It’s hard to believe that early on in the Bundesliga season, there was actual mystery as to who would win the title. Maybe that’s partly due to 2020’s jet-fueled, monkey-navigated car crash into the darkest abyss, making September and October seem an archaeological dig ago. But in the fall, each of RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Borussia Dortmund either were at the top of the table or looked a serious challenge.
Then Munich changed managers. And Robert Lewandowski kept scoring. And Thomas Muller became Magic Johnson with his feet for a few months. David Alaba became one of the best central defenders in the world, having never played there before. And, suddenly, Munich’s customary, methodical march toward another title, containing all the joy of your cat pushing things off your desk, was on again. And everyone was powerless to stop it.
Bayern made it official this afternoon with a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen, in just about the most Munich fashion possible. They strangled Bremen purple for half an hour, being out of possession for maybe 12 seconds.
Then Lewandowski scored with yet another world class touch and finish. And then they smothered Bremen some more, with any possible counter snuffed out instantly by Joshua Kimmich or Leon Goretzka, and the whole cycle would start over again. Kimmich was once again the reaper in midfield, completing the most ball recoveries of anyone while creating the most chances of anyone, all while misplacing eight out of 83 passes.
Even a 78th-minute red card to Canadian Quicksilver Alphonso Davies didn’t rattle Munich much. The dispiriting thing about Munich is that even if you can get the ball, even if you can work it through their ravenous press, even if you can get within sight of their penalty area, and even if the slice of luck of being a man up somehow allows you to dig under or around the wall of Kimmich, Alaba and Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer will do this to extinguish the light in your eyes and heart, and remind you how cold and alone you truly are.
The numbers since Hans-Dieter Flick relieved Niko Kovac of managerial duties are staggering. Munich have won 18, drawn one, and lost just two of 21 games. That’s 55 points out of 63 on offer. They’ve scored 67 goals and conceded just 15.
All of this resulted in Flick going from interim to permanent manager, as you might expect. Flick’s changes, such as dropping a second midfielder deep to smooth out their build-up play, introducing Davies as a left-back to turn Munich’s wing-play into a Kiss-level pyrotechnic show, and reintroducing Muller as a #10 in Munich’s 4-2-3-1 system, have turned this usually great team to Death Star-level.
Of course for Munich, winning the league is no more a surprise than maintaining oxygen level. They’re still on course for the treble, which they did in 2013 as well, as they’re in next week’s German Cup final and have one foot in the Champions League quarters after going upside Chelsea’s head with a fungo bat to the tune of a 3-0 advantage. Whenever and wherever the Champions League restarts, Munich will almost certainly be considered the favorite.
This is Munich’s eighth-straight Bundesliga title, and its 29th out of the 56 that have been played — numbers that could very well rouse any Steinbrenner from the dead and looking for vengeance. As we said when they beat Dortmund back in May to erase any drama from the Bundesliga’s return: they are inevitable.