Few things in football nowadays are “shocking”. In the present 24×7 news cycle, pretty much everything can be seen coming from far away. Therefore, the news of Bayern Munich replacing Julian Nagelsmann with Thomas Tuchel has shocked the footballing world. Just last week, Bayern president Herbert Hainer was quoted by the Kicker as he lauded the progress made under Nagelsmann. The speed at which this has transpired has taken everyone by surprise, including some players.
So, why did it happen, and so suddenly? We try to make sense of the sudden announcement.
Slipping in Bundesliga
For managers of certain teams, the domestic league is a thankless job. It has no role in solidifying their credentials, but failure in it can draw curtains for them. Bayern Munich is one such team. Bundesliga has effectively become a one-club league in the past decade. Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing Dortmund was the last team to dethrone them, all the way back in 2011-12. Since then, the Bavarians have walked their way to a record 10 consecutive titles.
Keeping this domination up is the minimum expectation from a coach at Allianz Arena. Cue the 2022-23 season, and after 25 games, Bayern Munich sit 2nd, a point behind a rejuvenated Borussia Dortmund, despite adding the likes of Sadio Mane in the summer. Nagelsmann’s last game as Bayern boss is now an unexpected 2-1 loss to Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen that saw them concede the pole position to Dortmund.
Coaches at Bayern Munich have been fired despite doing more. Niko Kovac was fired despite leading the club to a league and cup double. Even if Bayern Munich had gone on to win the title eventually this season, slipping in Bundesliga by their usual standards is a death knell for coaches.
Internal strife, player disagreements reported
Managing a club of superstars comes with its own unique set of challenges. To keep the players happy, while challenging them to improve, one needs a fine set of man-management skills. There is perhaps no other club in world football that tests this skill quite as much as Bayern Munich.
As the news of the sacking came about, various outlets reported about Bayern players not being convinced by Julian Nagelsmann’s continuous tinkering of the squad. Headline arrival Sadio Mane cooled off after a strong start. Robert Lewandowski’s absence became hard to deal with and despite Eric Maxim Coupo-Moting’s breakout season, Bayern Munich felt like less than the sum of their parts.
Furthermore, Fabrizio Romano reported that Nagelsmann had also failed to win over members of the Bayern board. Despite encouraging performances in UCL, where Bayern had already eliminated PSG, the clock on Nagelsmann’s future was always ticking once he lost the internal war.
– @FabrizioRomano: 'From my understanding, there were some serious problems between Nagelsmann and the Bayern board + some players were no longer trusting the coach's tactical ways. That's why they decided to go with something new'
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) March 24, 2023
Carlo Ancelotti, regarded as one of the finest man-mangers of the generation, failed to win over the players during his tenure as Bayern boss, so the challenge was always going to be huge. For Nagelsmann, this was exacerbated due to his age. At 35 years old, he was younger than some players, including Manuel Neuer, a very influential player in the dressing room. Only results can win the players over in this case and unfortunately for Nagelsmann, they were never convincing.
The specter of Thomas Tuchel
When a manager of the caliber of Thomas Tuchel is on the market, pretty much every manager whose job was even slightly insecure would be sweating. This was true even more so for Bayern Munich. The Bavarians had always seemed like a natural landing point for Tuchel. With results under Nagelsmann dipping, and Tuchel being potentially eyed by Real Madrid and Tottenham, Bayern board decided to act quickly to get their man.
🚨 Exclusive news confirmed: Thomas Tuchel becomes new FC Bayern head coach, full agreement in place. He has already accepted the job. #FCBayern
Contract agreed, documents are being prepared tonight. pic.twitter.com/HFnOSwoU1m
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) March 23, 2023
Tuchel, on paper, looks like the ideal Bayern manager. He doesn’t want to have a hands-on role in recruitment, which Bayern Munich have traditionally wanted from their managers. He is a tactically astute coach who demands high standards every day, and most importantly, comes with the credentials and gravitas to instantly command the respect of the dressing room.
Also read: Top Thomas Tuchel facts you didn’t know!
Bayern Munich are hoping that the international break gives Tuchel time to put his stamp on the squad because post the break, they’ll be entering a season-defining phase. Tuchel’s first game will be a massive, potentially title-deciding affair against his former club Borussia Dortmund. This is followed by a knockout DFB Pokal fixture against plucky Freiburg before the box-office UCL fixture against Manchester City. Results in these three fixtures would make or break Bayern’s season. Win them, and Bayern board’s decision will be vindicated instantly. Loss in even one, and Bayern fans would be wondering if this is was a decision made more in fear of missing out on Tuchel than getting rid of Nagelsmann. No pressure, Thomas!