Lahm’s Take on Bayern’s Record Season

I was very excited to discover that Lahm had written two articles for Spiegel Online. As I understand, he has been invited to share his thoughts on this season and to contribute to their section on sports. In particular, he is supposed to write one article after each of the three finals. So, here is the first article written on May 21st, after finishing the Bundesliga. It is a well-written piece, so we tried to show that in the translation. A big ‘thank you’ to Lana. 

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Thrashing victories, a successfully defeated curse and records for eternity: with FC Bayern, Philipp Lahm has had a momentous experience. In his guest contribution, the captain of FC Bayern gives a tour behind the scenes, reveals the secret to his team’s success and [speaks of] the next mission.

Pity Has No Place In Football

By Philipp Lahm

No, I had no pity as we were winning 5:0 at half-time on the 27th match day against HSV. Pity has no place in football. As a player, one sits in the locker room and thinks that it’s done. Then the coach comes and says, “Men, 5:0, yes, but we have to pay attention so that we don’t conceded a goal.” That’s typical for Jupp Heynckes. At any stage of the match, he tells to stay focused until the very end.

Naturally, with a preliminary result like this, you, as a player, don’t want to concede a goal. That’s why during the break we said to ourselves that the important thing is to stay without conceding a goal. I much rather win 5:0 than 9:2. I had to smirk just a bit as I looked at Frank Ribéry: he sat in the locker, and I knew exactly what he was thinking about. He want to outsmart three opponents, lob the ball over the goalkeeper and then celebrate.

In the end, there were two conceded goals, and we were annoyed by it. And that’s a characteristic. Of this team. Of this season. Before the Super Cup in August of 2011 against Dortmund, there was only one option for us: we’re going to win. It wasn’t just any game. Dortmund became the Bundesliga back-to-back champions. And FC Bayern isn’t used to not winning.

That’s why it was an important win. To put it better, an important not-losing. If there was a Dortmund curse, in this game we overcame it. Prior to the start of the season, the team had received a boost. A certain part of it was the last season’s defeat in the Champions League against Chelsea. When one sees how your teammates cry in the locker room, it brings the team closer. 

Heynckes Has Drawn From His Experience

That means that we optimally reinforced the team with Javi Martinez, Mario Mandzukic and Dante. At last, this was the squad in which there were two similarly strong players competing for each position, the players who are level with each other. This rivalry is something very positive, and its absence was also the reason for losing the title last season. This year our level of training was higher than ever. Something like this gives the team assurance. We were convinced: we would take the charge of this season.

Jupp Heynckes also learned from the pre-season training. During the preparations, he has put a lot of emphasis on working on the defensive aspect, also on the switch-play from attacking to defending. Last season, the players noticed: it only functions when we work together in defense. From the beginning, that has paid off. In the Bundesliga, we established a record with eight wins in a row. We didn’t concede a goal in the first six matches, and that gave us additional confidence. The longer one remains without conceding a goal, the bolder one can be when attacking because you know that the ball will come back one way or the other. Aggressiveness, willingness to run, courage are definitely the strengths of this team, and those qualities could develop, first and foremost, on the basis of the improved defensive work. 

Hence, the first defeat of the season against Leverkusen didn’t demoralize us. We almost beat up ourselves for that. There was definitely no doubt about our strength and our superiority. If one looks at our season, the team could always motivate itself for every game. We always knew what it was about.

Also, [one ought to] thank Jupp Heynckes. He has a very good sense of which player is more fit in the decisive moment and, at the same time, has a pronounced sense of justice. In his own way, he has found an approach to each player and has promoted strong bonds, so that substitute players like Rafinha and Diego Contento always trained at the same level, delivering the performance when they played. [my note: when they were either in the starting line-up or substituted for someone on the pitch.] Due to that, young players like Emre Can and Pierre Hojberg got a chance to prove themselves from time to time. Of course, there were also cases of hardship like Mario Gomez, but he was also able to overcome [it], to remain calm and deliver his performance despite everything, when he was on the pitch.

Basti, Frank and Thomas Are Sublime

Already before the start of the season, Heynckes knew how his team would look like. Why? The coach has already used the time of preparation to observe on whom he can rely. Hence, he applied his new findings to the new season. More often he included particular players [in what he was trying to accomplish] in such a way that wouldn’t weaken his position. Above all, he shared the ideas with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and me. We have discussed lots of things, but in the end he was the one who always said what the bigger picture would be. In that regard, he is very systematic. Overall, he has done a sensational job.

“Sensational” is also the keyword for my players of the season: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Frank Ribéry and Thomas Müller have played phenomenally. Nevertheless, one must also mention Javi Martinez. His way of playing does us good and [improves] our game. In our offensive style of play he thinks defensively; nevertheless, he can and wants to play football. [my note: he means that even though Javi isn’t used to the way Bayern plays, he still demonstrates greatness.] Or, we can also look at Dante. He, too, found a place in our system. One shouldn’t assume that it’s possible for every player to fit in like Dante has. And, of course, David Alaba. In the coming years, he can rank as a world-class [player] at his position. 

All of this has lead us to our record season. Just because I’m always asked if one sets these kinds of records as a goal, here’s an answer: no! Players don’t preoccupy themselves with setting records. Before the season, only one thing had crossed my mind: to concede as few goals as possible because I was there in 2008 as we compiled them. But I knew neither who the earliest half-season champions were, nor who was won the Bundesliga at the earliest. At some point, it became a topic in the media, and in the end each and every one was eager to earn the most points in the season. The most important record was to beat the 81-point mark (by Dortmund), and each of us wanted that. What we got was 91 points.

Since Saturday [May 19th], the first part of our mission has ended successfully, and the most important thing now is the Champions League Final. We’re going to do everything in order to get the title. For the fans, for us and, of course, for Jupp Heynckes.

(© translation unavis and Lana; it is forbidden to use this translation, in parts or in its entirety, without my permission)

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