Don’t get me wrong. I think Niko Kovac is one of the best young managers at the moment. I just don’t believe he’s the right person for this particular job.
Watching the cup final game between Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt got me thinking: Is Niko Kovac the right man to inherit Jupp Heynckes’ throne? The former midfielder showed impressive tactical prowess, setting up his team in excellent fashion defensively in order to combat Bayern’s scoring might. Most of the gaps of space that Bayern so often exposes were shut down. His team was compact, decisive and motivated. However, there’s another aspect that worries me and it’s the offensive one.
Eintracht was fully focused on defending and didn’t show interest in becoming more offensive. It worked last night because it was the underdog, but I don’t think it’ll work for Bayern, since it’s usually the favorite. To be Bayern’s manager, you need to prefer technique to tactics. You need to be creative and inventive on the offensive front. That’s not what Kovac thrives at. He is not open-minded enough and lacks the creative thought process needed to coach a team such as Bayern. My claim is supported by the fact that he wasn’t inventive as a player either. He got the job done, but he didn’t do more. That’s exactly how he is a coach. More is what separates the extraordinary ones from the excellent ones and, unfortunately, the former Croatian international belongs to the second category.
Niko is great for a team like Eintracht Frankfurt, a team that’s based on cohesiveness and tactics rather than technique. He would be also be great for teams such as Borussia Monchengladbach or Burnley, clubs that have experienced success using the same method he applies. Bayern Munich is a different type of beast. Ancelotti was a parent who demanded cohesiveness, Guardiola was a perfectionist who demanded technical virtue, but none of them could get the Bavarians to the level to which Jupp Heynckes brought them. Their locker room is full of high-maintenance players that only an experienced manager can control. Heynckes demands respect and he supports it with results. That’s why the players are willing to listen to him. He also advocates attacking football. When you have a team built on offensive-minded footballers, you, as a coach, must adjust to them, not the other way around. I’m having a hard time believing that Niko Kovac will be able to do that.
The DFB Pokal final was a fluke. Eintracht would’ve lost that game 9 out of 10 times. It got lucky yesterday. Bayern came into the match in poor form, hit two cross bars, a couple of referee decisions didn’t go Munich’s way and Rebic scored from the only two real opportunities the team had (one of them after a mistake). Result-wise, Niko Kovac might have proven himself worthy of the journey he’s about to embark on, but I’m not convinced he’s ready for the trip. I actually don’t think he should even be on board.