Julian Nagelsmann: The Future

The ‘Baby Mourinho’ became the youngest ever Head Coach in Germany’s top-flight at 28-years-old when he took over Hoffenheim in February 2016.

Julian Nagelsmann, once of Augsburg’s youth side, was forced to retire at U19s level due to persistent knee injuries. He left the sport stating: “I didn’t want anything more to do with football.” However, that wouldn’t stay the case for long.

Nagelsmann started studying a business degree but dropped out, before completing a degree in sports and training science. He was then awarded an A grade in his professional coaching license.

Nagelsmann started as assistant coach at Hoffenheim for the 2012-2013 season, later becoming the U19 manager, where he was given the nickname by former goalkeeper and now WWE wrestler Tim Weise, he was given the first team job back in October, 2015.

He was originally due to start at the beginning of the following season but due to health issues, veteran manager Huub Stevens was forced to resign. Julian took over with the club in 17th place, seven points from safety and looking certain for the drop, but he was able to keep them up winning seven of their last twelve games.

Hoffenheim went from strength to strength as they stunned German football to finish fourth and gained qualification to the Champions League play-off rounds. They went unbeaten in 2016, finally being beaten by RB Leipzig in January 2017. He was subsequently named VDV-Manager of the Season for 2016/17.

Nagelsmann took Hoffenheim one further in the 2017/18 season as they finished third ahead of Borussia Dortmun; the football world was finally starting to take notice of the tactician who had only turned 30 a month after the season had finished.

Hoffenheim announced in June 2018 that the forthcoming season would be Julian Nagelsmann’s last and he left for RB Leipzig in June 2019. Nagelsmann was hand picked by departing Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick to be his successor. He left Hoffenheim amassing 191 points in the time he had been in charge – only Bayern and Dortmund had accumulated more.

So far this season, Nagelsmann has taken Die Roten Bullen to third in the Bundesliga. This includes four wins in their opening five games, with the only dropped points a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich. Leipzig have gone on to beat Mainz 8-0 and sit top of a tricky Champions League group.

At Augsburg, Nagelsmann found himself working under current PSG boss, Thomas Tuchel, as U19 boss before Tuchel, was given the Dortmund gig. During the 07/08 season Tuchel tasked Nagelsmann with scouting opposition. Nagelsmann has explained that it was his ‘way into coaching’ and that he ‘learned a lot from him.’

Another inspiration of Nagelsmann was Pep Guardiola. He has evolved part of his tactics to that of the Spaniard. Nagelsmann is a very pragmatic manager who installs a very fluid but well-structured system. He also likes his team to press without the ball and needs his players to be both very technical but also extremely hard working.

Nagelsmann is a brilliant tactician and sees his team mould into various shapes throughout games. Depending on his opponent Nagelsmann will set up in a 4-4-2 or a 3-4-3 formation.

When deploying the 4-4-2, Nagelsmann’s side will look to be compact with his strikers sat deep looking to stop the opposition playing into their midfield. His side moves the opposition wide before setting a pressing trap and boxing them against the touchline. He will also deploy a cover and stopper in the middle of the park. The idea being when a defensive line is broken the stopper will press the player on the ball looking to win possession while the cover blocks nearby passing lanes.

When his side win back possession, his two strikers, usually Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen will hold counter attacking positions. Poulsen will play on the last line as a target man looking for a direct ball into feet, with Werner making a run from deep looking for a ball through.

In a more built up attack, Leipzig will have five forwards. With Poulsen through the middle, two inside forwards and winger and one of the full backs pushed higher up. Nagelsmann’s demands for all his players to possess great technical ability means attacking players positions are fluid, as they interchange and move the defence around.

They will look to find a ball out wide to the winger with one of the centre midfielders overlapping and delivering a cross for the other four attackers in the move.

Leipzig can also fall into a 4-2-3-1 with Werner usually moving wide left and Emile Forsberg moving into the Number 10 role to utilise his creativity, it also sees Werner deployed as an inside forward allowing him to run and attack the full back with his devasting pace.

Nagelsmann is also an innovator outside of the 90 minutes. At Hoffenheim and now RB Leipzig, Nagelsmann installed a ‘Footbonaut,’ famous across Germany, it fine-tunes players’ touch, control and reaction.

Nagelsmann has also installed a giant videowall, installed on the halfway line of their main pitch. The system has four cameras, two from a high tower next to the pitch and one camera behind each goal.

The system allows Nagelsmann and his staff to rewind, fast-forward or stop the footage to give a more detailed explanation during situations to his players. Nagelsmann also had drones deployed over his training sessions to film and perfect his squads movement.

There is every evidence that Nagelsmann has what it takes to become one of the world’s elite managers; his experience for such a young manager partnered with his tactical innovation both on and off the pitch bodes for a long lasting and successful career. Already in the conversation to spearhead Manchester United’s rebuild should Solskjaer lose his job, it won’t be long until he is in the spectrum to replace Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola at Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.

Sub-edited by Samuel Brady

This image has been modified by Overtime Online under the Creative Commons License.

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