Jonker’s Legion – An Update

About 6 months ago, Andries Jonker took over as coach of Bayern’s second team. The missions were set: the objective was promotion to return to Germany’s 3rd division as soon as possible. With more than half the season over, how are the boys doing? The answer is not an enjoyable one.

Last season, the reserves had to face the worst case scenario: after losing many important players (Thomas Kraft, David Alaba, Mehmet Ekici, Daniel Sikorski, Björn Kopplin and Diego Contento just to name a few) and also due to injuries and bad luck, they lost the fight against relegation. This also affects the first team since talents can’t learn from great opponents anymore and potential new young signings decide not to join Bayern because the second team might not be attractive enough in the Regionalliga (4th division).

Things had to change. Andries Jonker, the man who saved the first team from Europa League football, was appointed as new coach. Quality players such as Dale Jennings (Tranmere), Timothy van der Meulen (Dundee), David Vrzogic (Ahlen) and Anduele Pryor (last club Vitesse) were signed. Boy Deul and Saer Sene, two very important and skilled players, were convinced to stay. Simply put, this team was deemed good enough for immediate promotion.

What followed was pure disappointment. After ten matches, they had registered one win (in Mannheim). Most were close affairs, four of the six losses were lost by a single goal, only the home match against Karlsruhe’s reserves (2-5) and the disgrace of Frankfurt (0-5 against the FSV reserves) were unambiguous results.

Lack of experience? Bad luck? Considering that Bayern often was the better team, those certainly were influencing, not to say sometimes decisive factors. But of course, unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Another reason, once again, were injuries. Boy Deul and veteran Danny Schwarz haven’t played a second yet (at least Deul will return very soon), Sebastian Dreier only just celebrated his comeback after being sidelined for months. Nicolas Jüllich hardly played due to muscle problems. Toni Vastic missed many matches after tearing a ligament. Dale Jennings had to deal with ankle problems and was out for months. Anduele Pryor suffered a season-ending injury. The list could go on…

As you can see, Andries Jonker had to deal without almost an entire lineup. With that said, Bayern only lost three of the last eleven matches, while not a brilliant it’s definitely a respectable record. And there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

The good news: aside from Pryor and Schwarz, everybody, barring more injuries, will be fit enough to play the first league match of the year in March(!). The bad news: Saer Sene is apparently about to leave the club. Nobody could blame him for that, he’s simply too good to spend his best years in a semi-professional league, but it would nevertheless be a massive loss since Sene is Bayern’s top scorer with eight goals in 16 appearances. All eyes would be on Manuel Fischer who surely has the potential to replace Sene but potential isn’t everything.

Putting the negative talk aside, let’s talk about performances. You are all eager to read a bit about Emre Can. You can’t ignore the talent, this man will play Bundesliga football soon enough, but he needed time to get used to playing against grown-ups. His first half of the season was a bit disappointing (albeit nothing spectacularly bad, either). Let’s not forget that he is now only 18 years old (belated happy birthday). I’m fairly confident that he’ll massively improve in 2012.

I’m aware of the fact that the majority also wants to know everything about Dale Jennings. (Greetings to the Tranmere fans who are still very interested in all things Dale. You guys are superb supporters!) As I mentioned before, Jennings was one of the many guys who couldn’t play a lot due to injuries. I’ll give him another six, hopefully healthy, months before I rate him.

One pleasant surprise was Takashi Usami, the member of the first-and-a-half team. Sometimes on the first team’s bench, often playing for the second team, Takashi has been one of the best players so far. Usami creates tons of attacks and already scored six goals in 14 games. No real surprise but great to hear, isn’t it?

I already wrote a bit about the two top scorers, Saer Sene and Takashi Usami. Number three in the list is none other than center back Timothy van der Meulen. The former member of the legendary Ajax youth system only missed one match so far and that was a one-match ban following the fifth booking of the season. He already scored four goals and is very solid defensively.

All in all, as I said before, a lot of room for improvement. Avoid injuries, compensate the potential loss of Sene, integrate Jennings, hope that travelling to Doha helped Emre Can, convert more scoring chances, and the remainder of the season could be a good one. The goal should be to be a part of the first half of the table (Bayern is currently 12th, six points behind 9th-placed Freiburg II) and, for many probably more importantly, win the derby against the 1860 reserves.

No matter how this season ends, Andries Jonker won’t be the coach in 2012/13. The club already confirmed that Mehmet Scholl will replace him, a part of a planned massive structural change. It’s also possible that Scholl will get a few more quality players, significant investment in the reserve squad is expected.

 

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