After a rather polarizing, if not disappointing, season at Bayern Munich, we at BFW decided to gauge just how people are feeling about next season. Are you optimistic that Julian Nagelsmann will lead Bayern to greatness? Or are you afraid that this will mark the start of a long and painful dark age? Let’s find out.
Short answer, I am one of those pessimistic people. I was hopeful about Nagelsmann at first, and it looked like my hopes were going to be answered after a pretty decent Hinrunde. But in the new year, I was disappointed more often than I’d have liked. Especially in the last few weeks, when we went out to Villarreal and limped our way to the Bundesliga. Starting from April, we only won four games out of a possible eight. That’s not good enough for Bayern, especially just one season after we won the sextuple.
What makes me even more pessimistic is that Nagelsmann does not seem to show any signs of changing things up. If anything, these past two games were the perfect time to try something new. Even if he didn’t use youngsters, it would have been the prime time to experiment some new approaches, especially since it was clear that the old one wasn’t working out too well. Instead, he stuck with the same boring hybrid back-three, porous defense, weak midfield, and wasteful attack that characterized the Rückrunde. The result? A defeat and a draw to a poor Mainz side and a relegation threatened Stuttgart. Do I think we’re going to beat Wolfsburg next week? Of course not. Nagelsmann used to be this flexible, innovative coach, but now he’s stubborn as a mule. If he was being stubborn because his system actually worked, that’d be a different story, but that’s not the case, is it?
To make matters worse, the teams around us are becoming stronger. Borussia Dortmund are investing in their defense and attack. RB Leipzig is currently the best team in Germany in terms of form. And us? We’re struggling to keep the players we have, let alone sign new ones. The likes of Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry might leave us, and I’m not sure if we’ll sign adequate replacements for either. At this rate, I highly doubt that we’ll be able to win the Bundesliga next season. And as for the Champions League, do you really think we’ll be able to beat the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Manchester City playing like this?
Of course, I could be as wrong as the next person, and I could be eating my words completely by this time next year. I will gladly accept that I was wrong if that is the case. But for now, my guess is that we are in for the worst Bayern season since 2010/11. Brace yourselves, it’s going to be a long, bumpy ride.
Yes, I am optimistic, yet I am going to state a lot of things I believe that might not lead to you to the conclusion that I am hopeful for next season:
- Bayern Munich had a good season in 2021/22, yet did underperform.
- Julian Nagelsmann did some good things as manager, but does have some worrying strategies/tactics that might not always be best for this roster.
- Nagelsmann did exceptionally well managing vets for the most part this season, but also became the latest Bayern manager to be unable to find a good way to integrate youth players.
- The roster — if he moves to a 3-4-2-1 — is going to have issues next season because three of Thomas Müller, Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry are always going to be on the bench. I now think he has to look at this and stick with a 4-2-3-1 because even with Mazraoui, he would be playing one of Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, or Tanguy Nianzou over one of Müller, Musiala, Sane, Coman, and Gnabry.
- Defensively, there are issues — how Nagelsmann mitigates that will likely determine if he sticks around.
While Nagelsmann did a good job of limiting any “Miami Nights”-type issues with veterans, he did have to endure some griping. Robert Lewandowski, Müller, Gnabry, and Sane — allegedly — had issues with the boss for various reasons. Depending on how he manages personnel and what formation he runs, he could have a lot of high-priced talent sitting on the bench consistently. That almost never ends well at Bayern. Carlo Ancelotti and Niko Kovac fell victim to that (among other things). I’m not a staunch “4-2-3-1 only” person; I believe you let the coach run the system he wants, but with the way the roster is configured, it could create issues.
I like Nagelsmann. I think he can be successful. I also think it’s conceivable he can’t find a way to rein all of this in. There is no guarantee of success for him. Hopefully, he doesn’t have to wade through the waters of Lewy being unhappy all season, but even with all of that, I am optimistic he can succeed, win a double, and make the Champions League semifinals next season. I want Nagelsmann to be successful. I just see some potential red flags that can derail him even if he is doing a good job.
This was largely a direct response to a lot of what C.Smith and Teddy Son have said, so it’ll be situated in a similar format.
- Nagelsmann has had a bit of a struggle. So what? He’s young, he has a excellent track record. But you cannot maintain excellency day in and day out. We idolize Flick because of how good he was over a short period of time. We do the exact same thing to Jupp Heynckes. But guess what? Jupp struggled many a times, was fired too. Toss Nagelsmann into the fire after one year is too soon.
- There’s an old saying which goes “Rome was not built in a day.” And in regards to Nagelsmann, he has come in and done a relatively good job as a young coach. Of course there have been struggles. Bayern isn’t RB Leipzig. This is absolutely a major step up. He’s done a lot of good, and there’s a lot to improve on.
- I like this squad a lot. We have some exceptional talent. Dayot Upamecano is a stud, and he’s only going to get better. He’s only 23. Virgil van Dijk was 26 when he moved to Liverpool. We have three key players over 30. Many are just hitting their prime, or about too. Better football is to come.
- Lastly, I grew up in Chicago. My favorite teams have been the Bears and Cubs. I know what losing feels like, and what breaking championship droughts of 49- and 108-years feels like, and what it is to support just absolutely horrendous teams. FC Bayern is not there. Bayern will still compete with the best of the best day in and day out. Only question I have is this: “For every reason Nags can fail I can see a reason for him to succeed. I truly believe Nags will be a truly incredible coach. Question is will it be now with Bayern or is Bayern a step too big, step to early?”
I am the type to be naturally optimistic; and so, I can see reasons to be optimistic despite the fact that I don’t think Julian Nagelsmann is the man for the job at the moment. Let me start with the negative — we won’t win much next season. And now, to the positive:
- The situation with JN could go either way. If things go right, he is a capable coach who will tinker too much and we will at least hit the season’s targets. If not, Bayern learns a valuable lesson about hiring coaches from non-traditional German clubs. Bayern also learns to hold on to valuable assets like Hansi Flick.
- If Robert Lewandowski leaves, Bayern will have to make an adjustment that would need to happen sooner than expected. It is good to get on with things. If not, Bayern has his gazillion goals for another season.
- Bayern makes a huge transfer because that’s what happens when Bayern feels they need a change (Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Javi Martinez). That transfer pays off; great things happen. Otherwise, things work pretty well already during the season and Bayern doesn’t make an eye catching transfer.
- No matter what happens, Bayern Munich remains an institution of footballing stability and aspires to return to its best versions.
I don’t think Nagelsmann has the ability to make senior players buy into a formation or a system that hasn’t been effective. I don’t think he is ready to manage a large traditional club yet. I think he will be if he takes a step back and reflects. I saw him reflecting at the end of the season when he spoke about making too many changes. If he learns effectively, he will be ready. Otherwise, he will lose the job he always wanted pretty quickly.
I am optimistic as well, with one caveat, that it is early days yet.
The reasons for optimism are the quality of our core talent and the quality of our management. Our management is steady, prudent and always engages in long term thinking. So far their managing of the transition from the Schweinsteiger era to the Kimmich era has gone remarkably well. I expect some quality additional players to arrive at the club this summer who should add some depth and flexibility to the squad. Brazzo has already extended Coman and Müller, and I expect him to lock in Manuel Neuer as well.
Even if Lewandowski leaves (and I hope he would not) there is enough veteran talent on the team to offer plenty of leadership. There is a nice age spread on the team, with young guys who look to be ready to claim, or challenge for, starting roles, and even younger guys who may be added to the roster next year. As long was we can build around our veteran core a bit more, and see a bit more development from Upa the talent base is there. The one position I do think we need improvement, and the board is chasing, is a vocal defensive leader/organizer. Who they have in mind for that I do not know.
The jury is still out on Nagelsmann, but he seems like an intelligent man, who is committed to the team and is willing to temper his enthusiasm. He has talked about playing a higher line next year and doing a little less tinkering with his formation. If he gets some time to grow and adjust to the new environment and different players at his disposal I don’t see why he can’t thrive. We are likely looking at the end of an era, and there is no reason why Julian cannot be the man to successfully lead us into the next one.