Bayern’s struggles put Hansi Flick in the spotlight

Sports

DUSSELDORF, Germany (AP)The turmoil at Bayern Munich has finally led to assistant extraordinaire Hansi Flick being put in charge.

Never mind that Flick hasn’t been a full-time head coach in 14 years. So far, things are going well.

Flick is well known to Bayern’s players after joining as an assistant to Niko Kovac this year. Before that, he was an assistant to Joachim Low when Germany won the 2014 World Cup.

Under Flick, Bayern beat Olympiakos 2-0 in the Champions League and followed up with a convincing 4-0 victory over Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund. Next up on Saturday is Fortuna Dusseldorf, which caused Bayern problems last season and has a solid home record.

Flick is focusing on how Bayern plays without the ball, right back Joshua Kimmich said.

”The basis is keeping a shutout,” Kimmich said. ”That’s what we’ve done so far.”

That defensive focus will be tested against Fortuna. No visiting team has left Dusseldorf with a clean sheet since Frankfurt did it in March.

Bayern’s players have praised the return to form under Flick, who won four German titles with the club as a player in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Big-name coaches have been linked with the Bayern job, most recently former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, but Flick’s the man on the spot. Bayern has said he’ll remain caretaker until at least the end of 2019, giving him eight more games to make his mark.

Turning a caretaker job into a permanent post looks unlikely, though. Bayern isn’t Manchester United, where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made exactly that leap last season.

Winning the league is the absolute minimum for Bayern, so making up the four-point deficit to leader Borussia Monchengladbach won’t be enough to impress. Avoiding defeats like the 5-1 loss to Frankfurt which led to Kovac’s firing is also key.

It will be hard for Flick to stand out in Europe, too, unless he is kept in his post until the knockout stages. Bayern has already qualified from its group and its only remaining games of 2019 are against Red Star Belgrade and struggling Tottenham.

Bayern helped bring down Pochettino with a 7-2 rout of Tottenham last month, so it might seem odd to consider him a possible successor for Kovac. However, senior Bayern figures have praised his work at Tottenham in the past.

Kimmich offered guarded praise Tuesday.

”What you can say is that Tottenham has done great for years. They have great consistency,” the Germany defender said. ”But I don’t know if he’s a possibility for us.”

Bayern seems in no hurry to make a decision on its next permanent coach. There was contact with Arsene Wenger, but he ended up taking a job with FIFA. Pep Guardiola has shown no interest in leaving Manchester City for a return to Munich.

Flick knows a lot about decision-making off the field. After eight years as Low’s assistant coach, he was the German national team’s sporting director from 2014-17. Then came a short and turbulent role as managing director at Hoffenheim, a tenure marked by disagreements over strategy.

Flick’s reputation as a super-sub coach is burnished by memories of the 2008 European Championship, when he led Germany to a 3-2 quarterfinal over Portugal with Low serving a suspension.

Now he must prove he can do the job every week.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

James Ellingworth is at www.twitter.com/jellingworth

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