Could Julian Nagelsmann Be the Answer for Tottenham?
The former Bayern Munich manager is expected to have his pick of options soon.
Tottenham Hotspur head coach Antonio Conte is out, and suddenly it’s ex-Bayern Munich man Julian Nagelsmann who could be the hottest name on the market this summer. Nagelsmann is expected to have lots of options, and Tottenham is an intriguing one. Could the German manager be headed across the channel to give it the old English try?
A Dynamic Attacking Coach for Spurs
Tottenham have been through the ringer since they sacked Mauricio Pochettino. José Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Nuno Espirito Santo…in Nagelsmann, they would finally have the dynamic attacking coach that would fit their blueprint of playing positive and fun to watch football. Shades of pragmatism, well, it hasn’t gotten Spurs very far, and it hasn’t been so enjoyable, either.
Modernizing the Sporting Product
Where Pochettino was extremely personable and came up with a golden generation of Tottenham youngsters, Nagelsmann is one of the game’s most respected tacticians and now has big-club experience under his belt after his stint at Bayern. Maybe pressure is different in the Premier League, but he should be expected to modernize the sporting product and deliver a fresh injection of innovative ideas.
Taking a Swing for the Next Generation
It would be a scintillating London rivalry with another young, tactically astute manager — Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta. If the old duopoly of Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola is beginning to show cracks, taking a swing at a star coach for the next generation could be Tottenham’s ticket to the top. Or they could watch Arsenal, Manchester United, and Newcastle continue to rise while floundering through a conveyer belt of ho-hum, oft-abandoned projects.
A Not-So-Sure Thing
This is harder to figure. Conte has departed mid-season (by mutual consent) with Spurs hanging on precariously to fourth place in the EPL table. Precariously, because Newcastle United are nipping at their heels, two points down but with two games in hand over Spurs. Below that, Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool are further away and might still make a late charge. The point is, Champions League football is far from a sure thing.
Difficulties Ahead for Nagelsmann at Tottenham?
And while Nagelsmann enjoyed a bountiful summer transfer window with Hasan Salihamidžić and the Bayern board last summer, Tottenham owner Daniel Levy has a reputation for being stingier. Not only that, Spurs have been hit-or-miss in recent windows, including the last one, where they did spend rather heavily. And do they have the same assembly of sizzling play-making 8s to dance in Nagelsmann’s favored half-spaces? Or does the present midfield composition of Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg lend itself more to a double pivot than a 3+1 structure in possession?
A Tantalizing Set of Attackers
On the other hand: Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Dejan Kulusevski, and Richarlison make for a tantalizing set of attackers. Son’s pace and Kane’s skill dropping deep and supplying — these two alone could make Spurs a more attractive prospect than, say, Chelsea or even an aging Real Madrid team in transition. Unite the duo with one of the most exciting attacking coaches in the game and we could see a lot of fireworks.
Nagelsmann’s Opportunity to Breathe
With Spurs not quite the pressure cooker that Madrid (or let’s face it, Bayern) are, this could give Nagelsmann the space to breathe and really progress a project of his own.
Can Nagelsmann Handle the Pressure?
Lessons for Bayern here? Conte is as decorated a coach as they come, but also a man with a reputation for having a short fuse, not working well with management, and leaving in an abrupt blaze of glory. Or at least a blaze. Almost as if by destiny.
Conte tore into the club and his players after drawing Southampton just before the international period, declaring (as captured by ESPN): “Tottenham’s story is this: 20 years there is this owner and they never won something. Why? … I see only 11 players that play for themselves. They are used to it. They don’t play for something important here.”
As much as a manager might want to re-shape a club, he might only run into the brick wall that is their institutional pattern. That, at Bayern, includes firing coaches early and often if they don’t deliver the required results. But as much as Bayern might try to get a coach to fit into what they do, they’d do well to remember: that sometimes, patterns repeat.
Can Julian Nagelsmann handle big personalities and big pressures? Can Thomas Tuchel end Bayern’s cycle of volatility at the manager position? Only time will tell.
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