Why Bayern Munich are right to replace trendy Julian Nagelsmann with proven winner Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel Chelsea HIC 16:9
The decision to suddenly change coach at such an important stage of the season has shocked many but it is the correct call.

Eighteen months ago, Julian Nagelsmann was unveiled as Bayern Munich manager to the adulation of football hipsters and Bayern fans alike.

Here was a young tactician, with a cool haircut and trendy jackets, now taking over the biggest club in Germany.

On Thursday evening, Bayern let him go, opting to bring in the best manager on the market in Thomas Tuchel.

The Bavarians have long coveted the former Chelsea and PSG boss. With Nagelsmann plummeting out of favour and Tuchel jobless, Bayern made their move, quickly agreeing on a long-term deal with the German.

And it's the best move they could have possibly made.

This is less of a question of where Nagelsmann failed, than where Tuchel will succeed.

Nagelsmann is a terrific manager. He will prove his greatness. After all, he is still just 35. He was accomplished before he arrived in Munich, and leaves the club with a Bundesliga title to his name.

However, in Tuchel, Bayern now have their grown-up, their already-elite manager who can not only turn a domestic season around but could also deliver European glory.

  1. Commanding respect

    Commanding respect

    Nagelsmann was sacked hastily, right at the start of the international break.

    While things had been tense at the Allianz Arena for some time, his dismissal wasn't expected. Indeed, Nagelsmann was on a skiing holiday just 24 hours before the news broke. He only learned of his sacking via the media, which is obviously poor form on Bayern's part.

    However, there were some clear warning signs. Nagelsmann had lost the respect of some senior players. There was a perception that he was too quick to criticise his team after a defeat and unwilling to take his share of the blame.

    His relationship with the board had become fractious. And he also fell out with the club's most important player, Manuel Neuer.

    The German international has endured a tumultuous few months, first breaking his leg in a skiing accident before seeing his good friend and longtime coach Toni Tapalovic let go by the side.

    He followed it all up by giving an explosive interview with The Athletic, an act that reportedly drew the ire of Nagelsmann and the board.

    The manager also struggled to silence the furore caused by his inconsistent use of Joao Cancelo. The full-back's January arrival from Manchester City was hailed as an important acquisition for a team that needed full-back cover.

    But the Portuguese has been used sparingly and proven more of an off-field distraction than on-pitch benefit.

    Fortunately, Bayern have brought in a specialist in damage control.

    Tuchel has not avoided dressing-room drama in his career. But he has been in the big locker rooms with the big egos.

    This is a manager who has overseen a PSG team complete with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. He has dealt with the bright lights of being Chelsea boss. He even embraced the unenviable task of following Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund.

    This is not just a stabilisation job. But Tuchel will know how to settle the personalities; he is not afraid of a challenge.

  2. Tactical conviction
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    Tactical conviction

    It may never be known what exactly has gone on behind the scenes at Bayern, both in the boardroom and the dressing room, but the issues on the pitch have been clear to all.

    Bayern have been maddeningly inconsistent in the Bundesliga, going from thrashing title rivals Union Berlin to whimpering to a 2-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. They've not had so few points at this stage of the season until 2011-12 – the last time they failed to win the title.

    The directors felt the players were only lifting themselves for big games, which obviously reflected terribly on Nagelsmann's powers of motivation.

    More than anything, though, Bayern have lacked tactical conviction. Performances have been inconsistent because Nagelsmann could never settle on a system. He had principles, but never continuity.

    For a while, he aimed to load the centre of the pitch, and play through Robert Lewandowski. Then, once opponents adapted, he shuffled systems.

    Since the Pole's departure, Nagelsmann has tinkered even more, asking his team to play wide, and failing to create chances as a result.

    Tuchel, if nothing else, will stick to his tactical guns. The German has evolved over the years, adapting from the gegenpressing idealism of his Dortmund years into a more pragmatic 3-4-3 at Chelsea.

    But wherever the manager goes, he will have a clear system in place. According to Florian Plettenberg, it was Tuchel's pitch of a clear, enticing project that convinced Bayern to make a sudden switch.

    And it's understandable, too. Bayern are at a precarious point in the season.

    Trailing in the Bundesliga and facing Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals in three weeks, there is little time to tinker or second guess.

    Tuchel will have his ideas, and he will live by them. That's brought results in the past.

  3. Pep's worst nightmare?

    Pep's worst nightmare?

    Bayern managers are cursed with the weight of expectation; such is the byproduct of being a massive club.

    The Bavarians don't have to win the Champions League every year in the same way that PSG are pressured to, but they are still expected to make a deep run. And in big games, such as their quarter-final contest with Man City, they are supposed to compete.

    It makes sense, then, that Bayern picked up the one manager that Guardiola fears the most. He admitted it in his own way, the signature fear-by-way of flattery.

    "He's so creative," Guardiola said in 2022. "One of the few managers I learn constantly from to develop as a better manager.

    "[He is] excellent in all departments. I enjoyed him since he was in Mainz. I enjoy watching his teams and the way he's playing and the approach. He makes world football better."

    Tuchel enjoyed some significant success against Guardiola while in the Chelsea job, beating City three times in a row – including in the 2021 Champions League final.

    Managers are not hired for single games alone, at least, they shouldn't be.

    But it is a convenient coincidence that Tuchel has been brought in less than a month before Bayern face City in their biggest European clash of the season.

  4. Short- and long-term success
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    Short- and long-term success

    Bayern didn't necessarily need to sack Nagelsmann – at least not in the middle of the season.

    But perhaps the culmination of all of this tension has come at a perfect time for the Bavarians. They can now get the man they have coveted for years, moving before the likes of Real Madrid, PSG and Tottenham, and at a crucial point in the season.

    Dortmund, currently one point ahead of Bayern in the Bundesliga, are up next. A loss would throw a 10-year league-winning streak in jeopardy. A win would reestablish much-needed control.

    And this is all very un-Bayern. It's been a long time since the nickname 'FC Hollywood' has been bandied about.

    Indeed, they haven't parted with a manager on such short notice since Carlo Ancelotti in September 2017 – and even that felt amicable.

    Back then, they didn't have a perfect replacement lined up and were forced to turn to a safe pair of hands in Jupp Heynckes.

    This time, though, Bayern have secured the best manager possible, the right man at the right time.

    And their short and long-term future should be all the better for it.