Jupp Heynckes has been in charge of Bayern Munich for less than a week, but he's already laying the foundations of the system with which he was so successful. DW analyzes his first game back on the touchline.
The defending league champions beating a relegation-threatened club is scarcely a shock.
But before the October international break, it seemed any result was possible for Bayern Munich. They had not won in almost a month coming into Saturday's game and had blown 2-0 half-time leads in their last two Bundesliga games.
Bayern's 2-0 advantage at the break over Freiburg seemed much safer this time, and not just because Freiburg have scored only two in the second half all season. It was also because Jupp Heynckes, who came out of retirement to retake the reins at Bayern, was back on the touch line.
Heynckes has spent less than a week with the team, and yet it seems some of his ideas have already come across. Not all of Bayern's goals were spectacular, but Bayern showed a dominance that has not been seen in the Allianz Arena in a few months.
Heynckes' success with Bayern in 2012-13 — his last season as coach and the year Bayern won the European treble — was because of the counter-pressing strategy he implemented. That tactic was prominent on Saturday as Freiburg had a hard time getting out of their own end of the field.
Javi Martinez was once again at the center of Bayern's counter-pressing efforts, just as he was in his one and only season under Heynckes in 2012-13. Used mostly as a central defender under Heynckes' successors, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, Martinez was put back in midfield, where he was a perpetual nuisance for Freiburg.
But Bayern's pressing was an overall team effort, which may have just been an indicator of the players actually trying under a new coach. This effort generated their fourth goal — Thomas Müller took the ball off of Freiburg's Caglar Soyuncu on the right wing before setting up Robert Lewandowski for an easy finish.
"The game was fun to play this way," Mats Hummels told German broadcaster Sky Sports after the game. "With four training sessions and one match, we haven't accomplished a lot, but it was a good start."
If Bayern once again make pressing a strength, they could be a tough team to beat, even if they don't dominate the ball as they did under Guardiola, in particular.
When Ancelotti's tenure was coming to an end, the most resonant words came from Müller when he said that he didn't know "what qualities the head coach wants to see" but that his seemingly weren't "100 percent needed."
Under Ancelotti, Müller was often stuck out on the wing and looked rather lost when he played there. In his first game under Heynckes, Müller once again roamed the penalty area, playing off of Lewandowski and combining with teammates at the top of the box. His role was set, and as a result, he had one of his best games of the season.
It wasn't just Müller's role that was clearly defined. The wing players — Kingsley Coman and David Alaba on the left, Arjen Robben and Joshua Kimmich on the right — interchanged with much more fluidity and very rarely left their positions. That resulted in a much more direct approach, one of the reasons why Bayern were able to score five times against a very conservative Freiburg defense.
The one thing that was not cured in Heynckes' first game back was Bayern's wasteful play, which has cost them several points in the Bundesliga this season. Poor passes from Müller and Kimmich resulted in open field chances for Freiburg in the first half, and luckily for the defending champions, Freiburg's Ryan Kent and Mike Frantz squandered a pair of excellent chances. Kent's chance would have been the opening goal, and could have put a different slant on the game.
Sloppiness is not something Heynckes' can solve in less than a week. Furthermore, a 5-0 result against 15th-placed Frieburg is not an indicator that all of Bayern's problems are solved. Bigger tests against RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund will probably be better barometers of Heynckes' impact on the Bavarian team.
Before those tricky fixtures, Bayern face Celtic at home and Bundesliga cellar dwellers Hamburg, chances to iron some more stuff out. But at least judging by this first showing under the veteran coach, he may save Bayern's season after all.