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Hansi Flick vs Julian Nagelsmann – Part 1: Midfield Double Pivot

Hansi Flick und Julian Nagelsmann

Dissatisfaction among Bayern players have brought up the question of how the team should play. For the first time in over a decade, Julian Nagelsmann is the coach slowly moving away from Louis van Gaal’s tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 to emphasise his own style, playing with three defenders in his system. And for your regular Bayern fan, change is not desired, but needed. Here, we’ll take a look at how Nagelsmann’s structured system has pulled away from the high-risk, high-reward formation previously favoured by Hansi Flick

There’s a very good reason why the 4-2-3-1 set up by Louis van Gaal hasn’t changed much over the past decade. With the right personnel, the balance provided between defence and attack is almost perfect; a few caveats have been successfully covered up until now. Under Jupp Heynckes and Hansi Flick’s tutelage, the ever-rotating front four have provided the fluidity of a free-flowing attack, whilst the unchanged stalwarts of the defensive line has given Manuel Neuer ample cover. The big question is the midfield pairing, which the system relies so heavily on. When Javi Martínez first arrived at FC Bayern, slotting into midfield next to Bastian Schweinsteiger, the 6 and 8 roles – defensive midfield and box-to-box engine – were filled and complemented each other to devestating effect. Fast forward to Hansi Flick’s duo of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, the adaptability, flexibility, and aggressiveness of the pair helped Die Roten storm to the sextuple, aided by the technical guise of Thiago Alcântara. With Julian Nagelsmann, however, injuries have depleted the quality options in midfield – namely the player to fill the void left by Leon Goretzka’s lengthy sideline spell

The system under each coach is key to how a team plays. At this level, small margins help win matches, and are night and day difference between two managers. Joshua Kimmich’s role hasn’t significantly changed – the 6 still performs their duties as before, dropping for overloads during build-up play and providing the defensive screen pushing forward. The one notable alteration is the amount Kimmich pushes higher than his 8 counterpart – under Flick, he’d be up and down, almost like an 8, whilst with Nagelsmann, he’s more restricted to his own position and zones

Here comes the dilemma: Coco, Roca, Sabi, or Musiala? Each of them have a different skillset and strength they can bring into the fold; for Marcel Sabitzer, it’s his lung-bursting runs and expansive shooting range. Yet to truly find his form at Bayern, Corentin Tolisso has often found himself the first-choice alternative in this instance; his powerful strikes and threat in the box is not to be unnoticed. Meanwhile, Marc Roca’s technical mindset has him playing second-fiddle to the former two in a less physical role, whilst Jamal Musiala is yet to seamlessly adapt into the deeper position

Leon Goretzka is not irreplaceable; he is not indispensable. But on a good day, nobody can match him. But his attack-focussed role under Hansi Flick has pinned opposition lines deeper, whilst Julian Nagelsmann sought to balance the books and has hence withdrawn him slightly deeper in favour for a more efficient, effective, structured pressing style. By giving the opponent more time and space on the ball, Goretzka needs to look at his defensive qualities to support the team when out of possession; in the meantime, it’s Corentin Tolisso and Marcel Sabitzer keeping the 8 role in check

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