Tanguy Nianzou recently gained more match practice than ever before at Bayern Munich. In Bielefeld he was substituted early because of a rude foul and was criticized by coach Julian Nagelsmann – not for the first time this season. On the complicated situation of the 19-year-old central defender.
The German language has some wonderful synonyms for the job of a trainer. Trainers, for example, or football teachers. Julian Nagelsmann is of course both at FC Bayern, depending on his language preference, but after his team’s 3-0 win at Arminia Bielefeld he was primarily a football teacher with an emphasis on “teacher”.
His student in this case was Tanguy Nianzou. In the previous game, the 19-year-old provoked an entry in the class register with a thoroughly negligent action. Shortly before half-time he jumped into his opponent Fabian Kunze and elbowed him in the face. Nianzou got away with a yellow card, Kunze with a neck brace on a stretcher.
After the change of sides, Nianzou was no longer allowed to play either, he had to stay outside for detention. The substitution was an “educational measure”, explained Nagelsmann after the game. The football teacher would have found an early dismissal from referee Matthias Jöllenbeck even more appropriate. “That was a red card for me,” said Nagelsmann.
“He still has to learn that. He’s a very aggressive player, but he has to think carefully about when to bring this aggressiveness onto the field,” explained Nagelsmann. “To go into a header duel from such a great distance: you just can’t get there anymore, you have to stay away and be clever.” According to Nagelsmann, Nianzou is “a really nice guy” and it certainly wasn’t the intention, but the action didn’t come as a complete surprise either: “He always has that in training, this urge to be a bit too aggressive sometimes.”
Tanguy Nianzou: Four Bundesliga starting XI appearances in a row
For Nianzou, the foul, the subsequent substitution and Nagelsmann’s instructions represent a serious setback at the wrong time. For the first time since his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain to Munich in summer 2020, the central defender had recently received regular match practice.
After three largely stable appearances alongside his French compatriot Dayot Upamecano, Nianzou started the fourth Bundesliga game in a row in Bielefeld. Niklas Süle was absent ill, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez were last needed on the sides. “Tanguy has shown in the last few weeks that he can keep up at this level,” said his colleague Thomas Müller.
In Bielefeld, too, Nianzou initially presented himself precisely in the build-up game and determined in the tackle. Almost 96 percent of his passes came through, he won almost 63 percent of his direct duels, and he hardly lost the ball. Only before Masaya Okugawa’s supposed 1:1 (43rd) did Nianzou make a serious mistake, which was ultimately void due to an offside position.
Perhaps because he was still angry about his foul, Nagelsmann only called Nianzou’s performance “okay”, but at least explicitly praised his “good balls in midfield” in the early stages of the game. “We’re not 100 percent with him yet,” said Nagelsmann, joking self-critically: “Of course, that’s also questionable for me in April as a coach.”
Nagelsmann has previously criticized Nianzou twice
In fact, Nagelsmann does not seem to be able to make sense of his talented central defender. There is probably no other player with the minutes played/criticism rate as high as with him. In Bielefeld it happened for the third time this season that Nagelsmann publicly rebuked Nianzou.
When asked about his limited playing time at the time, Nagelsmann reported in October that Nianzou was undoubtedly “a great talent with a lot of potential and a very good central defender in terms of football”. “But sometimes that’s not so good, because then you have a lot of confidence. That’s a good thing per se, but it sometimes leads to mistakes.”
In the training sessions, Nianzou would make “one or the other mistake too many”. He must “find a good middle ground in order to have maximum seriousness and still not lose his courage”. Only then will Nianzou “really be an alternative”.
In the weeks that followed, Nianzou actually became an alternative, but he did not get beyond short assignments. Why? “He always has situations in which he makes hair-raising mistakes. He still lacks this reliability a bit,” said Nagelsmann in February. “He has to free himself from this vicious circle a bit by getting this reliability into his game.”
Tanguy Nianzou’s future at Bayern Munich
After that, Nianzou played no role at all at times before he was included in the starting XI in mid-March due to a lack of alternatives in central defense. FC Bayern won 4-0 against Union Berlin, Nianzou even contributed a goal. “He has an unbelievable aggressiveness and a winning mentality that is extraordinary,” said Nagelsmann at the time.
Whether he also has a long-term future at FC Bayern will depend on whether he can use this aggressiveness and his love of risk appropriately throttled, whether he brings enough security into his game for Nagelsmann’s taste.
According to reports, after Niklas Süle’s free transfer to Borussia Dortmund in the summer, FC Bayern are not planning to sign another central defender, which would automatically increase Nianzou’s chances of playing.
In any case, class representative Thomas Müller is convinced that his team will have “a lot of fun” with Nianzou: “He’s a great guy, down-to-earth and yet committed and funny. As far as the German language is concerned, he’s very advanced. He integrates completely, identifies with the club.”