For all his tactical acumen, it was a simple tactic that Julian Nagelsmann employed against Bayern Munich in an effort to stifle the Rekordmeister’s offense and interrupt their possession game: a string of ruthless fouls on the team’s most dangerous players.
The aftermath? A senseless, late tackle by Nico Schulz ended Kingsley Coman’s Hinrude not a full half after it had begun. After tearing his syndesmosis ligament in his ankle for the second time in a year, Coman will potentially not play against until 2019.
Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge did not mince words about what he thought of Nagelsmann’s tactics in an interview (FCBayern.de):
Hoffenheim’s players made brutally hard tackles, especially in the first half. Thiago, Coman and Franck Ribéry were constantly fouled to interrupt our play. It was Wild West-style soccer. If the result is that the best player on the pitch has to be subbed off with a serious injury, you can only say: the ends do not justify every means. This excessively hard playing style has nothing to do with courage.
Although Rummenigge acknowledged there is nothing wrong with a “self-confident” approach and everyone wants the Bundesliga to be exciting, there are limits to what is acceptable:
But when that means that a team declares hunting season against our players, like what happened yesterday, then that has nothing to do with fair play anymore.
In an interview with TZ, Bayern’s president Uli Hoeness shared Rummenigge’s assessment of the opener against Hoffenheim:
The match against Hoffenheim was a very hard game. I thought it was too hard a game. It remains to be seen whether this hard playing style stays this way.
Ahead of Bayern’s second league match against VfB Stuttgart Saturday evening, Hoeness made it clear he expects the referees to prevent the excesses that marred the opener and ended Coman’s Hinrunde prematurely.
Everyone who saw the game last Friday on TV saw what needs to be done. And I think that the referees and the officials saw that too and will react accordingly. I’m very confident that nothing will get out of hand. I’m not worried yet.
In the meantime, how Niko Kovac will adjust his tactics and starting lineup to compensate for the loss of Coman remains to be seen.