Bayern have plenty of unused potential, says Heynckes

Jupp Heynckes has voiced his satisfaction with Bayern Munich’s performances in the opening weeks of the 2012-13 campaign, but has insisted that they still have room for improvement.

Bayern won the German Supercup at the expense of Borussia Dortmund, before getting their Bundesliga season off to a perfect start with two victories.

However, Heynckes is confident there is still more to come from the Bavarians as the year goes on.

“It was important to get out of the blocks well, which you can never guarantee after a major tournament. But obviously we had an unusually long pre-season and you notice that now.

“The team is hungry, they’re up for it again and relatively advanced for the time of year, in terms of physical fitness too.

“But we have plenty of areas for improvement, the automatic things, switching from defence to attack. We’re in the middle of a process. We’re a long way off our limits yet, there’s plenty of unused potential.”

Bayern resume Bundesliga action on Saturday when they host Mainz.

Robben frustrated with groin injury that ruled him out of Netherlands win over Hungary

Bayern Munich attacker Arjen Robben has voiced his frustration at picking up yet another injury while away on international duty.

The injury-prone winger was set to feature from the start in Netherlands’ World Cup qualifier versus Hungary on Tuesday, but was forced to pull out only minutes before kick-off due to a groin injury.

“It’s obviously very disappointing. I already wasn’t fully match fit after the match versus Turkey, but I thought I would be alright,” Robben stated to NUsport.

“Nevertheless, I then felt pain in my groin while warming up. I am really disappointed.”

It is not yet exactly known how long the Dutchman will be out of action for, but it is unlikely that he will be recovered in time for this weekend’s Bundesliga match versus Mainz.

Chelsea named European Club of the Year after Champions League success

Chelsea have been rewarded for their Champions League win last season by being crowned the European Club of the Year by the European Club Association.

Roberto Di Matteo led his men to an amazing victory on penalties against Bayern Munich in the German giants’ own back yard, and their inaugural European trophy has been praised further after being given this title.

The Blues were handed the award on Monday from their respective peers at the third annual ECA Awards at the Association’s General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Di Matteo’s side were disappointing in the league, finishing sixth, and they would have been forced into the Europa League were it not for their penalty heroics against Bayern.

Nevertheless, the club were “recognised for their outstanding achievement during the 2011-12 season on a European and domestic level,” according to a statement.

Chelsea are one of the teams that makes up the ECA, the independent body that replaced it’s predecessor – the G14 Group and the European Club Forum – when both were dissolved in 2008.

The first ECA awards were introduced in 2010, designed with the aim of “rewarding outstanding club performances, encouraging best practice and highlighting successful club management.”

The award represents yet more good news for the Blues, whose double last season has been followed up by a perfect start to this season’s Premier League campaign.

And despite a disappointing 4-1 loss to last season’s Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup, plenty of early-season optimism around the club will only be reinforced with this latest achievement.

Hoeness: Bayern don't owe Osasuna any money over Javi Martinez

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has stressed that the Bundesliga giants do not owe Osasuna any money in the wake of Javi Martinez’s transfer from Athletic Bilbao to Bayern this summer.

Reports from Spain suggested that Osasuna were claiming a sum of €800,000 from the Bavarians as compensation for training the holding midfielder as a youngster.

Nevertheless, Bayern have no intention to pay the Liga side as they feel Athletic are responsible for fulfiling the aforementioned sum.

“Osasuna are entitled to a certain fee according to FIFA regulations because Martinez came through the ranks of their youth academy,” Hoeness told Suddeutschen Zeitung.

“However, Bilbao are the team that’s supposed to pay them the money. Bayern have nothing to do with this situation.”

The 24-year-old Martinez left Osasuna for Bilbao in the summer of 2006.

The Dossier: Javi Martinez is the midfield orchestrator Bayern Munich have been missing

By Peter Staunton

At 6-1 up with the opposition down to 10 men, Jupp Heynckes could have summoned the new sporting director Matthias Sammer from the bench to temporarily fill a defensive midfield role and the 45-year-old with a dodgy knee would probably have held his own. As it transpired, the 67-year-old took the opportunity to afford his latest signing, Javi Martinez a 13-minute cameo against an overwhelmed Stuttgart in Bayern Munich’s first home game of the Bundesliga season.

Martinez was immediately granted control of the ball. Repeatedly, his new team-mates sought him out for short passes in and around the centre circle. They were settling him in; giving him as many touches as possible in order to integrate him into the group. It was not the most testing of arenas for a debut but hugely satisfactory nonetheless, coming as it did on what will likely prove to be Bayern’s easiest afternoon of the season. “He has already hinted that he can pass. I think this is exactly the player we need,” his coach purred afterwards.

Basque in Bavaria | The World Cup winner makes his bow in the German top flight

In their first home game of the 2011-12 Bundesliga campaign Bayern were beaten 1-0 by Borussia Monchengladbach, who, following the template that most German teams utilise at the Allianz Arena, ground out their victory by astutely defending deep, and making the most of their scant opportunities at the other end of the field.

By and large Bayern manage to stave off those infrequent threats. But from time to time, they cannot conjure a goal despite their territorial dominance and command of the ball, and have to remain alert to counter-raids. Witness Patrick Herrmann’s first goal against them during Gladbach’s 3-1 win in January’s league encounter. Arjen Robben loses possession and one raking pass cuts Bayern to ribbons. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is too slow shuffling across to block the path of the ball and Herrmann finishes neatly.

Due to their conviction in possession and searing confidence on the ball, the Bavarians are not adverse to placing all of their outfield players in the opposition half whenever the opportunity arises; overloading and looking for that one key pass. Alas, should a move break down, they are immediately on the back foot. Chances are typically conceded by Bayern when they lose the ball up field. That is the precise type of situation Martinez has been recruited to rectify. “The coach and the sporting director are convinced that he will solve our problems,” said club president Uli Hoeness.

Bayern’s ‘overloading’ attacking manoeuvres are initiated through the centre of the field from the back. The ball usually goes short from Manuel Neuer to one of the centre-backs and from their custody of the ball is ceded to a central midfielder. With Holger Badstuber shunted awkwardly to left back, gone, for the time being, are those accurate, long-range passes from his left boot to the right wing – Bayern’s best out-ball last season. Now, it is all a little more deliberate. The highest degree of importance is placed on the circulation of the ball.

This style of play is inculcated in Martinez. He is a natural fit for the most conservative midfield position in Heynckes’ line up. He has the will to defend and the intuition to be eminently positioned when opposition teams break against his. That is not a characteristic inherent in Bastian Schweinsteiger or Toni Kroos. Luiz Gustavo has it, to an extent, but his game lacks Martinez’s dimensions.

For that reason, the Brazilian is overwhelmingly likely to be the man to make way for Martinez once he is inured to Bayern’s patterns and the former Hoffenheim man can have few complaints. Martinez is a better user of the ball than Gustavo and more responsible in the sense that he wants every second pass and will move to receive it. He closes space with alacrity too. Happily for Heynckes, Gustavo is an upgrade on Tymoshchuk on the Bayern bench.

According to Spain boss Vicente del Bosque: “Martinez is a complete player who can cover any role he wants to on the pitch. He is a born leader best compared to Patrick Vieira, likewise covering much ground and solving much of any team’s defensive midfield problems.”

Throughout last season, Martinez featured predominantly at centre-back for Athletic Bilbao. The shape in front of him changed throughout the campaign but his role did not alter. His stint in the centre of defence probably made him a better midfielder too. Rarely had he previously faced the type of coal-face action he was exposed to last term due to his proximity to the opposition’s impact players. “He threw himself into it and won a lot of balls in the air,” was Neuer’s assessment of Martinez’s first Bayern practice match, suggesting that the €40m man is not adverse to getting stuck in.

Nonetheless, he is not likely to play much in that position for Bayern, once or twice and perhaps only in emergencies like Tymoshchuk has, but he would by no means be wasted in the heart of defence. His distribution is more consistent than Jerome Boateng’s and his range of passing would be well complemented by that of Badstuber. Bayern routinely accrue 70 per cent of possession in their league matches so it would make sense to have an extra passer in the lineup should that be the case.

The price is excessive and Hoeness himself has described it as ‘insanity’ but, at 24, Javi Martinez is a long-term investment. He has the physical and mental tools to be a perfect fit for Bayern for many seasons. That in itself is value for money.