The Herbstmeisterschaft may sound like a hipster’s spice rack, but the lengthy German word loosely translates into an even longer phrase in English: it means Bayern Munich are the Winter champions for a seventh successive season.
What would have been an almost preposterous proposition after Matchday 7, when the Bavarian giants trailed leaders Borussia Dortmund by five points and only held off Hoffenheim on goal difference, has incredibly come to pass. Indeed, not only have Jupp Heynckes’s men guaranteed they will be sitting at the head of the Christmas points table with two games to spare before the winter break, they have opened up an eight-point lead at the Bundesliga summit in the space of just eight largely incredible Matchdays.
“It's important that we've picked up speed in the last few weeks and the team is again showing attractive football,” said Heynckes – the man considered largely responsible for the dramatic turnaround – following Bayern’s 1-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. “The table is very pleasing, including the lead, but it’s not time for fireworks now," the wily tactician added, as he attempted to rein in a growing belief in certain circles that the title might be heading back to Munich this season.
Watch: Joshua Kimmich on Bayern's win against Eintracht Frankfurt ...
The winners of the last five Bundesliga Meisterschale could even afford to leave the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals – Robert Lewandowski – on the bench for most of the game as they earned a seventh win in eight under their returning coach with victory at Frankfurt. Playing a lone role up front against the Eagles, Thomas Müller summed up the on-field changes that have occurred under Heynckes’s watch. "You saw our Bayern heart today. Everyone fought. It was a heated game, but it was fun to defend our lead,” the 28-year-old explained.
It was perhaps that fighting spirit that seemed lacking when Bayern suffered an early loss at Hoffenheim and were pegged back to 2-2 having led Wolfsburg 2-0 at home in a negative sequence of results that occurred in a little over three weeks back in September.
Those setbacks, along with a comprehensive UEFA Champions League reverse against Paris Saint-German, cost Carlo Ancelotti his job, with Willy Sagnol briefly filling the coaching void prior to Heyckes’s decision to down his gardening gloves and lead his old charges into battle one last time.
A minor blip away to Borussia Mönchengladbach aside, Bayern’s resurgence has been stunning and they have now added some previously missing graft to the tremendous talent at their disposal. “We were on top form for 95 minutes, not as we usually are in terms of footballing class, but in games like that you have to resist and put up a fight, and that's what we did,” Heynckes said after of the Frankfurt success, his 650th Bundesliga game as a coach.
Indeed, the numbers from their latest domestic triumph are just as impressive as the digits detailed in their dramatic rise. At 36, Tom Starke – another to come out of retirement following injury to No.1 Manuel Neuer – returned to make his 100th Bundesliga appearance against Eintracht after Sven Ulreich suffered injury in the warm-up.
Joshua Kimmich also reached his century of German top flight matches while it was Brazilian Rafinha’s 300th Bundesliga game. Arturo Vidal scoring in his fourth successive Bundesliga game was a first for the Chilean and helped to bring Bayern up to 35 points, just one fewer than they managed at the same stage last term. Franck Ribery, meanwhile, made a 365th appearance for Bayern, with no non-German player racking up more.
And so here’s to the champions of the Herbstmeisterschaft, a title that will add plenty of spice to Bayern Munich’s pre-Matchday 16 Christmas celebrations.