Is Nagelsmann the right man to lead the German Champions?

Current Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich had a change of coaching staff this summer with Julian Naglesmann coming in from rivals RB Leipzig to take over the reins from the outgoing and popular Hansi Flick who will be succeeding Joachim Low as the head coach of the German National Football Team.

FC Hollywood had to look for a new head coach after Flick expressed his desire to coach Die Mannschaft.  Flick won everything there was to win with the German giants in a short 18 months stint after initially being Niko Kovac’s assistant and succeeding him after his sacking. Die Roten granted his wish and agreed on a deal with Nagelsmann, shelling out a world record fee of €25 Million to get him from RB Leipzig.

But who exactly is Nagelsmann and why was he chosen for the most prestigious job in German football and is he the right choice?

Naglesmann, who grew up as a Bayern fan, was always eager for this role. The young manager always looked destined for this role, even being linked to the Bayern job many times before, but has since worked up the Bundesliga ladder by coaching other teams, gaining experience, and now looks ready for it. 

Naglesmann first came to prominence when he succeeded outgoing manager Huub Stevens at 1899 Hoffenheim in February 2016 at just 28 years of age. Initially being Stevens’s assistant, Naglesmann had coached various youth teams of the club. Nagelsmann had to cut short his playing career after a serious injury but immediately turned his attention towards gaining his coaching badges, studying Business Administration from the local University, and transferring to Sports Science. He then turned his attention to coaching, returning to his former club 1860 Munich as an assistant. He then joined Hoffenheim.

Julian Nagelsmann (BBC Sport)

After becoming the youngest ever coach in Bundesliga history at Hoffenheim, who were 17th in the table, 7 points from the safety of 15th spot, he immediately began to work, steering Hoffenheim away from the jaws of relegation, finishing a point above the relegation playoff spot in the 2015-16 season.

Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim – shape and formation (from Khel Now)

Under his watchful eye, Hoffenheim qualified for the Champions League after finishing 4th in the 2016-17 Bundesliga season for the first time in their history. The club adhered to the famed German tactics of high pressing and playing an attacking, attractive brand of football under Nagelsmann. Former German goalkeeper Tim Wiese nicknamed him the ‘Mini-Mourinho’, throwing shade on his pragmatic side. Nagelsmann even said in an interview “Football management is 30% tactics and 70% social competence”, with his man-management skills widely applauded. Tactically, Hoffenheim played a variety of formations, from having 3 center-backs with fullbacks overlapping to the more fluid, counter-attacking 4231 and even the dynamic 433 formations. Nagelsmann was noted for improving the players at his disposal, making players like Nico Schulz, Kevin Vogt, Niklas Sule, Andrej Kramaric and Florian Grillitsch household names and even working with current Bayern star Serge Gnabry, who was on loan from Bayern.

LEIPZIG, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been digitally enhanced.) Head coach Julian Nagelsmann of RB Leipzig looks on prior to the Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach at Red Bull Arena on February 1, 2020 in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images)

On 21 June 2018, Hoffenheim announced Naglesmann would be leaving the club at the end of the 2018-19 league season and joining RB Leipzig to replace the outgoing Ralf Rangnick. Nagelsmann, who was just 32 at the time of joining, was the perfect coach for Die Roten Bullen on paper, a young ambitious coach for arguably the most forward-thinking team in the world. Nagelsmann had far superior players at his disposal, aided by Red Bull’s vast network of associated clubs bringing in talents from all over the world. He wasted no time in imprinting his image on the team, both tactically and in mentality. 

RB Leipzig 2019-20

As with Hoffenheim, Leipzig played an extremely high octane, high pressing and attacking style of football, synonymous with the Red Bull brand. He moulded youngsters like Dayot Upamecano, Christopher Nkunku, Ibrahima Konate, Dani Olmo and Angelino into stars. Nagelsmann also reached personal milestones, becoming the youngest coach in history to win a UEFA Champions League knockout tie after Leipzig’s 4-0 mauling of Tottenham Hotspur on 10 March 2020. After a monumental 2-1 victory over Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals on 13 August 2020, Nagelsmann became the youngest to coach a team in the subsequent semi-final, which he lost 3-0 to his former boss during his time at Augsburg, Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain.

His Leipzig side finished the 2020-21 Bundesliga season as runners-up to his future employers Bayern Munich and were runners-up in the DFB Pokal Final to Borussia Dortmund, losing 4-1.

Naglesmann is sound in terms of tactics but he has received criticism about his approach to defence, with his teams usually conceding a lot of goals. Another criticism by certain sections of the Bayern fan base has been about the questions surrounding his winning mentality. Bayern has always appointed coaches who had won trophies before with even Niko Kovac, Hansi Flick’s predecessor winning the DFB Pokal with Eintracht Frankfurt, a far inferior team compared to Leipzig, against Bayern in 2018. Nagelsmann had not won a trophy before he arrived in Munich, a club where winning the Bundesliga is the minimum expectation. Some are even saying that the biggest job in Germany has come in too early for him. FC Bayern did not win any of their pre-season games so far, losing to league rivals FC Koln, Borussia Monchengladbach and Serie A side Napoli while drawing with Ajax. One can hardly predict a team’s season on just the pre-season. I believe he has all the tools, the experience and the man-management skills necessary to succeed with Bayern and bringing back a record 10th Meisterschale to the Allianz Arena next season.

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