Julian Nagelsmann is one of the most exciting football coaches in the world. Nagelsmann has risen quickly to the coaching elite despite his young age. This article will explain Julian Nagelsmann philosophy and tactics without forgetting his early years.
The youngest head coach in the history of Bundesliga. Breaker of chains, a living legend and one of a kind football developer. He is Julian Nagelsmann and this is his story. It’s a story of a promising footballer, who was forced to end his career at the age of 20 and to cope with the early death of his father. Nagelsmann was re-born and found himself as again after some dark periods. He moved fast from Hoffenheim’s U17 head coach to the UEFA Champions League. Nagelsmann has altered traditional coaching methods and models in unique fashion.
Early years and father’s death
Julian Nagelsmann was born at 23rd of July 1987 in a small town of Landsberg am Lech in Southern Germany. He also has an older sister and a brother.
Becoming a professional footballer was always a dream for Julian Nagelsmann. He played his first football matches at the age of three. The club was FC Issing from his home town. Next, Nagelsmann moved to Augsburg youth academy, where he played until 2002.
After Augsburg it was time to move to Munich, which is the capital of Bavaria. Nagelsmann was just 15 years old at the time. He joined the ranks of 1860 Munich U17 team and became quickly the captain. Nagelsmann played also 31 matches in the Germany A-Bundesliga (U19 level) during the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 seasons.
Julian Nagelsmann’s football career was on the rise, but this turned out to be the high-water mark. Young Nagelsmann moved to 1860 Munich U23 team for the 2006/2007 season but didn’t feature once due to a serious knee injury.
In the following year, his world collapsed. Nagelsmann was forced to end his promising career due to serious knee injuries. At the same time his father died at the age of 56.
“I realised later that it all made me more mature and grown in my life. I did maybe things that were not normal for somebody my age.”
Nagelsmann has mentioned the quote above in many interviews. Death of his father was a massive tragedy, but he came out as a stronger man.
Julian Nagelsmann’s first coaching badge: 1860 Munich
The hero of our story was 20 years old when his football career ended. It would have been a painful situation for anyone after all the time and efforts spent over the years. Nagelsmann had to figure out something else to do, so he went to university to study business administration.
Nagelsmann was excelling at his studies. He was even promised a nice sales job at BMW. It looked like his talent would be spent elsewhere, until something happened.
Nagelsmann financed his studies by working as a scout for Augsburg’s reserve team. The head coach of that team was one Thomas Tuchel.
At the time, he was an unknown figure. Nowadays Tuchel is the head coach of PSG. He became also one of Nagelsmann’s most important mentors.
First, Tuchel used Nagelsmman only as a scout. One day he recommended his protégé to try coaching as well. There was an opening at Nagelsmann’s previous team, 1860 Munich U17. The year was 2008 at the time.
Nagelsmann decided to give it a shot and never looked back. He enjoyed his return to the pitch a lot. Nagelsmann worked as an assistant coach. The head coach was Alexander Schmidt, who was also coaching the team when Nagelsmann played himself. Hence, it was a perfect starting point for him.
“After a few weeks, there was so much passion and I felt the fire burning in me. I had so much fun being back on the pitch. But this time it was from a different perspective.”
Nagelsmann changed also his studies. He became addicted of sports science and studied everything he could of human anatomy, psychology and philosophy.
This new-born coaching career continued at 1860 Munich U17 until the autumn of 2010. Then Nagelsmann joined Hoffenheim and the rest is history.
Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim
Julian Nagelsmann’s coaching career took a big step in 2010, when he became the assistant coach of Hoffenheim’s U17 team. The hungry and innovative man rose through the ranks quickly. He was appointed as the head coach of Hoffenheim U17 for the 2011/2012 season.
A year later, “Mini Mourinho” moved further. He became part of the Hoffenheim A team’s backroom staff. Nagelsmann became also the head coach of Hoffenheim U19 team for the 2013/2014 season and won the U19 Bundesliga championship.
Nagelsmann was still an unknown figure in the coaching world, but not for long. Big changes were coming during the 2015/2016 season.
Hoffenheim’s A team wasn’t performing well in Bundesliga, so the board wanted to do some changes. They appointed Huub Stevens as the manager in October 2015 with Nagelsmann as the head coach.
Julian Nagelsmann became the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history at 27th of October 2015.
Huub Stevens’ manager era ended quickly. He had to step out in February 2016 due to health issues. At the time, Hoffenheim was deep in the Bundesliga relegation zone, seven points from safety. The club board needed a saviour and chose Nagelsmann.
Our young hero was put under enormous pressure. Everyone had doubts over this unknown guy and his instalment was branded as a PR stunt. On top of all, Nagelsmann had to finish his coaching license studies. He was going through the ultimate test both mentally and physically.
Image: Julian Nagelsmann is smiling. The picture is taken during the Hoffenheim-Hertha match in April 2016. Hoffenheim won the crucial fight thanks to an 85th minute goal.
There were few, who believed Nagelsmann could make any miracles. He proved everyone wrong. The spring season was a massive success for Hoffenheim, who won half of their remaining 14 matches. The team escaped relegation with a margin of one single point.
This is the last time Hoffenheim has been seen in the wrong end of the table. Nagelsmann guided his team to 4th place in the 2016/2017 season and won the Manager of the year award in Bundesliga. Last season Hoffenheim finished 3rd and qualified to Champions League for the first time in club history.
Nagelsmann is tied to Hoffenheim until the end of the 2018/2019 season. After that he’ll join RB Leipzig, unless some bigger club is going to buy his contract out. Nagelsmann has been linked to the biggest German clubs and even to Manchester United.
Julian Nagelsmann has reached the following record with Hoffenheim in Bundesliga (at 20th of Nov 2018): 48W, 32D, 31L.
Julian Nagelsman cannot be placed in a category
Hoffenheim is known for their attacking style under Nagelsmann. He made this decision in 2016 while trying to save the club from relegation. Nagelsmann was certain, that the only way to survive was to play attacking football.
The biggest mentor of Julian Nagelsmann is Thomas Tuchel, who guided him to the world of coaching at a young age. He has also given a lot of credit to Xaver Zembrodille, who was a key figure in his coaching staff at the spring of 2016.
Nagelsmann has named Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Johan Cruyff as his role models.
Image: Nagelsmann has always admired FC Barcelona’s style
But how is it possible, that our hero was able to gain the respect of experienced players? Nagelsmann has no player experience from the professional level and he’s just 31 years old today.
Julian Nagelsmann has alwaus beeen excellent in using his own experienced in coaching. He’s also an exceptionally flexible coach mentally and has a great tactical eye and communication skills.
There aren’t many coaches in the world, who can get 23 players to work as collective unit while developing each player individually to reach the highest potential. This process is a dream for every coach, but few can reach it. Not everyone can become the next Nagelsmann.
Julian Nagelsmann is an exceptional coach in tactical intelligence. In fact, it’s impossible to place him in a category based on his coaching style. This is exactly what makes Nagelsmann so unique.
Julian Nagelsmann tactics – Footbonaut & Helix
Hoffenheim is a fantastic example of a team, to which we can add all the adjectives describing Nagelsmann as well. Long-term planning, unified way of playing, motivated players and coaches and courage in making tough decisions.
Hoffenheim is stretching the boundaries and breaking traditional models as a club. With Nagelsmann, it’s a heavily data-oriented club. Hoffenheim chairman, Peter Gorlich, is also a forward-thinking person. Hoffenheim is building a super structure with Gorlich & Nagelsmann. Their competitors have started to follow suit.
Automated processes are Nagelsmann’s speciality in Hoffenheim. His team can break its opponent with two touches and one pass. It may sound simple, but there’s a lot of work and analysis behind this. Nagelsmann has been able to convert this information into movements and tactics on the pitch.
Hoffenheim is using programs like Footbonaut and Helix. These are used in modelling passing situations in a match. Hoffenheim can also test player’s psycho-diagnostics with a unique system. It makes it possible for the club to find out how players are handling leadership, authority, recognition and motivational structures.
Video: Footbonaut system used by Dortmund.
It’s also possible to study decision making on an individual level. These are significant subjects in modern football. There’s less space available, less time with the ball and more running. A player must make decisions faster and faster.
Footbonaut makes it possible to place a player to an imaginary high-stress situation, such as standing on the pitch of the famous Westfalenin arena. The system was used first by Jurgen Klopp in Dortmund. With Footbonaut, players can learn the two most important things in Nagelsmann’s ideology: touches and direction.
Helix is used to develop players’ 180-degree view of the pitch. This is especially useful for goalkeepers and midfielders. Hoffenheim is also planning to use sensor technology in their training.
Nagelsmann can continue this work at Leipzig next season. There he’s going to have even better resources in his hand.
Julian Nagelsmann philosophy – a combination of many styles
Julian Nagelsmann has proved in the past few years that modern football is no more a concept of rigid rules and formations. One can be successful by mixing many different styles together. This is what Nagelsmann is doing with Hoffenheim. The football they play is almost avant-garde.
Of course, Nagelsmann must have some pillars to build his philosophy on. It’s still almost impossible to say what formation Hoffenheim is using. This flexibility in tactics is Nagelsmann’s way of implementing Gurdiola’s and Cruyff’s realistic and more defensive philosophies.
Formations are becoming more and more fluid in modern football. If you look at Hoffenheim play, you don’t have many seconds to spot if they are tactically in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 formation. Nagelsmann is using up to six different formations in one match.
Video: Hoffenheim tactical analysis from the 2016/2017 season.
Hoffenheim players are excellent in their in-play reactions. They work as a unit combining tight defensive lines, collective pressure and very effective counter-pressure. All these features together create a winning recipe.
Nagelsmann’s team has some defensive elements taken from Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. He has never admitted this publicly, though. Nagelsmann has also expressed his admiration on Marcelino’s Villarreal.
Hoffenheim is excellent in forcing their opponents back to the defending half and limiting passing options. The entire team is pressing as a collective, which leads to many recovered balls on the opponent’s half of the pitch. These positions are the most optimal ones for Hoffenheim to turn the flow of the game for
Julian Nagelsmann philosophy is effective and entertaining.
Julian Nagelsmann is only 31 years old when this article is being written. The hero of our story has already achieved accomplishments, which will remain unreachable for thousands of other coaches. He has become one of the hottest head coaches in Europe and gained a lot of respect and admiration.
Nagelsmann has shown, that age is just a number. He’s also gained the respect of older and more experienced players with his mental and tactical abilities. Nagelsmann wants to coach players, who share his values.
“Coaching is 30 percent tactics and 70 percent social competence”, Nagelsmann said in an interview by Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine.
Julian Nagelsmann is a hungry student of football. He’s already become one of the most important developers of the game. Nagelsmann has broken traditional models and opinions with his unique understanding of information.
Bundesliga is no more a league of elderly coaches. It has become a league of young, hungry and constantly developing coaches like Julian Naglesmann. Augsburg’s Manuel Baum (39), Werder Bremen’s Florian Kohfeldt (36), Schalke’s Domenico Tedesco (33) and Sandro Schwarz (40) of Mainz are great examples of young talents, who have been given a chance at the highest level.
Nagelsmann’s story is one of a kind. It’s a bit weird, yet inspiring and worth telling the world already. It’s interesting to see, what kind of legacy Nagelsmann will eventually leave to the footballing world.
This article has been collectively by Antti Hyppänen (@bergenconsult), Bujamies (@bujamies) and Kim Keränen (@KeranenKim). Kim is featuring weekly in a Finnish football podcast called Tutkapari, where he often talks about Nagelsmann too. You can read analyses written by Bujamies (in Finnish) at fudista.wordpress.com.
Original article in Finnish can be found from Asialinja.com.
Quotes from joe.co.uk, Image credit: Flickr / Mariano Mantel, Flickr / Michael, Wikimedia Commons, Save the Dream from Doha, Qatar (Save the Dream at the Match of Champions) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons