Playing as low as the fifth division of German football as recently as 2000, German side 1899 Hoffenheim have enjoyed a rapid rise up the football pyramid to end up in Germany’s top division in 2008. Formerly backed by the financial prowess of supporter and former youth player in Dietmar Hopp, the billionaire has played a significant role in the German side’s rise to success at the start of the millennium. His investment of over €100 million is evidence of this, allowing for a state-of-the-art 30,000 seater stadium to be constructed, ensuring Hoffenheim remain stable as a top-level club in Germany.
Regardless of the fact that the German side have remained in the Bundesliga since 2008, Hoffenheim have unfortunately been unsuccessful in finishing any higher than mid-table. Hopp’s takeover initially saw glimpses of hope for the future as the side led the league come the winter-break during their first-division debut season. Consistent finishes in the mid-table and below soon saw sparks of optimism fade away, but a recent managerial soon planted the seeds for a confident future at Die Kraichgauer.
In February of this year, 1899 Hoffenheim successfully stole the headlines in European football with the appointment of their new manager, 28-year-old Julian Nagelsmann. The official youngest ever manager in Bundesliga history was the former manager of the U19 team, successfully guiding the side to the title in 2014. Nagelsmann was initially due to start his senior managerial career come the start of the 2016/17 season, but was rushed into the role in February following the resignation of previous manager Huub Stevens as a result of health problems.
Taking his first steps into management in a disturbing 17th position, six points from safety, the German manager was forced to make an immediate impact at his first club with relegation consistently looming in the short distance. With only two wins to their name prior to appointment, Nagelsmann was quick off the mark as his side won seven games from the remaining fourteen to cement Die Kraichgauer’s position in the Bundesliga for the following season, albeit only one point above the promotion/relegation playoff sport.
Going into his first full season as a senior manager, the pressure remained intact to investigate whether or not Nagelsmann would be able to replicate and surpass his success from the season prior into a full league campaign. With just over a quarter of the league campaign completed, Nagelsmann has extended his success story with five wins and five draws in the first ten games of the season.
The introduction of the manager.
Before going into further depth about the senior managerial career of Julian Nagelsmann, it’s important to look back on his early days in the sport to distinguish how far he has come to get to the position he is in as of today. Nagelsmann started off his footballing career as a youth prospect of FC Augsburg, primarily featuring for the youth side in his early teens before transferring to 1860 Munich in 2002.
At the Munich based club, Nagelsmann continued to develop his overall ability as a footballer, primarily in a central defensive role. Across five years at the club, the defender remained dedicated to his development and was even promoted to the reserve squad in 2006. Despite his promotion, the defender failed to make a single appearance in the reserve squad as a result of knee injuries, and returned to FC Augsburg for a second stint.
Regrettably, as a result of persistent knee injuries, Nagelsmann was forced to retire from professional football and was unsuccessful in playing at any level other than youth. Soon after the unfortunate announcement, the former defender decided to remain loyal to the sport he grew up to love and turned to management. Before departing FC Augsburg for former club 1860 Munich in 2008, Nagelsmann enjoyed a brief spell as Bundesliga-favourite Thomas Tuchel’s assistant manager and also earned a bachelor’s degree in sports science.
Returning to his former club 1860 Munich for a second stint, Nagelsmann spent the ext two years of his managerial career as the assistant manager of the U17 squad before assuming the same role at 1899 Hoffenheim in 2010. Since his arrival at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, the German manager has gone on to enjoy success in his tender years of management, working at all levels of the German club. During his year stint as the assistant manager of the senior squad, Nagelsmann earned the nickname of “mini-Mourinho” from veteran goalkeeper Tim Wiese.
Prior to being unveiled as manager for the senior squad, the manager took charge of the U19 squad where he has enjoyed his greatest success thus far by leading the side to the title. Throughout his time managing the young stars, Nagelsmann has continued to apply his footballing philosophy which replicates his inspirations of Barcelona and Arsenal.
As noted, after eight years of preparing, planning and adapting to life as a manager, the former defender finally earned his big opportunity by being unveiled as 1899 Hoffenheim’s senior manager in early 2016. Former mentor Thomas Tuchel was quick off the mark to offer his support for the young manager, going on to say: ‘He’s a very inquisitive and very hardworking young coach. He has celebrated exceptional successes in youth football. I’m very happy for him and I believe in him.’
The effectiveness of his tactical approach
Since his arrival at Die Kraichgauer, Nagelsmann has continued to remain consistent on his developed philosophy of fast-paced, attacking football, but doesn’t focus as much on a possession based game in comparison to some of the managers that have inspired him.
The manager continues to maintain his idea that adaptability is very important to football, and is known to make adjustments to his lineup prior and during a respective fixture. This is evident throughout the course of his senior managerial career thus far, using a variety of different formations in Bundesliga fixtures, including: 3-5-2; 4-3-3; 3-4-3, and also 4-2-3-1.
While coaches like Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger are some of the most notable managers to inspire the young manager, it’s no surprise that Nagelsmann has leaned towards a similar style of football that is utilised by his former mentor Tuchel. ‘I like to attack the opponents near their own goal because your own way to the goal is not as long if you get the ball higher up’…’I also like FC Barcelona and Arsenal as well as the work of Arsene Wenger’ is evident of this, as it indicates his joy of fast-paced, attacking football. The manager is also known to ask of his players to counter press in the opposition half in the attempt of winning back possession in a goal scoring position.
To extend on a previous point made, Nagelsmann has continued to demonstrate his adaptability across his first full season in the Bundesliga, evident in his consistent change in formation. In the opening six games of the season, 1899 Hoffenheim were deployed in a variety of different systems including: 4-3-3; 4-4-2 and 3-5-2, with the latter achieving the best results possible on the list.
‘Mini-Mourinho’s’ courage to continue to shift his tactics is certainly an advantage for both the young manager as well as Die Kraichgauer, allowing for the team to have experience in a variety of different set ups that can lead to the exploitation of the opposition. To extend on this, the ongoing minimal changes deployed by Nagelsmann is certainly a smart tactic, as the opposition are never aware of which formation could be applied come the arrival of the fixture.
What does the present and future hold?
As for the near future, it’s safe to say that Nagelsmann will remain as the head coach of 1899 Hoffenheim and try to bring some success to the German side. Given his impressive record thus far throughout his tenure as manager, it would be logical to say that Hoffenheim could well and truly forge a charge for European football next season.
Regarding future employment, should the young manager continue to be successful at Hoffenheim, there are a number of big clubs who will be looking to hire him once he has matured to the game more and developed more experience. As for clubs in his home nation, the two German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund could both look to pursue the German manager in future. Both teams have been known over the years to play brilliant attacking football, which suits the style of play that Nagelsmann looks to utilise for his team.
Away from Germany, one club that could become heavily interested in appointing the young manager in future is none other than English club Arsenal. For over 20 years, Arsenal have remained with Arsene Wenger as manager, but with the legendary manager slowly reaching the end of his career, it’s time for the board to start looking at candidates who can succeed. While names such as Diego Simeone and Thomas Tuchel have been thrown into the mix to succeed Wenger, Nagelsmann could be another smart choice to appoint as manager should Le Professeur choose to retire in a few years time.
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