State of FC Bayern: a full evaluation of the 2017-18 season

Our parting shot as a blog is a collective evaluation of the 2017-18 season with thoughts on the future. In what state is the team?

Anup Sastry

Niklas Süle is the first of my two best players for the season. The young towering centre-back signed from Hoffenheim has not looked out of place in the lineup. He has played with a significant amount of consistency and deputised both Boateng and Hummels ably.

Sven Ulreich is my second-ranked best player. No one imagined that heading into the season, Manuel Neuer would not play, but that was precisely what conspired. After a very shaky start under Jupp, Ulreich showed his class. He kept Bayern in matches and has been an absolute revelation.

My worst two performers have to be, pretty obviously, Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rudy. The diminutive Spaniard started the pre-season in raring fashion, but an untimely injury made his season a very stop-start one. With the few opportunities provided, he also failed to take advantage of them.

Sebastian Rudy started, but as the season went on, he became more and more of a frustrated figure when playing.

I would sell Juan Bernat and Arturo Vidal and give Rudy another year to prove himself. If Robert Lewandowski wants to leave, he sure can. Signing a young and a motivated player who wants to play and work hard would be a great thing to do.

It will be very intriguing to see what Niko Kovač will do at Bayern. He has few of the best youngsters the Bavarian Academy has seen, and he can be a successful appointment if everything goes according to plan.

Edward Prempeh

Jupp Heynckes came close to achieving miracles at Bayern but I am glad that the man can finally get some rest after decades of diligent hard work. We can only look to an uncertain future in good spirits while addressing a few highlights of the last whirlwind season.

Sven Ulreich was my player of the season, for simple reasons. Even after the gaffe of inexperience he pulled in Madrid. I just have not had my mind blown this much by a replacement player in recent years, after having such low initial expectations.

Ulle won Bayern crazy, last-ditch, ugly points in the Bundesliga; got the team through a mud of a penalty shootout at Leipzig, and made me forget about Manuel Neuer for almost all of this year. None of the marquee players in the team got my heart pumping as much as Sven did. If Bayern’s famed Twitter page called him #SvenTheWall for most of the season, with him winning multiple player of the month awards, you know your boy was up to something.

My second player of the season has to be the pretty Colombian boy James Rodríguez. Had King Coman not ended his season prematurely, this would have been a tighter call to make. James Rodríguez stepped up to his reputation to absolutely own the Bundesliga with numbers that made him Bayern’s biggest steal in recent times.

His performance at the Bernabéu was the tipping point. It’s when I realised he was capable of starring in the hottest of footballing cauldrons around Europe. I do not understand why certain people still ask if Bayern will consider signing him permanently, and to that, I say the biggest DUH of all time.

In contrast to all that pretty stuff above, let’s address my worst players of the season. Look, this has been coming. My biggest wish this summer is not that we would make a world-class signing, but that we get Juan Bernat out of our beloved club. I doubt the Spaniard even trusts himself right enough to stay. Seriously, let’s make this as diplomatic as possible. Bernat needs to be sat down and spoken to that his dead romance with Bayern has ended, and guess what? It didn’t work out, honey. Off you go.

My second worst player choice is tougher than all the others since so many players did not live up to my billing. For instance, I expected much more from Jerôme Boateng, Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski especially. But I guess Sebastian Rudy has to take this L.

He started off with so much promise that died out at the turn of the year. I used to think his dip in form had something to do with the arrival of his baby a couple of months ago. I thought he had been putting in work elsewhere if you catch my drift. It turns out I was mistaken since the baby is here and we still see very little by way of Rudy’s world-class contributions.

In the summer, Bayern need to grab a left-back as soon as possible, since Alaba has felt untouchable for years. He scarcely gave a 10/10 performance this season. Let’s admit that there is little quality available on the market. The board would need to go to the Brazilian league and get one of those young talents who have been causing stirs.

Nonetheless, a left-back is a requirement, since Rafinha cannot guarantee another top-notch season. For this, I hope Niko Kovač has a list of demands already lined up. Had PSG’s Thomas Meunier been able to master that position as much as he has the right-back slot, he would be my sure pick. He is my favourite player in that club, and probably one of the more natural options to get unless you want a César Azpilicueta.
Bayern also need a striker at hand to accommodate Robert Lewandowski’s tantrums and diva-esque mood swings. My favourite for this slot has been Timo Werner, even though I know Bayern will wait for him to star at the World Cup before even considering a move. Real Madrid and Manchester United will be on deck by then to beat the Bavarians to the punch, since I am sure Leipzig would instead sell to those clubs instead.
The rumours about Jan-Fiete Arp are probably legitimate, even though he is only a kid who has a 3/10 chance of becoming the next Kylian Mbappé. Okay, make that 4/10. Lewandowski is 30 years old, and I doubt an 18-year old is a way to go for now—cue Renato Sanches. Say what you will about Timo, but his age, prospects and proven talent are a rarity in today’s market.
Concerning Niko Kovač, I am very optimistic about his chances of success. First of all, I trust Brazzo and the boys on the board to have had solid reasons for bringing the Croatian in. Secondly, after beholding the Ancelotti era, what is the worst that could happen?
I hope he can be more tactically flexible than we are used to, and I am also harbouring hopes of him making a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation work at Bayern. The team needs that element of surprise, and a tactical switch could be the big bang that the Bundesliga will not see coming.
It has been an eventful season, to say the least, especially here at Bayern Central. I thank God deeply for the opportunity to work for you, and to grow immensely through that time. What I have received from Bayern Central is priceless, even that one insult in the comments section when a copy/paste glitch caused me to miss out on Thomas Müller in a player ratings post.
My profound appreciation goes out to my comic-relieving, brilliant, pun-obsessed colleagues — people like these make life and work much, much easier and enjoyable. And also to you wonderful readers for making our time here a period of remarkable coolness. We hope we served you to your full, and until next time, Alles Gute!

Juan Pablo González

I remember an article by Michel after Jupp Heynckes returned saying that getting Bayern back on track in the league would be a good enough job. Given the disaster that was handed to him in October, it seemed like it was all we could ask for. But Jupp is Jupp.
Flash forward to May and Bayern won the Bundesliga in rampant fashion, again. They reached the semifinals of the Champions League, narrowly losing to a seemingly indestructible Real Madrid side.
Today, Niko Kovač has his work cut out for him. Alas, we will not be around to blog on the Croatian’s initial season in charge.
Since my colleagues are talking about who their choices are for best and worst Bayern players, I will follow suit. The two top performers this season, for me, are Niklas Süle and James Rodríguez. Both had shaky starts.
I was at the Allianz Arena for the game against Celtic, and the 18-minute cameo James was given was lacklustre. ALook at him now. He is, hands down, the most essential mixed midfielder in the team. In the interim, Heynckes patiently pampered James to rebuild his confidence and allow him to find his place in the team. Despite being a face-on request of Carlo Ancelotti, James flowered with the German.
As for Süle, we can start the timeline with the 0:3 defeat at PSG. The towering centre-back seemed slow, easily caught out of place and entirely hopeless against the likes of Neymar and Edinson Cavani.
Again, flash forward to now. Between him and an imperial Joshua Kimmich, they restricted none other than Cristiano Ronaldo to a single shot on target across two legs. Madrid found their firepower elsewhere, but the Portuguese forward was all but neutered. Having come in for an injured Jérôme Boateng, one could have been forgiven for panicking when Süle entered the pitch. He came of age against Madrid, even if the team failed to go through.
Thus we arrive at the bad news. Let’s get Juan Bernat out of the way first. I made a point of defending Bernat in 2014-15 and 2015-16. I liked his style. I loved how he played one-on-one. He even delivered more than David Alaba in bits of those seasons. But now, he is a sorry excuse for a left-back. It saddens me to say it. I was relieved when I saw Rafinha play at left-back instead of Bernat in every single game that he did. Bernat lost his place, and rightly so. He has to go.
Finally, Robert Lewandowski. Sure, he scored only one shy of thirty Bundesliga goals. It speaks volumes to how spoiled we are as Bayern fans that I should complain about a player who does that. His attitude late in the season, and his non-appearances against Real Madrid force me to do just that.
I do not know if Lewandowski wants to leave or not. Frankly, I could not care less. We can malign Arturo Vidal all you like, and call for him to be sold. Even if he wanted to leave, we would not see him throw the towel and moan. We would see him in his usual warrior’s suit. Not so with the Polish striker.
I am on the fence about whether he should be sold, mainly because I am not aware of any replacements of a similar level. But one thing is for sure. If he stays, it has to be because he wants to take that missing step with Bayern. Not because he has a contract. Pep Guardiola once said to his Barcelona team that he would not give them grief for technical mistakes. However, he could not forgive a player who did not give his heart for the team. This is what we need.
All in all, I have a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Not least because this blog’s time comes to an end, and with it more than six years of work that shaped me as a journalist and someone who watches loads of football. Also, the future is uncertain. We find ourselves the same as we were in 2013, albeit without the treble. Maybe that will come next year.

Manaan Gandhi

The standout player in the side has been Javi Martìnez. Even though most of you would have expected to see a James or a Müller here, Javi’s return to midfield was one of the main reasons Bayern’s music started hitting the right chords. His passing, his vision and his ability to stop counter attacks and help the defence showed what Pep was missing clearly.
Another player that came into life this season was James Rodríguez. I was super confused whether to celebrate a relatively cheap transfer of a world-class star or be worried about a potential Renato Sanches coming into the squad. Carlo Ancelloti’s history with the player gave me some hope, but his performances were just about decent at best.
Once Jupp Part 4 happened, the storyline, as well as the protagonists changed. James was now leading and bullying the midfield. He went deeper to help and popped up in the attack. His command over the dead ball seemed magical, and his transfer looked like a godsend. He has been for Bayern this season what Thiago was to Bayern last season.
What I yearn for, on the transfer market, is an excellent winger to take Bayern forward into becoming the most complete team in the world. He needs to be pacy, young, hungry and most of all a team player. Malcom and a couple of other players seem to have all of these abilities, and I hope Bayern land such players at reasonable prices.
Bayern Central as you know it is now shutting down for good. Farewell is not the correct word to use as all of us writers are going nowhere and are here on Twitter amongst all of you wonderful readers.
Writing for such a prestigious blog has been an honour, and having people reading them and commenting on them even greater recognition. Your comments not only encouraged us but taught us a lot. I will miss writing for this blog but most of all I will miss your comments, both positive and negative. We are here with you and our Bayern Munich always.
Mia san Mia.

Matthew Büning

Picking the two best players is a tough one. I debated between Sven Ulreich and Kingsley Coman for my first choice, but ultimately I have to go with #SvenTheWall if only because he pulled off the impossible — he made the team function without Manuel Neuer.
Trust me, that is a strange sentence to be writing. Somehow, Ulreich made us not miss Manuel Neuer near as much as we would have expected and overall, he was sensational throughout the campaign. He came up with some significant saves that kept Bayern’s season afloat while they were still adjusting. All he needed was a little confidence boost from Jupp.
The other best player was our best player of the season, James Rodríguez. It is unbelievable to me that Bayern managed to get this gem of a player for such a low price in today’s market. HHe was clutch too, scoring a crucial goal that kept Bayern’s Champions League dreams alive. Hopefully, he can continue to be an X-Factor for Bayern for many years to come.
For worst performers, I have to start with Juan Bernat. It is not even much of a contest. The Spaniard was just abysmal. I do not know if it is injuries, confidence, or both but Bernat seems a shadow of the player who once appeared like he might legitimately challenge Alaba. He now looks completely lost. Time to move on.
The second worst performer of the season is probably Sebastian Rudy. He started the season strongly, looking like a solid replacement for Xabi Alonso. As the season progressed, it soon became clear that he was neither. Since Bayern got him for free, they might as well make some money off him.
My two transfer targets are relatively simple — for starters, the club almost has to sign a left-back especially if Rafinha is overshadowing Bernat. Preferably, I would like to see Bayern sign someone who could compete with Alaba. I think he will do better with someone right behind him to take his place.
The other is a winger who can play on the right naturally. Bayern are going into next season with Robbery, Kingsley Coman, and probably Serge Gnabry. None of them are bad players, but Arjen Robben is the only natural right player. The Dutchman showed signs of decline this season. Bayern need someone who can fill that gap.
For a formation, I would suggest either sticking to the 4-2-3-1 that has been so successful in the past or perhaps experimenting with a 4-4-2. I was incredibly curious to see what Sandro Wagner and Robert Lewandowski would look like if they played together.
On a side note, if Lewandowski leaves for Real Madrid, my heart indeed will not be breaking. My curiosity of seeing a two-striker formation still lingers assuming Bayern bring in a replacement.
Niko Kovač is an…. interesting choice for Bayern’s future. He is a good tactical coach, but there are some question marks that he can play the right style. I am also very curious to see how he handles the phasing out of older players and the prominent personalities. Of course, I hope he has nothing but success.
I want to thank every one of you who has not only read my articles on Bayern Central but all of the work we put into it. Bayern Central was always a labour of love for the writers, and it means so much to me that any of you ever cared to read my thoughts on the beautiful game and about this wonderful club.
I have written for a few publications, but none of them has been as significant or impactful for me. I also want to thank the team—you’ve all been beyond fantastic, and it has been nothing but an absolute pleasure working with you all.

Michael Philander

The two standouts for this season have been Joshua Kimmich and James Rodríguez. Joshua Kimmich has been nothing short of sensational and he has shown that he is the personification of consistency. It will be a shame if he doesn’t make the team of the year for UEFA.
It is incredible that in a team so loaded with experience, that one of the most youthful members can show the most maturity. I refer to him as Lahminho, and even though he has gone on record saying he does not like the Philipp Lahm references it is hard not to compare him to our great ex-leader.
James Rodríguez, on the other hand, has been a spark that is surrounded by gasoline. He showed what Real Madrid saw but still let go. It was an exciting season for him as he was bought for Carlo Ancelotti but Jupp Heynckes instead took the best out of him. Heynckes even tweaked his system that was reliable for so many years to accommodate the little creator.
It is hard to choose two players that have been poor this season, but the standout worst player has to be Juan Bernat who has been pure trash. Back when Pep Guardiola brought the left-back to the team, I always questioned the signing, because I had seen Bernat play beforehand and there was not a single facet of full-back play that he was good at.
I do not know if it’s because I am so accustomed to the brilliance of David Alaba, but Bernat’s atrocities in that position have left me at many times “verblüffend”.
Two transfers I would like to be done this offseason are Jonas Hector and Malcom de Oliveira. In the case of Jonas Hector, he would be a bargain and also would follow in the mould of Bayern’s philosophy of buying German. He would even come relatively cheap considering his team was relegated this season and may be forced into selling most of their stars.
Malcom de Oliveira is a player we would want for the future, and taking him now would allow him a chance to bed into the team. We have seen that the lack of wing cover has left the team lacking width in important matches. Ideally, next season could be the last with “Robbery”, and it would be good if youngsters like Serge Gnabry and Malcom could learn from their experience.
Ideally, I always hold that the 4-2-3-1 formation is the one that has brought the most success at Bayern. We have all the tools for it, and all of the players are familiar with it.
FInally, I would like to thank the staff at Bayern Central who made work one of the best things in my life and who helped me learn so much in so little time. I would also like to thank the fans, even when you disagreed with what we wrote sometimes. The criticism made us see everything we could improve on.
I am not good at goodbyes, so from me and my better half “Auf Wiedersehen”. Never forget “Mia san Mia”.

Michel Munger

Who were the best players in an eventful season? I go for two revelations.
First, Kingsley Coman has grown the most to turn into an elite winger who can do anything on flanks. The rightful heir to Franck Ribéry should return from injury and take on permanent duty as a left winger.
Second, James Rodríguez turned into the steal of the summer 2017 transfer window. His playmaking and creativity turned the Bayern midfield into a more potent force in a team that has been undermined by lack of finishing in the business end of the season. FCB should buy him at the end of his two-year loan from Real Madrid.
In the worst performers department, I nominate Juan Bernat. He has convinced almost everyone that he is not worthy of a Bayern shirt with inconsistent (read: bad) displays. My other nominee is Arturo Vidal. Once a fantastic warrior, he has turned into a loose cannon and liability. Sell them for any decent amount of money and look for a second left-back to deputise for David Alaba.
Should Robert Lewandowski want to go, get rid of him and get a second striker to complement Sandro Wagner’s limited but efficient playing skills. That would open up the possibility of a 4-4-2 formation.
Nothing says that Niko Kovač cannot be successful at Bayern. Incoming youth could replenish the team with fresh weapons to rebuild the Bavarian arsenal.

Rick Joshua

If we were to wind the clock back to September last year, where we are now would have been something short of laughable. It all seems so far away after the cup final defeat, but it is a fact that FC Bayern came very close to achieving a second triple. The difference in the end were a couple of missed opportunities and refereeing calls that just failed to fall on the right side. The closing minutes in Berlin were but a microcosm of the entire season.
When he took over from Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes’ task was to patch the holes and right the listing ship. This he did, and more. Many Bayern fans would have loved to have seen our favourite coach stay on in Munich for another year, but it was not to be. Not that it would have been particular fair, either. Jupp should now be left to enjoy his retirement, with our heartfelt thanks.
Yes, we loved to bathe in that warm Osram glow. But it is now time to switch it off, in a way that is fitting for one of the most dignified and well-loved characters in the game.
Following on from the comments left by my fellow writers, I will pick out my two standouts for the season. Yes, the same names crop up. A pick from James Rodríguez, Niklas Süle, Sven Ulreich and Joshua Kimmich. It was hard to separate these names as they all made their mark at various points of the campaign, but mine would be Sven (rightly dubbed the “wall”) and the twinkle-toed Colombian James.
At the start of the season, it looked as though Bayern were going to be left with a desperate hunt for a new goalkeeper. Images of the early 1990s flashed through my mind, when Bayern found themselves engaging an aging Harald Schumacher. I had visions of somebody like Tim Wiese temporarily giving up his wrestling career to throw himself between the sticks for the Bavarians. Or worse, if one can possibly imagine that. Last autumn, Ulreich looked every bit the second-rate backup.
Enter Jupp, and all change. Ulreich was transformed from Herr Butterfingers into first a solid replacement, then a star in his own right. Many tight games were won due to this magical transformation, and there was much talk of him turning into another Manuel Neuer. Not long after that, everybody was happy for Neuer to take as long as he wanted on the road back to full fitness. The awful gaffe against Real Madrid notwithstanding – even then, it was not his fault entirely – Ulreich was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the season.
When James arrived from Madrid, he was part of Ancelotti’s furniture. After the Italian was sent on his way, many expected the Colombian to quickly follow. Again, enter Jupp, and all change. Far from becoming a marginalised figure, James quickly became one of the most dynamic players in the Bundesliga, upping the ante and injecting much-needed energy into what had been a pretty one-dimensional Bayern midfield. When the discussion inevitably comes up about his staying on in Munich, it should be a no-brainer.
Just a quick word on the other two names. Niklas Süle is still learning his trade, and is not quite the finished article. But since his move to Bavaria he has improved game by game, and looks set to be part of an established Bayern defensive unit in the years to come. I am sure that he will get even better as his confidence continues to grow. He has the makings of a genuine defensive beast.
Joshua Kimmich, without doubt, has it in him to become one of the players of his generation. Many – including some of my colleagues here – have compared him to Philipp Lahm. I can see how and why, but he is not quite there yet. For skill and talent, comparisons can rightly be made. For application and dedication, even more so. He even tops Lahm with his sharp eye for goal and ability to finish. The downside? He is still getting caught out at the back. Once he sorts this out, we can start talking about comparisons to Fipsi. I do not expect to wait too long.
On the downside, I cannot disagree about Juan Bernat. Too many chances, too many mistakes, too much time wasted. The Spanish Segunda División is waiting for you, amigo. Nobody really else stood out as much on the negative ledger. Arturo Vidal was hit and miss. David Alaba is still not the star player everybody had been hoping for.
Then there was Robert Lewandowski. A player who fulfilled his statistical obligations, but fell short of delivering in terms of desire and commitment. There is much talk about him leaving Bayern. It would be a shame, but if he goes, he goes. It is one thing having a player who can bag 40 goals over the course of a season, but if he goes AWOL when things get tough… We could make do with somebody half as prolific but twice as committed. We are Bayern. We will still manage to scoe the goals, but learn to spread them out a little better.
This Bayern squad showed that they have the squad to win the big trophies. Sadly, they did not have the right level of application or the crucial amount of luck that separates those teams that just miss out from those that capture the silverware. Yes, there were some bad refereeing calls. But in the end this would not have mattered one jot if we had put our chances away and made the most of the opportunities and possession. No amount of million-pound buys can change that, and I am largely in agreement with the idea that Bayern do not need to splash the cash to succeed. A couple of well-thought and frugal buys should be enough to do the trick.
Next season, Die Roten will have a new coach in Niko Kovač. The Croatian was a considered choice, has a solid past connection to Bayern, and has showed his coaching credentials in turning an ordinary Eintracht Frankfurt team into a trophy-winning one. In this context, losing the cup final was perhaps not such a bad thing. It shows us just the sort of coach we will have in the Bavarian hot seat next season.
As for the rest of it, it is with much regret that I am writing what is my final contribution to this great blog. I joined Bayern Central because it was a genuine outlet for genuine Bayern supporters, not some clickbait factory that gave people only what they wanted to read. I was happy yo have this platform to share my views and opinions with fellow fans, and this will continue as I look to devote more time to my ongoing writing plans. Servus, auf wiedersehen, and above all… Mia san mia!

Shubham Ahuja

The entire team upped their game after the arrival of Jupp Heynckes, but two players stood out for me.
I had initial doubts over James Rodríguez and his value under Heynckes. The Colombian quickly dispelled them, dictating Bayern’s midfield from an unusual deeper position in the absence of Thiago.
The other star performer was Joshua Kimmich. El Kimbo d’Oro, as I lovingly like to call him now, continues to steal this romantic’s heart. It was clear under Pep Guardiola that Kimmich could be a top player. This season, he displayed two more attributes: consistency and mentality.
One of the few players to do well this season under Carlo Ancelotti, Kimmich continued to keep up his level under Heynckes, which should not be taken lightly for a 23-year old full-back. He also displayed big-game mentality, scoring in both legs against Real Madrid. The tears after the second leg were devastating but showed his hunger and desire to succeed.
All that Bayern fans need to do now is manage expectations and not want too much too soon. Count me out though, and I’m already swooning. It’s Lahm all over again guys.
Now then, on to my transfer wishes. Matthew mentioned the possible options at left-back, so I turn my attention to the wings.
As much as I admire Franck Ribéry’s evolution to a wide, creative midfielder, he just cannot be a 21-year old marauding winger, which means Bayern need another in the mould of Kingsley Coman. Not just regarding skill or pace, but also concerning profile: a young, hungry, ambitious player who wants to take on the rest of the world, including the entire opposition. Anthony Martial is one such player who, as a Manchester United fan, I can vouch for. Take him, and we are not using him well anyway.
Finally, with Bayern Central coming to a close, I want to thank our readers for making blogging a worthwhile experience. The two years I have been here have enriched me and writing is only part of it. It’s the comments and discussion which are the most fulfilling aspect.
Admittedly, I might have also used you guys as my online psychologist, once when I went on a rant about Pep Guardiola and then when I needlessly shared a dream I had of playing with Philipp Lahm. Danke Schon! You kept me sane.

Zahra Hasan

It has been a long season for Bayern, from a rocky start to a shaky ending and changes in between.
On the bright side, newcomers James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso have really blossomed which paints a bright – but different – picture of Bayern’s future. On the other hand, fitness of some of the veterans has been an issue. For instance, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry and Manuel Neuer have suffered fitness wise. It is true that legends are getting older and they are certainly not going to be around forever.
Bayern are lucky that they have some exciting young players to pick up the slack going forward. There does indeed come a time when all legends must say goodbye – when you realise your heroes are mortal.
While Ribéry and Robben will be around for another year, it will not last much longer. This comes as a shock for no one as they began to slow down, but these legends will always be a part of Bayern’s history.
Even Robert Lewandowski has struggled with fitness this season – he has not always looked the part and has often been off the mark and a little cranky. Perhaps he will also bid farewell? We do not know for sure. What we do know, however, is that everyone must say goodbye sometime.
It has been an amazing few years at Bayern Central. It will always be a huge part of my development and I am grateful to all the readers, the writers, the editors and the critics. Goodbyes really *are* inevitable.