Giving more importance to the tactics of this beautiful game is the main motive of this website and in doing so, it is important to give full credits to the best manager who has mastered his side and tactics throughout the whole season in a consistent basis. This piece is about Julian Nagelsmann whom we think is the best Bundesliga Manager for the season 2016/17.
Starting his first game as the Hoffenheim boss in February 2016, Nagelsmann inherited a side which was struggling to avoid the fate of relegation. He was given a three year contract and repaid the faith of the hierarchy immediately after surviving relegation by gaining 23 points out of a possible 42. In 2016/17 though, he has impressed a lot of people in the football community with his side producing some scintillating displays.
After the end of 34 games, his side has finished in 4th spot and will be in Europe next season. “30% of coaching is tactics, 70” social competence” is his mantra though the man is an astute tactician. Hoffenheim have produced some great displays in the last season and their name echoed around Europe when they beat the Champions Bayern Munich for the first time in history in the Sinsheim village.
Hoffenheim have been a very flexible side tactically and credit goes to Nagelsmann who changes things up to keep his players involve with curiosity. Nagelsmann says, ”I work like a baker. I mix things, put them in the oven and see if I like what comes out.” What is more astounding is the way that he keeps his players connected with each other. Once written off players such as Szalai and Wagner have rejuvenated under the Youngest German manager and have gone on to produce important displays for the team along with the key figures like Demirbay and Sebastian Rudy. His squad rotation policy is also quite amazing as he said earlier in the year, “The key is treat reserve players like another.”
Tactics over the season
On a general note, Hoffenheim under Julian Naglesmann have been producing some football that is beautiful to watch. It is quite hard to grind out results when playing beautifully by building out from the back with such a less celebrated team but Hoffenheim have proved everyone wrong by clinching points that are much needed. They have been able to score 1.9 goals per game in the Bundesliga with an average possession of 55%.
The game starts with the goalkeeper Baumann who is very good with the ball at his feet. A back three is generally deployed in front of him with defensive minded wingbacks flanking alongside the three. A defensive midfielder in Rudy plays a crucial role to the side’s defensive shape and build up play as two central midfielders are deployed in the centre. Nagelsmann has always trusted the front two principle in the 2016/17 campaign as two players from the bunch of Kramaric, Uth, Terrazino and Wagner would start a game.
Early stages and the winless run
In the early stages of the season, Nagelsmann sent his side out with a back four in a 4-3-3. The below graphic shows the side which lined up in the same formation in the first Bundesliga match of the season which was against RB Leipzig who turned out to be one of the best clubs in the division finishing only second to the champions. Hoffenheim weren’t able to find a win in the first four games in the Campaign and he had to make decisions to move upward in the table.
Made using TacticalPad
TSG Hoffenheim 2-2 RB Leipzig (28 Aug 2016)
Late September to the rest of the season: The 3-1-4-2 and its success
Due to the lack of stability, Nagelsmann decided to change the system. As he wanted to play out well from the back, he opted for a back three and found a system which suited his players best. The back three has always depended on the talented Vogt and the versatile youngster Nicklas Sule. They would be supported by two wings backs with the attacking four being very compact playing in a 2-2 shape.
Hoffenheim 2-1 Schalke (25 Sep 2016)
The above graphic shows the shape of the team during the initial stages of the adoption of the 3-1-4-2 system. The club’s most valuable player Demirbay has been given the freedom to roam and create chances upfront as well as drop deep to collect the ball from midfield. The game against Schalke was their first win of the season. The graphic below shows the team that lined up against Bayern Munich. The most successful result for Nagelsmann in the 2016/17 campaign and the one he will cherish for a very long time.
Hoffenheim 1-0 Bayern Munich (4 Apr 2017)
Hoffenheim generally start their attack from the back from the goalkeeper and then the ball is passed on the defensive line. In most occasions, the ball would be kicked out to any one of the two strikers and will be laid off to the central midfielder to start the attack. Vertical movements are very important to their build up play and when the vertical progression is blocked the two wing backs play up field to join the defensive midfielder. This provides them horizontal passing options. During attack they line up in a 3-3-4 or during high octane possession play they move into a 3-1-6 shape with the wing backs hugging the touch line.
On the other hand, players drop between the lines to open up passing lanes. And this can often be seen with the movements of Demirbay and Amiri with especially the former as he is given more freedom. They also line up in a 4-4-2 when Rudy drops back to form the back four allowing the wing backs to play higher resulting in a 4-2-2-2 formation.
The image above from their 1-0 win over Bayern Munich shows their structure with the ball. With the ball they play with three at the back with two defensive minded wing backs staying wide. Rudy plays in the center of the park orchestrating things and also feeding passes to the two number 8s – Demirbay and Rupp in most occasions. When the two wing backs join the centre, they for a 3-3-2-2 structure while attack.
In the defensive phase Nagelsmann’s team shape up themselves in a 5-3-2/5-1-2-2. When the ball is against them, they press to regain possession in the second third, but when the opponent’s attack reaches the final third they situate themselves to defend tightly. The image below shows their aim to defend in a 5-3 shape.
Also they are not a side who are very quick in counters. After pressing to win the ball, they pass it around and then start the build up slowly. They way in which they press is quite intriguing to watch as the back five changes to a back four during the press in the wings. The ball near wing back along with the ball near number 8 presses the ball carrier and the ball far wing back will join the three central defenders to form the back four. By doing this they formed a 4-1-4-1 or simply put, a 4-5-1 in defensive shape. The video below shows the defensive movements of the players.
The use of quick combinations and the ultra-quick transitions has been a trademark of Hoffenheim. Their football has been brilliant in more than one instance and Julian Naglesmann is worthy of the plaudits his way and deservedly so.
Finishing the season with 62 points from 34 games is an astounding end for a side which finished with 37 points from the same number of games last year. They have escalated from 15th position to 4th in just one season. A lot of people may say that credits should be given to the whole team for showing collective spirit and individual players such as Demirbay, Kramaric, Wagner and Rudy stepping up in important occasions. But the most important factor for the team’s more than a successful season is their coach Julian Nagelsmann.
His tactics where spot on and his man management skills have become the talk of the town during the conclusion of the 2016/17 Bundesliga season. With 4 attacking players and 6 defensive minded players, Nagelsmann has produced a tactically astute team in Hoffenheim. He is just 29 years old and has extended his contract till 2021.
One could expect what the managerial prodigy would do with the side in the forth coming seasons with expectations coming in from all over Europe and facing glorious teams in the Europe’s Elite Club competition – Champions League. Without a doubt in our mind, Julain Nagelsmann is Football Bloody Hell’s Bundesliga Manager of the Year for the season 2016/17.