Touted as mini-Mourinho by top pundits, Julian Nagelsmann is set to bring a fresh footballing philosophy to Bayern.
The latest from Bayern Munich is that the highly-rated Julian Nagelsmann has been handed a five-year contract to replace Hans Flick as their new manager. Reports place the Bundesliga champions’ bid to RB Leipzig at a record €25 million (£22m/$30m).
Keen followers of the Bundesliga are well aware of the mind and the tactical nous which Nagelsmann has exhibited on his way to multiple accolades from across the footballing world. His signature has only recently been associated with teams like Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
And with Bayern signing the former RB Leipzig manager, it’s essential that we understand how Nagelsmann works with his teams, what his footballing philosophy is, and what we can expect from him moving forward at Die Rekordmeister.
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What to Expect From Bayern Munich’s New Coach
Bigger Opportunities for Young Players
Niklas Süle, Jonas Hoffman, Davie Selke, Nadiem Amiri, and Sead Kolasinac.
One thing common to these names is that they are all young prodiigies who Nagelsmann has helped propel to the height of their careers.
As academy coach at Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann develop a keen understanding of the importance of a youth academy to the first team. His desire to promote, purchase, and use young players was a key factor to his teams’ achievements.
His purchases on the team have all been geared towards younger, affordable players. And with a current average squad age of just 24.6 years old (with only Peter Gulasci, Philipp Tschauner, and Kevin Kampl above 30), even with his departure, Leipzig sure looks set for the future.
What this implies for Bayern is that those players we have long been anticipating to see grab the spotlight will have a chance. Let’s take a look at the midfielders first. Given the role Sebastian Rudy played towards his success at Hoffenheim, it all points towards progressive anchor midfielder Marc Roca. Although the positions would seem locked up by Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, I won’t put it beyond Nagelsmann to give the younger players in the squad like Roca some good game time.
Moreso, Nagelsmann’s entry could mean a greater tilt towards youth development. With the aging going on at Bayern’s core, time is fast approaching for replacements to come through. With transfer fees for star young players on the rise, it will get increasingly difficult to pry them from their home clubs. A bigger investment into the future at the Säbener Strasse sure looks good for the future.
A Smoother Defense
Bayern’s defense is where things may really begin to change. Flick’s side has been beset with individual errors and lapses in focus which, although not ultimately hindering their title push, have resulted in Die Roten shipping in a ludicrous 40 in the Bundesliga so far – including important goals against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League quarter-final which were avoidable.
In contrast, Leipzig have let in a minuscle 25 in their 31 games so far (easily the best in the Bundesliga). Together with a strong collective structure, this has largely been down to the strategy and sttalwarts that Nagelsmann has setup at the back – something he could employ at the Allianz Arena to fix Bayern’s porous defence.
The exit of both Jerome Boateng and David Alaba will create room for Upamecano to fill in promptly at the back, formation aside. Lucas Hernandez would definitely take up a role to the left of the present Leipzig man without hitches, but there’s this question mark over Benjamin Pavard. His creative influence on Bayern would be too massive for Nagelsmann to ignore, which would imply deploying him at left wing-back – a position Alphonso Davies might have as well been made for – may be more effective.
Should a switch to three in defence occur, the roles of the wing backs will be crucial. While the obvious fluidity in central areas will demolish defensive lines, Davies and Pavard (or whoever would be set on the right) could easily become two of the most deadly creative and attacking forces in Europe.
Continuity with the Offense
When it comes to the attack, Nagelsmann’s approach is pretty similar to what is currently deployed at the Allianz Arena.
In both systems, play commonly starts with the center backs passing back and forth to find/create open passing lanes. Usually, both approaches entail incisive passes to more forward players with the aim of enforcing pressure.
Where the approaches deviate is in how they progress from that point. While Bayern dance around the edge of the box probing for dents in the opponent’s defensive armor, Leipzig’s youth gives them the option of clinical one-touch passes to break past defenses in rapid fashion. Quick one-touch passes to Sabitzer and Nkunku give them the motive to swing things forward to release attackers in any direction. It also frees up wingers to roam up the field in the build up.
At Bayern, this would sound like heaven for two players in particular: Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies.
Beginning with Davies, a quick look at Leipzig’s stats show, in great detail, what the young Canadian can grow into. At Leipzig, the left wing is often home to one of two players: Marcel Halstenberg or Angeliño. This season, the latter has eight goals and assists (four each) in 24 games. The former has two goals and two assists in 22 games. In what could be termed an off-year for Phonzie statistically (1 goal and 2 assists in 20 games), this new approach could bring a new lease on life to his play.
As regards Coman, his tendency to be more direct than his counterparts on the wings will prove to be an asset. If Nagelsmann is given room to be creative in this area, Coman should fit in like hand to glove.
This does not imply that players like Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry, who are usually key parts in the buildup, won’t thrive. Instead, we will most likely see their goal-scoring stats improve.
Nagelsmann’s teams are known for creating chances. Throughout his five years spent managing top-flight German teams, his teams have ended up in T-3rd, 2nd, 4th, 2nd and 2nd based on goal difference. In all but this current season, Nagelsmann has placed in the top four in terms of goals scored for.
The crucial question heading into this new tenure is as to whether or not the Bayern players will accept his system. Bayern’s traditional structure has suffocated some managers in the past (a typical example being Niko Kovac) and is not quite as flexible as what Nagelsmann is accustomed to.
What Bayern Munich needs to grasp is the package they are getting in Nagelsmann: one of the best tactical minds in world football. And just as one should not attempt taming a wild horse, Bayern should allow him be innovative and creative on the pitch.
If, however, they try to tame him, they may end up wounded, in pain, and badly disappointed.