Flick sets Bayern on treble course with Bundesliga title in the bag
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Bayern Munich are German champions yet again, but an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title looked anything but inevitable when Hansi Flick was appointed coach in November.
Flick came in as a caretaker to replace the sacked Niko Kovac with Bayern reeling after a 5-1 hammering at Eintracht Frankfurt -- their worst Bundesliga defeat since 2009 -- left them off the pace at the top of the table.
However, Flick quickly got Bayern back on track and they ran away with the league in the second half of this interrupted season.
More could follow, with the Bavarians through to the July 4 German Cup final against Bayer Leverkusen and the dream of a treble alive as they still have the latter stages of the Champions League to look forward to.
In February, Bayern routed Chelsea 3-0 in London in the first leg of their last-16 tie, a result and performance which firmly established them as one of the tournament favourites before all football ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On current form it is hard to look past Bayern as they aim to win the Champions League for the first time since their treble triumph of 2013 under Jupp Heynckes.
It was a recommendation by the legendary former Bayern coach which saw Flick promoted during the lockdown in April from his caretaker role to permanent head coach.
He has "reintroduced the style with which we won the treble in 2013", Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said when Flick signed a contract extension until June 2023.
"From Jupp's point of view, Hansi is a perfect fit for Bayern," added Rummenigge.
Flick, who was Joachim Loew's assistant when Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, has made the most successful start of any head coach at Bayern.
The landmark moment came at the end of May when a 5-0 thrashing of Fortuna Duesseldorf left him with 22 wins from his first 25 games, bettering the start made by Pep Guardiola in 2013/14, who won 21 of his first 25 matches.
Bayern were fourth in the table when Flick took over, but he marked his Bundesliga debut in the dugout with a 4-0 thumping of title rivals Borussia Dortmund. They are now unbeaten in 23 games in all competitions dating back to December.
Before Flick came in, they had won just five of their first 10 league matches under Kovac, their worst start since 2010/11.
- Mueller rejuvenated -
The 55-year-old Flick has notably been rewarded for restoring Thomas Mueller to the starting line-up on a regular basis.
Not happy about being benched by Kovac, Mueller quickly re-established his partnership with the prolific Robert Lewandowski, with whom he shares 61 league goals and assists.
Mueller's revival has come at the expense of Philippe Coutinho, who will not be kept on when his loan from Barcelona expires.
Flick has also dealt admirably with a defensive crisis caused by the loss of both Niklas Suele and Lucas Hernandez to long-term injuries in October.
David Alaba has been successfully switched from left-back to create a successful centre-back pairing with Jerome Boateng, who has enjoyed a new lease of life.
- The 'Road Runner' -
By moving Alaba across, Flick created space at left-back for Alphonso Davies, who has been a revelation.
Mueller dubbed the Canadian teenager the "Road Runner" after the 19-year-old sprinted back to dispossess Erling Braut Haaland -- no slouch himself -- in last month's decisive 1-0 win at Dortmund.
"Sometimes maybe the opponent thinks 'oh I have time, I have time' and then 'meep meep, meep meep! The FC Bayern Road Runner comes and steals the ball," Mueller said.
Davies clocked a top speed of 36.51 kilometres per hour in the win over Bremen.
In him, Bayern have a potential superstar for the next decade or more, but Flick already has eyes on recruits for next season.
He wants more pace on the wing, with Bayern reportedly chasing Manchester City's German international Leroy Sane and Leverkusen sensation Kai Havertz.
"A bit more width would be good, speed would be very good for us," said Flick.
Bayern already have three specialist wide players in Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Ivan Perisic, but "when you have big goals, perhaps that's not enough", Flick added.
© 2020 AFP