It's tough to see how the first half of the season could've gone any better for Bayern Munich. After the first half of the season, Pep Guardiola's club sit at the top of the table, seven points clear of second play Bayer Leverkusen. Oh, yeah, FC Bayern also have a match in hand, so by the time they actually play that, they could find themselves a full ten points from their closest challenger.
What Went Right
Their two big summer signings, Mario Götze and Thiago Alcantara, have been proven to be money well spent. Both players have spent time on the sideline due to injuries, but their quality has been on full display when they've been on the field. Götze looks like the world star that we believed he would be, and Thiago has shown a passing and possession ability that will serve him well under Guardiola at Bayern.
The biggest thing, so far, is that Guardiola appears to have kept everyone appeased. While injuries have somewhat helped a rotation of players in and out of the lineup, there hasn't been any rumblings of player discontent due to a lack of playing time. Full credit must go to Guardiola, his coaching staff, and the higher-ups at the club for making sure that the players are being respected and well looked after. However, we must also applaud the players for staying out of the media and keeping everything in-house, if there are any issues.
Securing The Future Through Extensions
Off the field, Bayern has made sure to secure the futures of several players by signing them to long term extensions. David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, and Rafinha will all be wearing a Bayern shirt for the foreseeable future. The club also moved to sign youth players Alessandro Schöpf, Julian Green, and Pierre Højbjerg to full, professional contracts. Bayern will also be looking to extend the contracts of Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos before the summer.
Everyone was waiting for it, and Bayern finally announced the signing of Robert Lewandowski. He'll join the club in the summer on a free transfer. That's right. One of the top forwards in the world will join the club on a free transfer. In adding Lewandowski and Mario Mandzukic in the summer of 2012, Bayern have spent a measly €10 million on the two players. It's tough to find a club that is shrewder in the transfer window than FC Bayern.
What Went Wrong
The biggest concern on the field for Bayern in the first half of the season was the defensive errors. The adjustment to Guardiola's 4-1-4-1 has been an adventure at times, but when it works, it's beauty is a sight to behold. However, defensively, the team is still getting used to their new formation. Many times this season, Bayern have been eviscerated by opponents on the counterattack. Luckily, Manuel Neuer is one of if not the best goal goalkeepers in the game today and has come through many times to keep the opposition out of the goal. In Europe's four big leagues (Bundesliga, La Liga, Premier League, Serie A), only Italy's AS Roma has conceded fewer goals. The goals aren't coming yet, but if they continue to give away the number of opportunities that they have been, things could turn at any moment.
Building the world's deepest team served Bayern extremely well in the first half of the 2013-14 season. The following players missed at least one game due to injury: Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm, Thiago Alcantara, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber, Javi Martinez, Claudio Pizarro, Dante, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Mario Götze. That's eleven players. Good grief. Figuring out a way to stay healthy should be a top priority for Bayern in 2014.
As they move forward into 2014, the biggest problem facing Bayern Munich will be falling victim to complacency. We saw this clearly affect them in the Champions League match against Manchester City after they had already secured their advancement to the knockout round. Bayern jumped out to an early lead, and then basically quit playing. City stormed back and handed the Bavarians their first loss of the season. With the league basically wrapped already, Bayern will have to avoid becoming complacent and throwing away their hopes of a repeat treble.
Second Half Outlook
With their commanding lead in the Bundesliga, Bayern should ease their way into their second consecutive title. The real question comes in the form of the DFB Pokal and the Champions League. Can they keep their wits about them, focus on the task at hand and become the first club ever to win the Champions League in back-to-back years? It seems an impossible task, but this Bayern team is good enough and deep enough to accomplish the impossible.