No country for old men – has Jupp Heynckes still got what it takes? | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 09.10.2017
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No country for old men – has Jupp Heynckes still got what it takes?

When Jupp Heynckes takes charge of Bayern Munich against Freiburg this weekend, he will become the third oldest coach in Bundesliga history. What can we expect tactically from Heynckes over the next eight months?

When Jupp Heynckes took charge of Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1979, the then 34-year-old was the youngest coach in Bundesliga history. When his Bayern Munich side line up against SC Freiburg on Saturday, he will be 19 years older than the next oldest coach (Gladbach's Dieter Hecking) and the third oldest coach in Bundesliga history.

Heynckes admitted to his local Rheinische Post newspaper that "football has changed in the four years since I retired" but insisted during his unveiling at the Allianz Arena on Monday that "football has not been re-invented" and that he has followed developments closely from his Rhineland retreat near Mönchengladbach.

Does the 72-year-old still have what it takes to succeed in a league of Hasenhüttls, Nagelsmanns and Tedescos? Or has the Bundesliga moved on? DW takes a look at what we expect tactically from Heynckes and Bayern over the next eight months.


Heynckes will be familiar with many Bayern players from his previous spell in charge – which doesn't say much for Bayern's transfer policy or youth development in recent years. Manuel Neuer, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez, Rafinha, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller were all part of Heynckes' treble-winning squad so the new, old coach should have little difficulty establishing a rapport with his former charges.

Some of the more recent additions to the squad were favorites of Ancelotti, particularly the Hispanic fraction of Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal and James Rodriguez. But as a fluent Spanish speaker who won the Champions League as coach of Real Madrid, Heynckes should have little difficulty bridging the gap.  

Whereas Carlo Ancelotti preferred to rely on experience, youth should also get a chance under Heynckes, who helped nurture talents such as Boateng, Müller, Holger Badstuber and Toni Kroos during his last spell in charge. This time, Kingsley Coman, Niklas Süle and Joshua Kimmich could be the players to benefit.


Since the departure of Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich have become hugely reliant on veteran wingers Ribery and Robben – two players who were key components of Heynckes' 2013 treble-winning side. Between 2011 and 2013, Heynckes gave the duo the freedom to come in off the wings, often doubling up on one side to create dangerous overloads. The pair were often left on the bench for big games under Carlo Ancelotti, most notably against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, but are sure to be a big part of Heynckes' plans.

With Ribery potentially out until the new year after suffering a knee ligament injury in the 2-2 draw away at Hertha Berlin, Heynckes is lilely to place his faith in Kingsley Coman or even deploy James Rodriguez in a wider role.


Having perhaps learned from Jürgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund side which won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, Heynckes' Bayern adopted a high-pressing game in 2012/13. With the hard-working Mario Mandzukic up front and the tenacious Javi Martinez deployed in defensive midfield, Bayern were able to pressurize their opponents into losing possession in areas of the pitch where they were most vulnerable – just as Dortmund had done to them.

RB Leipzig and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim achieved the success they did last season using similar tactics – but Heynckes has already proven that Gegenpressing isn't just the preserve of the Bundesliga's younger coaching generation.

This season, in Arturo Vidal, Heynckes arguably has an even better pressing weapon at his disposal and, in Sebastian Rudy, an ideal ball-playing partner.

Fast counter-attacks

The next step for a team having just won possession is to launch an attack as quickly as possible while the opposition is still off-guard. Modern teams often look to play that one incisive pass which can bypass several opponents, taking them out of the game, in order to open up a route to goal.

In his previous spell at Bayern, it wasn't just his outfield players who Heynckes instructed to implement rapid "transitions" – they often began with Manuel Neuer, who set up counter-attacks with laser-guided long throws.

However, with Neuer also out until at least January as he recovers from a fractured foot, Heynckes will expect center-backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng to use their impressive range of passing to launch attacks from the back.

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