November 18, 2017

Is Julian Nagelsmann Already One of the Bundesliga’s Best Managers?

In a modern football landscape that sees teams hire and fire managers faster than they ever have, finding managerial stability and a good boss can be a tough task. For some clubs they have that stability, such as 1. FC Köln with Peter Stöger, Dortmund with Thomas Tuchel and Mainz with Martin Schmidt. For other teams such as Hoffenheim, finding a top class manager has been a tough task, with 8 manages serving the club since 2011. But now, it seems like Hoffenheim finally have that manager they’ve been looking for in Julian Nagelsmann, who has kept them up and now has them flying high again. Since the 29-year-old has done so much after his appointment, is he already one of the Bundesliga’s best managers?

Accomplishments Thus Far

In order to be considered one of the best managers in the league, Nagelsmann’s accomplishments and results must be measured. The German has accomplished a lot given the fact that he hasn’t been with Hoffenheim for a calendar year as of now. The first thing he did was keep the Baden-Württemberg club in the top flight, which was no easy task for a first time manager. He took over a club in 17th place that had only earned two wins in 20 league contests and guided Hoffe to a 7-2-5 in the club’s remaining 14 2015/2016 matches.

Nagelsmann, born in the southwestern Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, was appointed to replace an ailing Huub Stevens last February.  Nagelsmann, who played for the reserve sides of 1860 Munich and FC Augsburg, had worked with youth sides after retiring as a player before the age of 22 because of injury.  In addition to his work with youth players at 1860, FCA and Hoffenheim, he earned a degree in sports science while working briefly with Thomas Tuchel in Augsburg.  

When Hoffenheim fired Coach Markus Gisdol in October, 2015, the club appointed Stevens to coach the club for the remainder of the campaign while also announcing that Nagelsmann would take over the coaching reins to begin the 2016/2017 season.  At the time, Nagelsmann was coaching Hoffenheim’s U19 squad with no experience coaching a senior squad at any level, and the German was only 28 years old. While Nagelsmann had developed a reputation in coaching circles, he was basically unknown by the public.

With all of those factors being considered, what Nagelsmann did last season and has continued this season was remarkable for a man of any age. After 21 league matches, the young coach has won 10 times, drawn six times and only lost on five occasions, with none of those defeats coming this season. He was able to turn around the performances of players such as Kevin Volland and he was able to keep the team up without any incredible amount of luck or a very close call. There was no last-minute free kick or a win on the final matchday to keep Hoffenheim up — in fact, Hoffenheim lost its last two games last season but still finished a point above the 16th berth in the table, the promotion/relegation playoff spot that fell to Eintracht Frankfurt. That is how quickly the 29-year-old was able to turn the village team around.

The fact that Nagelsmann was thrown into the fire and managed to escape is something that shows Bundesliga fans what he can do as a manager. Even though he wasn’t the boss for only 14 games last season, Hoffenheim’s improvement was evident on the pitch. Players such as Andrej Kramaric and Sebastian Rudy stepped up and provided Hoffenheim with the goods to stay in the league.  Since Nagelsmanm did such a good job last season and most of us thought that Hoffenheim did well during the summer transfer window, the intrigue surrounding the side was widespread. Also the fact that Nagelsmann had summer training camp with his players made things even more intriguing.

With the way that Hoffenheim have played so far this season, the intrigue and expectations that the team had coming in look very deserved. Some of the new signings like Lukas Rupp and Sandro Wagner have already made the team better with key goals, such as Rupp’s against Schalke and Wagner’s goals against FC Ingolstadt and SC Freiburg. The fact that these signings have played so well is a testament to the players but also Nagelsmann, who has been able to get the best out of them from the get go. As we’ve seen many times in the Bundesliga, new players take time to adapt at new clubs for various reasons. Being able to get the best out of these new players so early in the season shows just how much Nagelsmann can get out of his players.

Prior to matchday eight, Hoffenheim held the sixth spot in the table. Being able to bring the Baden-Württemberg side from relegation to Europe in less than a full year is something remarkable that Nagelsmann has done. His ability to earn Hoffenheim a valuable draw with Mainz after making early substitutions and the way that he got his team to play against Schalke are some of the examples of the 29-year-old’s ability to get his team results.

What Nagelsmann has done so far at Hoffenheim, lifting the team to a European berth early this season shouldn’t go unnoticed by fans. With what the German manager has done, it’s only fair to compare him to the league’s best to see if his impressive accomplishments can compete with his peers.

Comparing With Others

Nagelsmann isn’t Tuchel or Ancelotti —  which is why we’re not going to compare him to those two managers. Instead he’ll be put up against bosses that manage similar calibre clubs, which makes it fair for all involved. These managers include Martin Schmidt, Stöger, Pal Dardai, Ralph Hasenhüttl and Nico Kovac. The clubs that all of these bosses are in charge of—with Leipzig being the exception— have similar amounts of money and prestige.

First it’s only fair to put the German against Kovac, who has a similar amount of experience and was put in a similar situation last season. Both managers were put in tough spots and kept their teams in the top flight, however Kovac needed to beat Nürnberg to do so, while Hoffenheim had no worries by the end of last season. Also some of Kovac’s key players such as Marco Fabian, weren’t even signed by him but rather previous managers, while Nagelsmann has had to deal with losses such as Volland. It’s safe to say that Nagelsmann has the upper hand on Kovac for now.

But other managers such as Stöger have much more experience than Nagelsmann, which has allowed him to achieve more. The Austrian has led his club to promotion and multiple seasons in the top flight, and now the Billy Goats are flying very high this season. Even though Nagelsmann has gotten his side into a similar place to Köln last season already, Hoffenheim has much more in terms of resources then Köln. Count that with the fact that Nagelsmann inherited a top flight club, and the Köln boss gets the edge here.

Next up are Schmidt and Dardai, who have both brought their clubs to the Europa League and seen their fair share of success. Dardai has done a great job at BSC, but they faltered down the stretch last season to only qualify for the Bundesliga’s Europa League play-in berth after holding a Champions League berth for so long,  and then went on to lose their play-in series this summer. His resume compares favorably to Stöger, and he gets the edge over the 29 year old. Schmidt has also done a great job, but he inherited club that had already been in the Europa League with Tuchel and a club that had a newfound tradition. Since Hoffenheim are already on a similar level to that of Mainz, i’d like to give Nagelsmann the edge in this matchup.

Last but not least is Hasenhüttl , who has also led his club to promotion but now he has a much more talented team that Nagelsmann. As shown by their draw on matchday one, Leipzig and Hoffenheim are close in quality. Even though Hasenhüttl was the right man to appoint because of the great job he did last season, Nagelsmann’s ascension has been faster and with fewer resources. Thus, the young German boss gets the edge in this matchup.

After keeping Hoffenheim in the top flight in tough circumstances last season, and then having a productive summer and a great start this season, Nagelsmann has compiled a solid list of achievements despite his short tenure as Hoffenheim boss. What he’s been able to do makes him worth comparing to some of the league’s other top bosses, and he’s close to or already at the level or even above some of these great tacticians. With this being the case, Nagelsmann is in fact one of the league’s better managers with what he’s done. With Leverkusen facing Hoffenheim this weekend, the young boss will get tested once again. But at 29, his future in German football is incredibly bright.

 

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.

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