Nagelsmann Out, Tuchel In
The news for this dropped suddenly on Thursday evening. Sure Bayern had lost to Leverkusen on the weekend. Yes there were some disgruntled fans that were unhappy with Nagelsmann and the performances, especially since the start of 2023.
But I don’t think there are many that would have predicted this decision. The reasons were there. Honestly, the reasons are almost always there if you’re looking for them. It’s the timing that is really hard to understand.
Personally I’ve always found it odd that teams were so inclined to make changes during international breaks, especially at clubs like Bayern where the vast majority of the team is out with their national teams. Sure there are a few faces still around and it’s not in the middle of an English week, but it still leaves next to no time to actually change anything.
Then there is the schedule that we have coming up. It is no exaggeration to say that the entire season could be decided in the next three weeks. Tuchel will have 24 days between when he officially takes over and the second leg against Manchester City. Breaking down the time line:
- March 27: Tuchel’s first practice in charge
- March 29: International team players return
- April 1: Borussia Dortmund
- April 4: SC Freiburg (Pokal)
- April 8: at SC Freiburg (Bundesliga)
- April 11: at Manchester City
- April 15: Hoffenheim
- April 19: Manchester City
He will essentially have 15 total days of training in that time. Two before the Dortmund match which obviously has a huge impact on the Bundesliga title race. Two more before facing Freiburg in the DFB Pokal with another three before facing them again in the Bundesliga. Then he’ll have just two more days before the first trip to Manchester in the Champions League.
In short, it is nearly impossible to imagine him really having the opportunity to make any significant changes to this team in that time. On top of that, the recent injuries to Jamal Musiala and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting could potentially leave Tuchel with massive roles to fill up top.
So why would Bayern choose to make a change at this time? That’s the question that everyone is asking. And honestly, I’m not sure anyone outside of the front office really knows the full answer.
There seems to be little doubt that one factor was the fact that Tuchel was available and they were scared to miss out on him again after 2018. The only other concrete factor is the dropped points since the start of 2023. The rest of the reasons seem to fall somewhere between tabloid speculation and tin hat conspiracy theories.
For me, there is one scenario where this timing makes some sense and it’s one that I really don’t like to think about. If Bayern felt as though they were unlikely to win anything this year, especially either cup competition, and thus the probability of moving on from Nagelsmann at the end of the season was nearly certain, then this makes a lot of sense.
If they were to wait till after the season, they could very well have missed out on Tuchel. Another team might have made a move before that time or perhaps one of them would have simply wooed him away. The market for coaches with the quality to manage a club like Bayern is incredibly short. Most of those coaches already have jobs. The risk therefore clearly was too much for the Bayern brass to bear and so they decided to act now.
That however is an extremely negative view for the club to take given the current circumstances. Even with Nagelsmann as coach, Bayern were considered to be one of the primary contenders in Champions League, especially after knocking off PSG. Bayern will always be the favorite in the Pokal, until they’re knocked out and while they’re one point off the lead in the Bundesliga, I think most of us still saw them as the favorites there as well.
So is this the right move? Obviously only time will tell. I think most of the fanbase is surprised by timing of this move, even those who were never the biggest supporters of Nagelsmann.
The timeline I mention above obviously limits how much Tuchel will be able to do with the club. Ultimately that puts him in a bit of a win-win scenario. If Bayern do go on to win multiple trophies, he will get the credit. If Bayern don’t manage to do so, it’s unlikely that much of the blame will fall on his shoulders.
Perhaps the front office felt that a change in manager might not have much effect regardless or that at least the positives and negatives would be a wash. They may be right but there’s no question that it’s big gamble on their part.
Tuchel is obviously an accomplished and capable coach. Based on my knowledge and what I’ve seen of his teams, I suspect that as he has more time to work with the team, they will become more stable in possession and on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s on the offensive end that I have more questions. My impression of his teams over the years have not always been the best in terms of the attack. I have felt that they sometimes struggle with creativity and directness.
To be fair, the amount of times I’ve watched his teams has been limited and perhaps with the players Bayern have at their disposal things might be different. However, I think it is far from certain that they will immediately be better under Tuchel than they were under Nagelsmann.
We won’t have to wait long to find out though. If things go sideways, the front office will likely have some explaining to do. If things go well, they’ll look like geniuses. It’s a massive risk but one that they clearly felt they needed to make.