What’s going wrong for Thomas Tuchel and Bayern Munich?

 | February 13 | 

6 mins read

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On March 24, it will be one year since Bayern Munich made the decision to sack Julian Nagelsmann and replace him with Thomas Tuchel. Almost a year on, the feeling of frustration and regret among Bayern fans is apparent, as the club has moved away from the things that made them so successful over the past decade. 

The 3-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend was a dagger to the heart of Bayern’s title hopes. They’ve won the last 11 league titles on the bounce and been the dominant force in German football. But now there’s a new force in town, and Bayern are five points adrift of Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten upstarts.

Bayern Munich Betting Tips

  • Lazio to beat Bayern Munich @ 4/1
  • Bochum to beat Bayern Munich @ 8/1

Leverkusen have been utterly superb this season and they look set to knock Bayern off their perch, but all is not well in Munich as they prepare to take on Lazio in the Champions League on Wednesday and then Bochum in the Bundesliga on Sunday. It is worth adding in some context. Bayern have only lost three league games this season and have a good chance to progress in Europe, but still there is discontent bubbling under the surface. 

We have to start with Tuchel. The German boss was brought in to give FCB a chance of winning the Champions League and when that dream came to an end for 2022-23 at the hands of Manchester City in the last eight, the gamble to get rid of Nagelsmann had failed. The 36-year-old was one of the youngest coaches in Europe but also a man who had proved his worth at RB Leipzig. 

Most importantly, Nagelsmann was popular with the Bayern fans for the majority of his reign as he continued their domestic success and gave youth products a chance. The European ‘issue’ was a strange one given that in the season he was sacked die Roten won six from six in a group containing Barcelona and Inter Milan, and then they beat Paris Saint-Germain home and away in the last 16.

They were only one point off top spot in the league, and at the time it felt incredibly harsh to get rid of the promising manager. On reflection, it seems like an even worse decision given what has happened since. Having spent two years apiece at Borussia Dortmund, PSG and Chelsea, it would be fair to say Tuchel is a short-term manager. Perhaps that explains some of his recent decisions which have wound up the Bayern faithful. 

The signing of Eric Dier was seen as a slightly left-field one in January given the centre-back was out of favour at Tottenham Hotspur. The decision to throw him immediately into the starting XI was seen as a necessity when Dayot Upamecano was injured and Kim Min-Jae was at the Asian Cup. 

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But when Tuchel decided to switch to a back three and bring the two absentees immediately back into the team against Leverkusen, it wasn’t Dier who dropped out - it was Matthijs de Ligt. The Dutch defender is remarkable at progressing the ball and surely would have been more suited to the spare centre-back role than Dier, who is not known for his ball-playing ability. 

The former Spurs man had the most touches of any Bayern player (129), yet was unable to create any real chances, while the solidity he was meant to provide alongside Upamecano and Kim was non-existent. This decision not only shows a lack of long-term vision from Tuchel, but also a disregard for the dressing-room hierarchy. De Ligt had been Bayern’s best defender since the winter break, but now inexplicably finds himself as the fourth-choice centre-back behind a man who isn’t anywhere near the peak of his career. 

Another example of what is going wrong at Bayern comes in the form of Josip Stanisic. If that name rings a bell, he is the man who scored Leverkusen’s opener and set them on their way to a handsome 3-0 win over the German champions. The Croatian, on loan from Bayern themselves, has dealt a killer blow to his parent club’s title race having been sent out of the door by Tuchel in the summer. 

Interestingly, in a full circle of events, in the last Champions League match that Nagelsmann was in charge of, Stanišić was part of the Bayern back four. The academy product had come through the ranks and incredibly shut down Kylian Mbappe to send Bayern through to the last eight. Although they are one of the biggest clubs in world football, die Roten have always been proud of their young players, and giving them a chance has been a vital part of their philosophy during this period of success. 

David Alaba, Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos all came through their academy, but that faith in youth seems to have been lost over the last couple of years. This summer it felt like they had taken a step into the modern transfer window that they have always resisted. Instead of picking up the best Germany had to offer for relatively low prices, they went and signed Harry Kane for £100m. 

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It was a club record fee, and there is no doubting the England captain's ability, but it didn’t feel very ‘Bayern’. In the very same summer, they spent £45m on 26-year-old centre-back Kim Min-Jae. Meanwhile, they made a loss of £35m on Lucas Hernandez, and 21-year-old talent Ryan Gravenberch also left the club for Liverpool. 

There’s also the fact that while loaning Stanisic out, they have spent big money on Galatasaray’s right-back Sascha Boey in January. With sporting director Christoph Freund now in charge of the big decisions, it feels like Tuchel is being backed to the hilt. Of course, when you have made the decision to dump Nagelsmann for him, you have to stick by your new man. However, some of his choices are questionable to say the least. 

Bayern have slightly lost their way both on the pitch and in the transfer window over the past 12 months. They were in far safer hands under the man who will now lead Germany at Euro 2024. With Kane and Dier, Bayern’s domestic dominance could be coming to an end. More worryingly, they seemed to have turned away from the ideology that served them so well for so long. 

A modern Bayern Munich must make positive long-term decisions in order to get themselves back on track. 

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