Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich set a new benchmark for what it means to win at Germany’s already most successful club, claiming seven trophies in just over 18 months. That winning feeling has continued under successor Julian Nagelsmann, but how do the two teams compare after a season under the young tactician?
bundesliga.com takes an in-depth look at what two of Germany’s top coaches have done at the record champions…
State of play
Bayern were fourth when Flick took charge in November 2019 and – despite starting with a 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund – would drop to as low as seventh in December. But they would then go on to win 19 of the final 20 league games (plus one draw) as they marched to the Meisterschale. The Bavarians also won every match in their UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup campaigns to claim the second treble in their history.
Flick’s only full season in charge saw him win the Bundesliga again, with three games to spare. The holders also breezed through the Champions League group stage but suffered an away-goals defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals. Their DFB Cup defence was also ended in surprising circumstances, with a shootout elimination to Holstein Kiel in the second round.
Watch: Sextuple-winning Flick
The situation was very similar in Nagelsmann’s first campaign at the helm. The former RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim coach again guided Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga standings for his first major honour as a senior coach. His side dominated their Champions League group with a perfect record of six wins – the second flawless group in the club’s history, after the Flick/Niko Kovac campaign of 2019/20 – but also suffered a shock (in terms of the 5-0 scoreline) exit in the second round of the cup at the hands of Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Flick and Nagelsmann also both won the Supercup against Borussia Dortmund, 3-2 and 3-1 respectively. The current Germany boss would also lift the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup during 2020/21.
“We brought in a young coach and we were fully behind him. His idea of football convinced us, the way he worked at Leipzig was impressive. He has now followed that up seamlessly with us,” said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic in assessment of Nagelsmann’s first six months in charge.
He was then asked on differences between the two coaches: “With football in mind, Hansi felt the atmosphere within the team. Julian can do that too, but he also has a bit more to offer in terms of attacking and defensive work.”
Watch: Analysing Nagelsmann’s Bayern
So, how have they gone about winning games and silverware? Flick’s overall record in charge was pretty astonishing, winning 70 out of 86 games, with eight draws and losses each. Those heralded seven titles with a win rate of 81.4 per cent.
But let’s compare the two over a more uniform period of their whole seasons in charge.
Flick oversaw 50 matches across all competitions in 2020/21. His record in that time was 37 victories, seven draws and six losses, giving a win rate of 74 per cent and an average of 2.36 points per game. Although Nagelsmann wasn’t on the touchline for four games in 2021/22, Bayern have played 46 fixtures under him, winning 30, drawing 10 and losing six. That gives the 34-year-old a win rate of 65 per cent and also a return of 2.17 points per game.
Focusing first on just the Bundesliga, Nagelsmann’s team finished the campaign on 77 points. Bayern have only had better hauls seven times, under Pep Guardiola, Jupp Heynckes and Flick. The incumbent boss is therefore averaging 2.11 points per game in charge of the Bavarians in the league, with 24 wins, five draws and five defeats.
Flick’s 34 Bundesliga matches in charge in his one full season also saw 24 wins and four defeats, but it was six draws. It means he averaged 2.29 points per game as the champions finished 13 points clear of Leipzig – coached at the time by Nagelsmann.
Watch: Bayern's 2022 title celebrations
For those wondering about Flick’s overall Bundesliga record, he won 45 out of 58 fixtures (D7, L6) for an average of 2.45 points. The only person with a greater points-per-game ratio in charge of the Munich club is Guardiola (2.52 over three seasons and 102 matches).
It is Bayern’s relentless attack that has seen them sweep aside teams with such aplomb over the last three seasons, led of course by Robert Lewandowski demonstrating one of the greatest periods of goalscoring prowess in German (and also European) football history.
He netted a phenomenal 83 times in 71 appearances under Flick, whose side scored 260 goals in his 86 matches. That works out at 3.02 per game, while the team scored four or more goals in 31 fixtures (once every 2.7 games) and five or more 14 times (once every six games). There was just one single game where Bayern failed to score under Flick, and that was coincidentally against Nagelsmann’s Leipzig in February 2020, a 0-0 draw.
Watch: Bayern’s record-setting 102 Bundesliga goals in 2021 under Flick and Nagelsmann
Phenomenal numbers for any team, but not the class of 2021/22. They have so far made mincemeat of those records under Nagelsmann. A total of 133 goals in 46 games equates to 2.89 every time they take to the pitch. It’s been four or more goals in 18 of those (two out of every five) and five or more on nine occasions (almost every five games). The only matches where they have drawn blanks were the 5-0 loss at Gladbach in the cup – admittedly, one of the games where Nagelsmann was not on the touchline – and the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Villarreal.
Again looking at just those full Bundesliga campaigns, the numbers are still extraordinary. Flick’s team finished the season on 99 goals from their 34 games. Only the classes of 2019/20 (100) and 1971/72 (101) have ever got more among any Bundesliga team. Despite averaging 2.85 goals per game, Nagelsmann's charges fell three short of a century of single-season goals.
However, there is a marked difference when it comes to attempts on goal. The current crop mustered up 678 shots in 2021/22, which works out at 6.98 per goal. Flick's team ended 2020/21 on 570, but with a more efficient return of a goal every 5.75 attempts.
Watch: Highlights of Bayern’s biggest Bundesliga win under Nagelsmann
One of the (admittedly very few) criticisms thrown at Flick’s Bayern was the fact that they seemed to offer opponents a lot of chances in games – while then being utterly clinical themselves at the other end to punish them. That may have papered over some cracks a bit.
Flick’s team conceded an average of 1.06 goals per game during his spell in charge. By means of comparison, Guardiola’s Bayern saw an average of 0.8, while Carlo Ancelotti’s team came in at 0.9.
It was one of the things Nagelsmann set out to rectify and has spoken at length about in pre- and post-match interviews, explaining how and why Bayern were conceding goals – from often very similar scenarios of losing possession and being hit in transition.
Watch: A tactical look at how to beat Bayern
Looking again at just the Bundesliga, there has been a slight improvement. Bayern conceded 37 times in the league in 2021/22, keeping 11 clean sheets. That’s compared to 44 conceded and nine clean sheets in 2020/21.
The number of chances opposition teams have had was also down from 339 in 2020/21 to 321 this year. Nagelsmann’s team have also been beaten four times on the counter-attack, compared to eight in Flick’s full season – a point that Nagelsmann has specifically raised after games.
“We did not concede that many counter-attacks,” he said after the 1-0 win against Arminia Bielefeld. “I think in the second half we applied a lot of pressure, a lot of ball possession in the final third – only conceded one counter-attack. But today I’m happier that we did not concede a goal. I think that’s important for us.”
That came a week after the defeat to Augsburg where he set out a demand: “We have to improve because it’s too easy to score goals against us. We want to be one of the best teams in Europe, so we have to defend better.”
Formation and tactics
This is where it gets down to the nitty gritty. Flick was very much a disciple of the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been in vogue in Germany for so long. It was what the national team played while he was assistant under Joachim Löw; it’s what Bayern have mostly done for the last decade. Just two of his 86 games as Bayern boss saw the team start with a back three – and one of those was a Champions League dead rubber at Atletico Madrid where he rotated heavily.
Flick was very much about control, with Bayern seeing 60.2 per cent possession in 2020/21. They averaged 570 passes per game. They also delivered almost 15 crosses from open play each game. So, it was control but also a case of getting the ball forwards and into the box as quickly as possible for maximum danger.
That desire to cross from either the wingers or the overlapping full-backs or even from someone like Joshua Kimmich from inside channels led to the vast number of aerial chances Bayern had – for example, Lewandowski alone scored five headed goals in the league last season. Flick’s Bayern also contested far more aerial duels in the league, some 34 per game.
The team was frequently praised for its intensity, averaging 71.2 miles (114.6 km), 248 sprints and 728 intensive runs per game last year. Yet those numbers - with the exception of a 248-tie for sprints - have been improved upon under Nagelsmann.
His Bayern covered more ground (72.2 miles/116.2 km) and intensive runs (32). The current Bayern side also played substantially more passes per game (621 vs. 570), whilst seeing marginally more possession (61 per cent to 60.2).
More passes with a greater proportion of possession says a lot about Nagelsmann’s style, ensuring high intensity and quick play from back to front. Flick’s team would play far more long balls (42 per game to 30), utilising the passing range of centre-backs David Alaba and Jerome Boateng – both of whom are no longer at the club.
Crosses from open play are also well down (10 per game compared to 15) as Nagelsmann instructs his players to play their way through opponents, while also trying to take Flick’s Gegenpressing to another level.
The 34-year-old has also introduced tactical flexibility, like he previously did at Leipzig and Hoffenheim, and insisted he would look to instil this in his new team as the season went on.
But the data sheets don’t show how the team has shifted systems within matches. A lot of that has come down to how Nagelsmann has deployed Alphonso Davies. A back four with Davies at left-back has so often morphed during game to a three as Davies pushed on into a wing-back role.
Watch: Alphonso Davies – Return of the Roadrunner
That has then seen Leroy Sane – now deployed and reinvigorated on the left by Nagelsmann – move centrally and form a second No.10 alongside Thomas Müller, overloading the centre yet further and allowing Davies the freedom of the left wing. His blistering pace and incredible fitness levels then mean he is rarely out of position when needed to track back, reforming the four-man defence when called upon.
That innovative approach has not only kept things stable at the back with at least three defenders always covering, but also gives the team an extra man in attack that adds confusion to opponents trying to remain organised.
It meant Davies’s prolonged absence into 2022 had a big impact on results, with average points (2.53), goals scored (3.2) and conceded (0.94) in the Hinrunde all going the wrong way in the Rückrunde (2.29, 2.57 and 1.0 respectively prior to the Canadian's return).
Nagelsmann will be the first to admit that he is far from done moulding this Bayern team. He knows the job of succeeding, building on and potentially surpassing what Flick did is one of the biggest challenges in coaching. The performances and numbers are certainly impressive at this stage. Only further silverware will determine exactly where the team is at compared to Flick’s all-conquering side.
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