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November 22, 2019

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Bayern’s struggles put the spotlight firmly on Flick

The turmoil at Bayern Munich has finally led to assistant extraordinaire Hansi Flick being put in charge.

Never mind that Flick hasn’t been a full-time head coach in 14 years. So far, things are going well.

Flick is well known to Bayern’s players after joining as an assistant to Niko Kovac this year. Before that, he was an assistant to Joachim Loew when Germany won the 2014 World Cup.

Under Flick, Bayern beat Olympiakos 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League and followed up with a convincing 4-0 victory over Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund. Next up tomorrow is Fortuna Duesseldorf, which caused Bayern problems last season and has a solid home record.

Flick is focusing on how Bayern plays without the ball, right back Joshua Kimmich said. “The basis is keeping a shutout. That’s what we’ve done so far.”

That defensive focus will be tested against Fortuna. No visiting team has left Duesseldorf with a clean sheet since Eintracht Frankfurt did it in March.

Bayern players have praised the return to form under Flick, who won four German titles with the club as a player in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Big-name coaches have been linked with the Bayern job, most recently former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, but Flick’s the man on the spot. Bayern has said he’ll remain caretaker until at least the end of 2019, giving him eight more games to make his mark.

Turning a caretaker job into a permanent post looks unlikely, though. Bayern isn’t Manchester United, where former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made exactly that leap last season.

Winning the league is the absolute minimum for Bayern, so making up the four-point deficit to leader Borussia Moenchengladbach won’t be enough to impress. Avoiding defeats like the 1-5 loss to Frankfurt which led to Kovac’s firing is also key.

It will be hard for Flick to stand out in Europe, too, unless he is kept in his post until the knockout stages. Bayern has already qualified from its group and its only remaining games of 2019 are against Red Star Belgrade and Tottenham.

Bayern helped bring down Pochettino with a 7-2 rout of Tottenham last month, so it might seem odd to consider him a possible successor for Kovac. However, senior Bayern figures have praised his work at Tottenham in the past.

Bayern seems in no hurry to make a decision on its next permanent coach. There was contact with Arsene Wenger, but he ended up taking a job with FIFA. Pep Guardiola is not keen on leaving Manchester City for a return to Munich.

Flick knows a lot about decision-making off the field. After eight years as Loew’s assistant coach, he was the German national team’s sporting director from 2014-17. Then came a short and turbulent role as managing director at Hoffenheim, a tenure marked by disagreements over strategy.

Flick’s reputation as a super-sub coach is burnished by memories of the 2008 European Championship, when he led Germany to a 3-2 quarterfinal over Portugal with Loew serving a suspension.

Now he must prove he can do the job every week.




 

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