OPINION | Why Julian Nagelsmann didn’t work out at Bayern Munich

When Julian Nagelsmann was sacked as Bayern Munich head coach on Friday many people were left amazed and confused by the decision over the Rekordmeister’s board.

The 35-year-old had an outstanding record at the current Bundesliga champions with only three losses all campaign and a perfect Champions League record, which has made them progress to the quarter-finals stage of the tournament. 

The German arrived at the Allianz Arena in July 2021 and with him being such as young, up and coming manager many believed this would be a long-term project being undertaken, but this clearly wasn’t the case.

Nagelsmann, formerly of Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, parted company with Bayern Munich on Friday and was immediately replaced by former Borussia Dortmund, PSG and Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Despite winning the club its 10th Bundesliga title in a row and the current form in the Champions League, there are some reasons why this managerial change makes sense and why the 35-year-old’s time at the Allianz Arena didn’t work.

No Robert Lewandowski replacement

In Julian Nagelsmann’s first season in charge of the Rekordmeister, Poland international Robert Lewandowski scored 35 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches, helping them to their 10th successive Meisterschale, but in July 2022, the then 33-year-old moved on from Bayern Munich to Barcelona as he tried a new challenge after 12 years in Germany, firstly with Borussia Dortmund and then Bayern Munich.

This left a massive hole in middle of Bayern and Nagelsmann’s strike force. 

With the whole of August left many expected Bayern to replace the Lewandowski goals in the summer transfer market, but this didn’t materialise.

They did bring in attackers to strengthen their forward line in Sadio Mané and Mathys Tel. But the former is more of a wide player and at 30-years-old, and many fans were expecting a different type of forward to Mané. Tel on the other hand was still a teenager and had only made seven senior appearances for Rennes. 

This meant Nagelsmann went into the new season having to play a variety of players in the false nine position to fill the large Lewandowski shaped hole in their frontline.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was the only recognised number nine in the squad and despite the Cameroon international scoring 14 goals this season and performing well above the level many thought he could, he is no Lewandowski. 

Every previous manager at Bayern in the last eight years has had Lewandowski who they could rely on in pressurised moments to get them out of jail or score out of the blue when they were in trouble, but Nagelsmann hasn’t had that luxury this season.

Contenders improving

In seasons gone by, some would have said Bayern Munich have coasted to another Bundesliga title with relative ease. But this season Nagelsmann has had to deal with a resurgent Borussia Dortmund side under Edin Terzic, and a strong RB Leipzig outfit under Marco Rose and underdog stories in Union Berlin and Freiburg.

This has meant Bayern have had to be at their very best to stay top of the table while juggling the Champions League.

It almost went for granted that Bayern would brush aside the rest of the league and finish 10+ points ahead of the rest, and this may still happen, but with Borussia Dortmund starting 2023 on fire, with nine wins out of their first ten games it seems increasingly like the Black and Yellows will push the Rekordmeister the whole way.

Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Freiburg and Union Berlin are all out of Europe meaning they can put all their energy and focus into chasing down Bayern for the Bundesliga title.

Dortmund now sit first after Bayern’s 2-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the last game week.

This is the first time in 10 years that Bayern find themselves in second place after 25 matches played, and despite them still being favourites to turn this deficit around, some believe this is another reason they have parted company with Nagelsmann.

Even though they are desperate to win the Champions League once again they pride themselves on being dominant in their native Germany. 

Champions League favourites

Talking about the Champions League, Nagelsmann had a perfect record in the competition this season. The German has overseen Bayern’s run to the quarter-finals where they have only conceded two goals and scored 21. 

In the last-16 they overcame well-favoured PSG 3-0 on aggregate, keeping Kylian Mbappé and Co. quiet over 180 minutes, which is no mean feat. This has set them up for a colossal tie against former manager, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

After knocking PSG out and playing Manchester City next, Bayern are tipped as favourites for the title with their pedigree, route to the final and squad.

The Rekordmeister haven’t won the Champions League since the 2019/20 season when they defeated PSG 1-0 at the Estadio da Luz.

Although as previously mentioned the Bayern Munich board pride themselves on their Bundesliga record their main goal each season is to win the Champions League.

With a youthful coach such as Nagelsmann who has only ever reached the Champions League semi-final they believed they weren’t in as good a position to do that as if they had former Champions League winner, Tuchel.

This is one of the main reasons they have swooped in to get Tuchel on board at such as crucial stage of the season. They believe his previous experience of winning the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021 will help them in their quest for their seventh European cup. 

Timeline of events

On Thursday 23 at 8.11pm, Fabrizio Romano tweeted that Bayern Munich were seriously considering sacking Nagelsmann and Tuchel was leading candidate to replace the 35-year-old. Only an hour later Romano stated that there was a full agreement between Tuchel and Bayern for the German to become the club’s new head coach.

Whilst this news was breaking the current Bayern coach, Nagelsmann, was enjoying a skiing holiday with his girlfriend in Austria during the international break. 

Meaning he had to cut his holiday short as he returned to Bavaria on Friday afternoon for crisis talks, which later led to the news that he and the club had parted ways. 

This meeting only lasted one hour, showing the cut throat approach by the Bayern Munich board who announced Tuchel as the new manager at 5pm on the Friday.

Bayern director Hasan Salihamidžić later said in a press conference: “After thorough analysis of the sporting development of our team, especially since January and with the experience of the second half of the previous season, we have now decided together to release Julian.”

Oliver Kahn, Bayern Munich CEO, also highlighted the dip in Bundesliga form under Nagelsmann: “We have one of the best squads in Europe. 

“But the continuity was not getting any better. We can’t be satisfied with the performances and results this year. If you look at everything, we’ve only won five out of ten games in the Bundesliga – this is not our ambition.”

GGFN | Stuart McCracken

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