Bayern Munich and Julian Nagelsmann bringing the best out of each other
If the quality of Bayern Munich this season was in any doubt, it certainly isn’t after their 5-1 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Billed as a top-of-the-table clash between two sides capable of going the distance in the Bundesliga, the defending champions proved why they remain the predominant force in German football.
The Bavarians have also laid down a marker in the Champions League this season, with impressive victories over Barcelona at the Camp Nou and Dynamo Kiev. A third straight win over Benfica this week would effectively secure Bayern Munich’s place in the competition’s last 16 before the return fixtures in their group have even been played.
On early season form, Bayern Munich look to be setting the standard at the top of the German and European game. They have scored eight unanswered goals in two games in the Champions League and appear able to dismantle opponents at will in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich have won six of their eight league fixtures this season by an aggregate scoreline of 29-8. A 10th successive Bundesliga title might already be in the bag.
All this is vindication for Julian Nagelsmann who has enjoyed a highly successful start to life at the Allianz Arena having made the switch from RB Leipzig in the summer. Widely considered one of the best young coaches of his generation and German football’s next great manager in-waiting, the 34-year-old has improved his new team.
Many expected Nagelsmann to overhaul Bayern Munich, both in terms of their personnel and their tactics, upon taking over. After all, the 34-year-old was seen as one of European football’s sharpest tactical thinkers during his time at RB Leipzig, where he frequently made use of a highly fluid 4-2-2-2 formation and asked his players to be many different things at once.
However, Nagelsmann has achieved success through evolution, not revolution. He has been shrewd enough to recognise only small, subtle changes were required to revitalise a Bayern Munich team that had started to grow stale towards the end of last season but still had the basis to win titles and trophies. A winning side has been made even better.
Bayern Munich are still playing in the 4-2-3-1 shape that has sustained them for a number of years, although there is more interchangeability across the frontline. Indeed, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane are all given the freedom to drift wherever they can find space to exploit. This makes them exceptionally difficult for opposition defenders to track.
Sane’s Bayern Munich career has been revived by Nagelsmann who has recognised the need to get the former Manchester City winger into more goalscoring positions. Hansi Flick saw Sane as a creator, but Nagelsmann sees the German international as someone who can get on the end of chances.
The midfield pairing of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich are very important to the whole operation with the latter in particular a one-man platform who offers plenty on both sides of the ball. Goretzka and Kimmich might well be the most effective, most accomplished double pivot in the European game right now.
In time, Nagelsmann might feel emboldened to instil more radical tactical ideas in his players, but for the time being he appears to have found a happy medium between sticking with the tried and tested formula at the Allianz Arena and trying too much too early. Bayern Munich might not be a pure Nagelsmann team in the way RB Leipzig were, but they are still showcasing the talents of their 34-year-old manager.
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