FC Bayern Munich remain leaders in the Bundesliga and still have the title defense in their own hands. And yet the record champions are miles away from their own claims even after the change of coach to Thomas Tuchel. Why is that?
“Of course things are questioned. Especially the how of the change of manager. We have often stressed that it was absolutely right for us to change manager. But then there was this super annoying situation that things came out early.” That’s what Oliver Kahn did on Saturday before Bayern’s away game at Werder Bremen sky– Interview said.
Even after a few weeks with Thomas Tuchel, the Bayern boss said there was no alternative to changing his most important employee. However, Kahn does not mention the still serious problems of the team in the final phase of the season and after nine competitive games with Tuchel.
Unlike Tuchel himself, by the way. After the defeat in Mainz, he had already spoken of how “incredibly difficult” his team found it to win games: “The problems are obvious.”
Even after the Bremen game, Tuchel could only be satisfied with the phases of the second half and of course the result. And then talked about it openly. But why is the record champion currently so far away from his own claims? And what influence has Tuchel perhaps had off the pitch so far?
FC Bayern under Thomas Tuchel: Balance is beginning to falter
As is well known, the table does not lie and it gives Thomas Tuchel a very decent interim report. The not-so-new coach made a point advantage from a point deficit after the 25th matchday. With three games to go, Bayern have the title back in their own hands.
However, it is also true that only one of the two decisive parameters of football has changed – and clearly to the detriment of Bayern. While the rate of goals conceded under Tuchel (1.16/game) is only slightly worse than that under Nagelsmann (1.08/game), the number of goals scored has plummeted.
Bayern scored 72 goals in 25 league games under Nagelsmann, which is 2.88 per game. With Tuchel as coach, the value has dropped to 1.83. Bayern are currently scoring one goal less per game than before the change of coach.
The problems on the offensive are now only becoming more visible week by week and against every opponent. As soon as the opponents position themselves deeper and act from a compact block in a mixture of midfield and defensive pressing, the team lacks ideas and processes to play this block apart. Occasionally one of Joshua Kimmich’s chip balls arrives behind the defense. Otherwise the half-spaces and the center are lame and the Munich standards fizzle out unimaginatively and without effect.
Although the numbers don’t give it away, Bayern’s defensive stability and security seems better than for much of the season. Not so many players fail in counter-pressing.
SPOX-Question with Noussair Mazraoui: What has specifically changed in the playing style of the team under Thomas Tuchel? “We try to play with a high pace from behind, but also patiently. With moments in midfield where the players are also allowed to dribble a lot if the opportunity arises. He passed that on to the team.”
Bayern’s right-back explains this in a comprehensible and conclusive manner. Only there is still very little to be seen on the square. There’s a lot that’s very wrong. As soon as the opponent’s pressure increases in the transition period or in the zone in front of the opponent’s goal, inaccuracies creep in in all areas: in the passing game, when running free, in decision-making, when scoring.
FC Bayern under Thomas Tuchel: Less is more
No more tactical castling, no adjustments to the opponent, no jumping between the basic orders: Thomas Tuchel tries to keep the tactical elements and requirements as simple and stringent as possible.
While his predecessor Julian Nagelsmann still had a lot – and perhaps too much for FC Bayern standards – geared towards the opponent and their tactical idea, Tuchel pushes through a little “Mia san mia” here. With the back four as the penultimate instance in front of keeper Yann Sommer. Usually with two sixes in the game against the ball and thus a closed center in opposing attacks. With a fairly wing-heavy offensive game. Bayern are concentrating on themselves and their strengths.
4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 are preferred as variants of the basic arrangement, sometimes both arrangements are also divided according to game phases, as in Bremen: own possession of the ball with a wedge forward, two wing players and two aft players behind, against then the ball with the double protection in the center.
One point of criticism from the team about the former coach was the many changes and adjustments: before the games in the analysis, during implementation with then often changed basic regulations and game alignments – and then during the 90 minutes sometimes made three or four changes again.
It’s actually different with Tuchel: simpler, not quite as cerebral and therefore a little more memorable for the players.
FC Bayern in the 2022/23 season: Squad quality and supplementary players
There was a time when backup players were a weapon at Bayern: Substituting them could change a game fundamentally at any time. This enormous squad quality extended to the last field player on the bench, which was lined with willing and self-confident players. And it was only a few minutes of game time in a long-decided game.
In particular, the players on the threshold of starting eleven were almost constantly energized, and after a few pithy words or even public demands for more playing time, they also delivered on the pitch. Thomas Tuchel’s squad currently consists of only 14 or 15 players – the rest are not performing at their level or are injured. Sadio Mané, Ryan Gravenberch, João Cancelo: they would all like to play more, even if some of the injured are back soon.
But when they get their chance, as they are doing now, they hardly attract attention. They’re just kind of there, swimming with the crowd. That’s not enough for the demands of FC Bayern and actually it shouldn’t meet their own either.
This disturbed performance pressure within the group is a real problem for the team. And if, as is currently the case, there are too many players among them, some of whom are far from their best, it gets tight even for the “top squad”, which Hasan Salihamidzic repeatedly emphasizes as such.
The individual class flashes up again and again, but with a few exceptions, no player calls up this consistently high-quality performance over the long term. Sooner or later the trainer’s good tactical ideas will become obsolete. Instead, the weaknesses in squad planning are becoming more and more apparent: the lack of an alternative to Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, the lack of a clear six that could support Kimmich for other tasks in the half-spaces.
FC Bayern under Thomas Tuchel: Less unrest, better communication
Almost nonchalantly, Tuchel moderated the elimination in both cup competitions and found a clever middle ground to avoid exposing himself or his team to severe criticism. In terms of external communication, when Tuchel took office and when it came to questions about the team, a few things changed for the better.
The coach has calmed the dressing room to some extent, gradually stifled the disruptive fire and continues to try to deal with tricky questions such as those about Thomas Müller’s playing times and his status as objectively and confidently as possible.
This latent unrest, which still blew around the club in February and March, is at least no longer felt quite so clearly. Tuchel has steered what he can influence on his own in the right direction in the best sense of the word.
However, the debates about his superiors are not one of them. They will probably accompany the club and the team until the last matchday. And possibly beyond that.