My Bad Take: Bayern Munich’s Julian Nagelsmann might just be making this all up as he goes along
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann is successful, innovative and has already made a name for himself at the club… but does he actually have a plan here?
Known as a tinkerer-loving manager, things often don’t seem to settle down enough for players to really build consistency. At the moment it hasn’t impacted the squad’s record too much, but how will it show in the Champions League when a draw against a very strong Paris Saint-Germain team will be eager and motivated to send the record champion Packaging from the competition?
This particular bad attitude is something I’ve alluded to in the past. So why not just explain in detail why I sometimes think that way about the Bayern Munich boss?
One of the things Nagelsmann is known for during his time at Bayern Munich is his constant tinkering with formations and roles. In his two seasons we have seen Bayern Munich play a variety of formations including a 4-2-3-1, a 3-4-2-1, a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-2 -2 .
Within each of these formations, there is a drastic shift in roles and responsibilities for many players. It could be argued that things changing so much have caused at least some of the problems players have had adjusting under Nagelsmann, particularly last season when players like Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman found themselves at full-back or when they formed a trio used by central defenders. Defenders who may not have been entirely comfortable with the alignment caused several defensive breakdowns.
Recently we saw a report that said Bayern Munich would settle for a 4-2-3-1 and stick with it, but now we’re seeing more stories that suggest Nagelsmann is using a two-forward system with Eric Maxim Choupo could experiment -Moting and Mathys Tel.
It just never ends… and players never seem to get into any rhythm. Maybe the players should only to be able to seamlessly slide between formations with aplomb, but it didn’t work that way.
I’m always in favor of letting a manager pick their system and run it how they see fit… it just seems Nagelsmann can’t quite see what he wants to do with this squad.
Sometimes it seems like Nagelsmann can’t decide who he wants to roll with. Does he prefer to play alongside Joshua Kimmich with Leon Goretzka or Marcel Sabitzer? Thomas Müller advanced from being an indispensable pre-injury defender to a full-back second half? Can Leroy Sané play consistently well on the right, allowing Sadio Mané to play on the left – if not, what happens to a player who hasn’t always handled such situations well in the past?
These are just a few recent examples of how Nagelsmann’s personnel juggling has raised questions in the squad. One might even view the – alleged – decision to use Müller as a forward forward as something that seems to have little substance behind it. Anyone who saw this Space Interpreter Trouble playing the No. 9 (some of his most ineffective attacks of all time) can see that there probably won’t be much practice that will seamlessly adapt him to the role at this stage in his career.
At some point things have to settle down so that the players feel comfortable on the pitch.
champion of youth?
Nagelsmann, known for his work with youth players, sometimes struggled to fit the kids into his lineups:
- Paul Wanner: The attacking midfielder, once the crown jewel of Bayern Munich’s youth system, is likely to be loaned out next season.
- Mathis phone: In the first team, Tel makes appearances here and there, but nothing has been consistent. Also, the forward looks like he might actually be a better winger, but how do you know if he’s not getting consistent playing time?
- Ryan Gravenberch: Introduced as a No. 6 or No. 8, Gravenberch’s defensive problems have led to his being fielded as a No. 10. That puts him behind a younger, better player in Jamal Musiala.
- Josip Stanisic: After a breakthrough in the summer with Croatia, Stanišić rarely played and then got injured. At this stage it looks like an all-around backup, but can it be more?
Admittedly, Bayern Munich’s stacked squad has made it difficult to give a young player any real amount of playing time, but is there a plan on how best to work these kids in or how to get the likes of Arijon Ibrahimović and Tarek Buchmann into the mix now includes? expected to be part of the first team next season?
Part of that could fall on the sports department making acquisitions without having a real plan for how the players will or could be used, but Nagelsmann is the one who has the authority to actually make everything work.
I don’t know if Nagelsmann has a long-term plan or not – and maybe, just maybe – it’s all part of his genius. Maybe he is actually with him best in spontaneous thinking and acting.
Some of you will think I’m a Nagelsmann hater (I’m not). I supported his attitude and despite some of the issues I see listed above, I think he is a very good coach. But even great coaches have mistakes (see Flick, Hansi at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar).
Nagelsmann’s innovations add something to the squad, but his reliance on analytics might be something he can tone down in favor of gut instinct, and could also be what drives some as he tinkers. Maybe he just needs to trust himself more…or maybe less because he can’t control his desire to change things?
In any case, Nagelsmann is a very good coach. There’s no arguing about that, even if there’s criticism of his way of working. In the coming years we will find out whether it all fits together or not.
In the end, Bayern Munich judge their coaches on their ability to win trophies. In his first season, Nagelsmann went one for three. Can he do better than during this campaign? Furthermore, can he consistently keep the club as a major threat to all three annual trophies throughout his contract term? Ultimately, that’s how he’ll be remembered at the club – no matter how much of a mad scientist he is at times.