The near-mythical glories of Bayern Munich’s 2012/13 campaign were always going to be a hard act to follow, yet it seemed that in Josep Guardiola – a visionary who created his own footballing paradigm at Barcelona – they may have recruited the one man with the guts for such a task.
In practice it may be the club the German press call FC Hollywood who are having greater trouble stomaching the changing of the guard and the teething problems at the Allianz Arena make opposing Die RotBlau in the Bundesliga not quite the lunacy it may at first appear.
Bayern are 1/5 to retain their league crown, with Borussia Dortmund – best of the rest some 25 points behind them last term – next shortest in the betting at 4/1.
The atmosphere of respectful excitement that first surrounded the Spaniard’s arrival at the club began to dissipate shortly after the arrival of former Barca player Thiago, with a German newspaper publishing an editorial which suggested that the deal was financially sleazy, due to the fact that the player’s agent was Guardiola’s brother.
His immense enthusiasm in training has reportedly lead to an in-depth deconstruction of the way the side operate and his pre-season experimentation has served to alienate key cogs in last season’s team such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Mandzukic used sparingly and out of position on the wings respectively.
At a team like Bayern who have so many world class players (with egos of commensurate proportions), keeping the squad harmonious and pulling in the right direction is arguably one of any manager’s toughest tasks.
They may have won 12 of their 13 games before the season proper begun with a routine win over fourth division Rehden in the DFB Pokal – inspite of some mad-professorish tactical tinkering from Pep – but the result that mattered was their 4-2 defeat to last season’s closest challengers Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup.
With Dortmund having brought in two creative attackers to replace the Munich-bound Mario Gotze and held on to Bayern target Robert Lewandowski, Jurgen Klopp’s Die Schwarzgelben could be in an ideal position to capitalise on the disharmony that threatens to distract their main title rivals, especially given they’ve already proved they can beat them.