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.
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Hi Marc thank you for your assessment (and for taking time responding to my comment in the other article). Now that we have a few days to digest, and the board have spoken, things get a bit more calm, and the whole story looks a bit less ridiculous. I think the motivation behind is a combination of (1) underwhelming performance that becomes a pattern (2) his handling of some players (3) Tuchel and (4) I believe there is also something else behind the scene that they don’t want to say, e.g. conflicting with a board member.
It should also be the result of a process, e.g. the dissatisfaction on the performance must started weeks/months ago, or maybe they said to each other last summer “let’s see how he does this second season if thing does not change we’ll axe him”. The Leverkusen game is the last drop but it cannot be the only big event that led to a sudden re-think (though it sounds like that based on what Brazzo said – English translation I have to say, I don’t understand German to hear exactly his words).
There is one inexplicable move though, that is the interview from Hainer just a week before, where he said Nagelsmann was a good enough coach and it was a long term project with him. The sacking of Nagelsmann just a few days later, it’s debatable, but that interview is really bad considering the timing.
While it’s very unlikely Tuchel would be able to make any impact yet systematically, there is 1 potential positive one: the manager-sacking bounce. The Leverkusen game is really bad, the players did not seem they care enough so the changing of a coach alone may wake them up and give us an edge with the crucial game vs Dortmund (and therefore psychological advantage)?
For later games of the season, and the Champions League clash vs Man City, it’s very unclear I agree, how the team would be impacted.
I’m still feeling bad about the whole thing, I like Nagelsmann and even though I’m not happy with how Bayern are playing this season, I think he deserves more. This football business is so brutal, and sometimes so unfair, e.g. everyone at the club has a contribution to the negative performance, but it’s always the manager’s head the first to roll.
With that’s being said, I now have 3 wishes:
– First and foremost is for Tuchel to succeed immediately, I mean in the sense that Bayern will beat Dortmund this weekend, win the Bundesliga in May, and play good games vs Man City and in the Cup. Winning those Cups is always very difficult I won’t judge the decision based on the results alone, even though admittedly if Bayern do not win them, one won’t be able to stop thinking “what if”.
– Second is I hope this bad experience won’t become an obstacle in the road to a great manager of Nagelsmann, I hope he learns from it, become more mature, and a better manager, fulfilling his potential, and then
– I hope no bad blood happened, no bridge burnt, and he will be back managing Bayern in the future, when the time is right. I think Nagelmann is the right coach for Bayern, just not at the right time now. It would be extremely unfortunate if the cooperation is forever damaged just because he went to Bayern a few years too soon.
Hi Hien! I’m glad that the time has given you some clarity and understanding regarding the move. For me there are still two key factors. The first and biggest was the coaching market and the availability of Tuchel who was their preferred next manager. The second was the uncertainty that they would want to continue with Nagelsmann after the season if they fell short in any of the three competitions, which of course is a culmination of the other things you mentioned, primarily the inconsistancies. For me I don’t think the dressing room and handling of players is a huge factor. Of course not every player is going to have been thrilled with him, but I think that’s true for the vast majority of coaches. I think all of the other speculation and news are probably factors that as a whole contributed a little to the decision but that if the first two factors I mentioned weren’t true, were no where near enough to put his job into question, espeically at this time in the year.
I think the for the narrative that you mention with Hainer, which has been consistent throughout Nagelsmanns tenure and has come from nearly every source in the front office, the abruptness and the timing are the things that make it hard for me, and presumably a lot of people, to understand. As I said in the article, I don’t think that this move is not justifiable, it’s just came out of nowhere and felt like extremely odd timing.
Personally, I would be hesitant to give much credence to any result in the Dortmund match. Bayern players have never had a difficult time getting up for and playing relatively well in perceived big important matches. Even in the worst of years under the worst of coaches, they’ve usually played relatively well against the likes of Dortmund. The two Freiburg matches are far more concerning to me. Who knows what to expect from the Man City matches.
I completely agree that I don’t think this was really fair to Nagelsmann. I still think he’s a good coach with a bright future. I suspect he may likely be back at Bayern in the future. He is young and has a lot of time to improve as a person and a coach. Everyone goes through ups and downs and perhaps this will be a good experience for him in the long run. It doesn’t appear on the surface that there is any real animosity either way. Hopefully that is true.
Regarding how to judge the season from here on is extremely difficult. I think Tuchel is in the best position a manager can be in, in many respects. He’s kind of playing with house money in that anything Bayern don’t win will likely be put on Nagelsmann for this season or even the board before it reaches him. However, if they do win multiple trophies, he will get all the credit. Personally, I think it should fall somewhere inbetween the two. He will have an impact but I don’t think you can ignore that he’s only there for 1/4 of the season. No matter the outcome the two coaches will share responsibility to an extent. The board on the otherhand I think deserves much closer scrutiany and judgement.
I think for me the biggest question is: If you feel justified making this move now, why didn’t you do it in December when it would have given Tuchel more time to work with the squad? I know the league situation has changed some, but not enough IMO to be decisive. As we’ve both said, these questions and conerns didn’t just pop up out of nowhere following the Leverkusen match. They had to have been having discussions for a while now. So if you were scared of losing Tuchel and not convinced of Nagelsmann, why not do it when the timing would have made more sense than a few days before the most critical point in the season?
Marc, I think they did not do it in December because the football was good, Bayern went into the WC with a 10 consecutive wins, the majority of them quite convincing. We even complained, I remember, that the WC came at an unfortunate time because the team was hitting their stride.
I suspect the board was rather optimistic at that time, because minus the slump in autumn, the trajectory of that first half is very good, especially considering the shuffle in personnel’s. They probably thought this marriage had finally worked. The relatively bad results from the New Year put them back to the earth, and they were scared because it’s a repetition of last season.
I agree with you the board must take more responsibility this time, if thing does not get better. This is my worry from the beginning (of the Oliver Kahn’s era) – is he good enough for a job of this magnitude? This plus Brazzo still learning his trade, and Herbert Heiner who is an “outsider”, make it a quite high risk team, if I may say.