Julian Nagelsmann: Germany boss must fuel new enthusiasm for national team

Julian Nagelsmann was sacked by Bayern Munich in March after less than two years in charge

Julian Nagelsmann has been appointed Germany manager and now has the responsibility of restoring pride in the national football team in time for a home European Championship – which is less than nine months away.

Six months after he was surprisingly released by Bayern Munich, the highly rated 36-year-old takes over on a contract until July 2024 with Germany having been humiliated by three consecutive dismal showings in major tournaments and struggling to recover.

The former Hoffenheim and Leipzig boss replaces Hansi Flick, who was fired following a 4-1 loss to Japan earlier this month and after managing only four wins in his last 17 games.

Nagelsmann, who was in talks with Chelsea and Tottenham during the summer, can use the opportunity to reinvigorate the national team and thereby advertise himself for one of the top jobs in Europe. He sees his long-term future in club football but also could not reject the chance to manage Germany at the Euros at home next summer.

Meanwhile, the German Football Association (DFB) will get more time to find a long-term solution, with Jurgen Klopp remaining the top candidate. The 56-year-old is under contract at Liverpool until 2026 and was not available to take over the national team following the firing of Flick.

Rudi Voller, the DFB sporting director, served as interim head coach for Germany’s 2-1 friendly win over France and was then tasked with finding a solution for the next 10 months, with Nagelsmann being his preferred candidate.

While the hiring of the undoubtedly talented coach might not be a long-term fix, as his short-term contract indicates, the higher-ups at the DFB hope Nagelsmann can make an immediate impact and turn the ship around.

Three early tournament exits in a row

Germany players react in despair at the World Cup

The expectations for the Euros at home have been high among football executives and advertisers, as they hope for a buzz around the tournament similar to the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany. But the team’s three recent outings at international competitions were uncharacteristically lifeless.

Historically known as a ‘Turniermannschaft’, a team that often rose to the occasion at European Championships and World Cups, Germany exited both the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup after the group stage and were eliminated by England in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

Flick took over from Joachim Low in August 2021 with the goal of stopping the downward slide. After winning his first eight games as national coach, he started struggling with the same issues his predecessor did, with Germany often being unable to break down defences and showing vulnerability at the back.

These problems led to a 2-1 loss against Japan in Germany’s first game at the World Cup in Qatar and ultimately to another group-stage elimination. While Flick was allowed to continue his work and prepare the national team for Euro 2024, he needed emphatic performances from his team to secure his job.

Instead, Germany continued losing friendlies against the likes of Poland and Colombia, and a rematch against Japan in September ended in yet another defeat.

Flick seemed erratic in the final months of his tenure, constantly switching tactical formations and trying out players in unusual roles, like using Ilkay Gundogan on the left wing despite him having played a stellar final year for Manchester City in central midfield.

Flick did not form a core group of starting players and instead made questionable personnel choices, seeming unable to connect with the team to the point that they might buy into his message.

An Amazon Prime documentary about Germany’s World Cup campaign with plenty of footage from inside the dressing and meeting rooms was released days before Flick lost his job. The piece emphasised how a large portion of the team seemed almost apathetic during their time in Qatar.

Can a nation fall back in love with their football team?

Germany will hope Nagelsmann can revive belief among supporters

The difference in intensity and enthusiasm between the 4-1 loss to Japan on 9 September and the 2-1 win over France only three days later, with a makeshift coaching staff led by Voller, highlighted once more that Flick was not the right man for the job.

Germany’s performance against France felt different, as even the crowd was livelier than in a long time. The incoming head coach does not only need to turn a few tactical screws but, even more importantly, must fuel a new wave of enthusiasm that will be carried into the European Championship.

The DFB managed to turn many fans against the national team over the past decade or so, transforming the side into an overly polished product that struggled to appeal to those in the stands.

This lack of euphoria around the team may have also affected a portion of the regular internationals. Even though egos often clashed inside the Germany locker rooms of the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, it rarely affected the performances on the field.

Nagelsmann has to establish new self-certainty

Even if there is a new unity among the squad and roaring support from the stands, the new head coach will still face plenty of challenges when it comes to finding the right players and tactics.

France were a thankful task for Germany under Voller in his role as interim head coach because the World Cup finalists are comfortable having the ball, thus allowing Germany to pressure and counter-attack much more often than usual.

Germany have been struggling to be a dominant possession team against perceived underdogs. They are expected to face quite a few deep-sitting or smartly defending opponents at the Euros.

The overall quality of the players available has decreased since the 2014 World Cup win. Ten years ago, Germany possessed at least one top-class player for each position. At the moment, there is an obvious shortage of talent at full-back and up front.

For the friendly against France, Voller picked Jonathan Tah, a broad-shouldered centre-back, and Benjamin Henrichs, who at 26 is still waiting for his big breakthrough, for right-back and left-back, respectively. He also chose 34-year-old Thomas Muller as the starting striker.

Flick, in parts, grew desperate to find the right players for certain positions and experimented from one game to another.

Nagelsmann will be asked to act more decisively and start building a side that will go into the home tournament with a certain tactical approach and new self-certainty, reminiscent of Germany teams in past times.


Recommended For You

About the Author: soccernews