"Are doomed to succeed": Second Bayern season as a yardstick for Julian Nagelsmann

Julian Nagelsmann is entering his second season as head coach at FC Bayern.Image: IMAGO/MIS/IMAGO/MIS


Nikolai Stubner

Swap absolute top striker for outstanding offensive all-rounder. This is how Bayern Munich’s summer break could be summed up, at least to some extent.

After eight years, Robert Lewandowski left the German record champions and moved to FC Barcelona. The goalkeeper (344 goals in 375 Bayern games) of recent years is replaced by long-time Liverpool attacker Sadio Mané.

Team as a whole must replace Lewandowski

This raises the first question before the start of the new Bundesliga season for the record champions. Can Munich still score a similar number of goals and spread the tasks in the storm on several shoulders?

Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann had mixed feelings about the departure of the Pole: “It’s a big challenge to replace him, but it’s also a great opportunity. We have the opportunity to build Bayern Munich without a striker who can reliably score 40 goals.” This new FC Bayern also plays in a new system.

In the preparation it was already to be guessed, in the Supercup against Leipzig (5:3) Nagelsmann then also used the 4-2-2-2 system in the first competitive game of the season. Four variable attackers are supposed to make opponents dizzy and confuse them with their position changes. In addition, two central midfielders secure.

Before the start against Frankfurt, Nagelsmann was full of euphoria because of the completed preparation: “The Supercup was important and interesting to see how far we are.” He also added that he also changed his approach to games a bit in preparation. You want to “orient yourself more to yourself.” Presumably means: Less adjustments to the opponent and more trying to impose your own playing style on the opponent.

At the same time, there could be potential for conflict due to the four positions on the offensive and the newcomers in attack. With top talent Mathy Tel, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Joshua Zirkzee, Thomas Müller, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané and Jamal Musiala, Bayern have nine players for these positions.

This could lead to disagreements within the team, but the media hype should not be underestimated either. Example here: Sané’s bench in the Supercup, which was immediately discussed in public – that too could lead to unrest and unwanted distraction.

FC Bayern: Defense as another construction site

In addition to the big question mark on the offensive, Munich also have to work on the defense this season. In the last four years, Bayern have always conceded more than 30 goals, in 2020/21 it was even 44. If they now score fewer goals of their own due to Lewandowski’s departure, a good defense is all the more important. In the last season under Pep Guardiola 2015/16, Bayern even managed to concede just 17 goals. They have come a long way from that in recent seasons.

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić has signed 22-year-old top central defender Matthijs de Ligt for 67 million euros so that similar figures can be reached again. “Matthijs suits our team and our ambitions with his professionalism, his greed and his wonderful character. He will play an important role on and off the pitch at Bayern Munich.”

The idea is clear: together with Munich’s record purchase Lucas Hernández, the Dutchman should form a strong defense again. Dayot Upamecano, who did not fully convince in his debut season last year, could, however, as a third central defender, get fewer appearances in the coming season.

In addition to the big transfers of de Ligt and Sadio Mané in defense and attack, Salihamidžić has signed other interesting players. The only 17-year-old striker Mathys Tel (came from Rennes) should be built up as an attacker for the future.

Ryan Gravenberch (for 18.5 million euros from Amsterdam) could compete in the center with Joshua Kimmich, Marcel Sabitzer and the repeatedly injured Leon Goretzka. However, if Kimmich and Goretzka are fit, it will probably be difficult for him. In addition, Noussair Mazraoui (free transfer from Amsterdam) has the task of putting pressure on Benjamin Pavard at right-back.

“We expect him to introduce and develop young players. We are doomed to succeed at Bayern, and he knows that too.”

Bayern board member Oliver Kahn on the requirements for coach Julian Nagelsmann

Kahn clarifies expectations of Julian Nagelsmann

Before the season starts, there are not only great expectations of the newcomers, but also of Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann. He signed in Munich for a total of five years. His first season was bumpy. In the Bundesliga he won the championship, but in the end he was responsible for the worst season in terms of points in ten years.

In addition, there is the disastrous elimination in the 2nd round of the cup against Gladbach (0:5) and in the Champions League quarterfinals against Villarreal (1:2). This also brought Bayern boss Oliver Kahn to a clear statement to the “kicker”: “We also signed Julian Nagelsmann because of his game philosophy. We expect him to introduce and develop young players. We are condemned to success at Bayern , he knows that too.”

At the press conference before the start of the season, Nagelsmann himself explained the high pressure at Bayern: “It’s normal that we always try to strive for the highest. Conversely, I don’t just sit there and tremble. We’re not satisfied with mediocrity, we want to be champions again. I put the pressure on myself.”

At the same time, the “Kicker” also revealed that some players would not rate the trainer’s performances with skateboards and Harley Davidson as serious. In addition, there is the new relationship that the 35-year-old has with a “Bild” reporter and that would not make confidential discussions between Nagelsmann and his players any easier.

Nagelsmann is not in the discussion with the bosses. Together they want to shape a successful time in Munich. Only on Wednesday did Salihamidžić in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” clear: “Julian is a stroke of luck for FC Bayern and he will learn which trigger points to find in players, journalists or the board. He’s an open guy who’s great to work with.”

In order for this to remain the case for a long time, Nagelsmann should probably be more successful in his second season and meet the record champions’ demands even more – and in Munich they are mainly measured by trophies.

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