield just as he did in the closing weeks of the last campaign. Further good news is Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's revelation that top earner Franck Ribery is set to resume rehab training (as reported by ESPN FC).

Even if Bayern's preparations, still affected by a number of absentees, are a work in progress, there is plenty for Guardiola to be happy about. It will probably be a while, nevertheless, before we see that frown lift.


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