By and large, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone unhappy with the job Julian Nagelsmann has done at Bayern Munich.
Aside of a DFB-Pokal misstep against Borussia Monchengladbach, Nagelsmann’s has his squad looking pretty awesome. This being football, however, there are always some warning signs of things that are working now, but have a chance to go off the rails.
Let’s take a look at a few of those potential red flags:
This roster is deep and it is talented and with that comes the responsibility of managing egos and personalities. So far, the players have not hit the media to complain about their playing time. Some stories have leaked (Marc Roca, Jamal Musiala, Marcel Sabitzer), but not one player has used the press to voice his displeasure as of yet. That is a major win for Nagelsmann, but it seems like that situation is a bit tenuous.
As for Nagelsmann’s actual rotating, well, that leaves a bit to be desired. This season is a grind — even with the DFB-Pokal out of the picture — and with five available subs every game, it seems silly to not use each of those slots for at least 20 minutes per game. The manager is going to have to start being more liberal with subbing out or even resting players like Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, and Robert Lewandowski. You could argue those three players hold the key to the team’s success and wearing them down now, does little to help achieve the ultimate remaining goal: A double.
The more you watch Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich, the more you realize that he desperately wants to play a back-three. The public outcry against a formal move has no doubt influenced Nagelsmann’s decision to go with this hybrid set-up. Occasionally, you will even hear Nagelsmann call the defense a back-three in his comments.
This could eventually be problematic for a few reasons:
- Alphonso Davies is essentially the flex player who morphs into a left-wing offensively, but is labeled as the left-back. While this helps maximize Davies’ ability, it also tends to leave a gaping hole in the defense even after the rest of the backline shifts over. Even with Davies’ electric speed, those recovery runs are not always successful, which intimately leads to a lot of scrambling to man-mark in the opposition’s final third. Quite a few of the goals Bayern Munich has allowed have come from this type of desperation scrambling.
- The fallout offensively is not as drastic, but also has some ramifications. When Davies pushes up high on the left flank, Leroy Sane pushes inside into a Raumdeuter-type role. Sane has done really well with that, but it has created some traffic centrally of late and caused congestion as the squad tries to operate offensively. With the opposite side winger often making good, dynamic, diagonal runs into the box area (adding to the traffic in the middle), the right center-back/right-back (often Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule, or Josip Stanisic), often pushes a little wide and a little further up the field — sometimes creating a gap on that side as well.
For the majority of the season so far, Bayern Munich has handled these situations extremely well. You can see, however, where both are a bit of a powder keg unless some slight changes are made.
Will Julian Nagelsmann continue to ride his own hot hand or will he begin to have his rotations and his system evolve? For Bayern Munich fans, seeing the answer to that question will be “Must See TV.”