Julian Nagelsmann’s first two games are in the books. The 3-1 win over the USA in Hartford was followed by a 2-2 draw against Mexico in Philadelphia. The national team spent ten days in the eastern United States. A lot of time for the coach to gather insights for the mission of “saving the home European Championship”. But also for us. Time for a little report card: Where did the new national coach shine and where does he still have work to do?
Tactics: Nagelsmann is more flexible than his predecessor Flick
Predecessor Hansi Flick failed at the DFB because of his experiments and desperate attempts to force players into positions where they don’t belong and to rehearse basic systems that haven’t worked for years. In the game there was a lack of flexibility or the will to adapt to the opponent.
Nagelsmann appears to be much more adaptable here. He initially positioned the team too riskily against the USA, but the Americans, who were strong in transition, gratefully accepted the high pressing. However, Nagelsmann reacted at half-time and prepared his team better for the opponent. What follows is one of the best German halves in a long time.
But the thing that made for success in game one was missing in game two: patience. Nagelsmann had already announced in advance of the Mexico game that it would be a different game. The passionately defending Central Americans and their passionately cheering fans imposed their game on the DFB team and brought a hectic pace to the proceedings. “That was the key,” analyzed Nagelsmann, who didn’t see enough long possession phases from his team.
With a little note 15 minutes before the end, he tried to provoke the lucky punch by tactically switching to a three-man chain with a double leadership of Niclas Füllkrug and debutant Kevin Behrens, but he also ran into Mexican granite with this formation.
Starting XI: No experiments from Nagelsmann
The goal of this USA tour was to band together as a group, but also to get into a rhythm or “flow” as a team, as Nagelsmann himself paraphrased. Therefore, he forewent the rotation that is so common for test matches.
There were only two changes in his starting eleven, Thomas Müller and Niklas Süle replaced Füllkrug and Mats Hummels. But the BVB defender in particular proved to be a weak point. The 28-year-old didn’t get much playing time in Dortmund recently and was therefore not in the oft-quoted rhythm. However, Nagelsmann “consciously accepted” this because he also sees it as his job to get players into the desired shape.
Otherwise, the national coach wanted to set his axis for the European Championships. Marc-André ter Stegen is in goal, Antonio Rüdiger is the undisputed head of defense. Captain Ilkay Gündogan, who really blossomed on the USA tour, pulls his strings in the center of midfield and Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sané and Florian Wirtz play their part up front. Before that, Niclas Füllkrug collected many arguments.
The second position next to Rüdiger as well as the outside defense on both sides is still open. Nagelsmann must find a solution here in the next international match period in November. Joshua Kimmich, who had to leave due to illness, should initially be placed next to Gündogan.
Communication: No problems with the Bayern stars
Nagelsmann seemed very calm and very communicative on these days. Dealing with the media in particular was strong. He knows how the game works and gives the machine enough food. He explains complicated processes simply, he doesn’t beat around the bush and he doesn’t hide behind empty phrases. He confidently moderated the absurd fuss about his shirt from the USA game.
The communication with the players also seems very positive from the outside. In Bayern’s time it was said that he had lost the dressing room. The connection with Müller and Musiala is said to have been difficult. Both players were demonstratively sat next to their coach at a press conference and there was harmony between coach and player. Nagelsmann understands the little signs.
Nagelsmann’s personal conclusion
Nagelsmann himself is very satisfied with the USA tour. His task is immense, the pressure is huge. With only eight months until the home European Championships, every day we spend together is important. “I have never coached a team that implements things so quickly. “That makes me extremely optimistic,” he said almost euphorically. “I was absolutely thrilled, so I’m not worried. I saw total unity, both in the hotel and on the pitch.” But he doesn’t want to give himself a grade for the first ten days.