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Julian Nagelsmann: Masterclass against PSG

Julian Nagelsmann
Julian Nagelsmann’s beautiful display of football against PSG guides Bayern Munich to the Quarterfinals. Photo Credit: Time News

With two goals from Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich comfortably advances to the Champions League Quarterfinals after humbling the mighty PSG 3-0 on aggregate. They will now join Chelsea, Benfica, and AC Milan. The man behind the success of Bayern against PSG is no other than Julian Nagelsmann. The young coach showed out his tactical mastermind en route to the win.

Three at the Back

Since his days in RB Leipzig, Julian Nagelsmann has always loved his three defenders at the back to maximize the attacking power. On the other hand, Bayern Munich has been familiar with a 4-2-3-1 formation that was the formula for their two Trebles in 2013 and 2020. In Nagelsmann’s first season in charge of Bayern, he mostly went with the traditional formation. But occasionally, he switched to his favorite “three at the back” but didn’t haul in good results and received a lot of backlashes. 

This season has been a different story. After Noussair Mazraoui‘s injury, Bayern lost their best all-around right-back. Adding to the fact that Benjamin Pavard thrives in a center-back role, Julian Nagelsmann has a better case for using three defenders. Plus, this formation can offload the defending duties for attacking-centric wingbacks like Alphonso Davies while still having security in the backline.

The two legs against PSG show precisely that. Three defenders at the back shut down PSG in the first leg until Kylian Mbappe came on and contained Mbappe entirely in the second leg. Lionel Messi‘s favorite half-space was also covered. Benjamin Pavard, Josip Stanišić, Dayot Upamecano, and Matthijs de Ligt produced rock-solid defending displays. The defending alignment also enabled the offense to play out from the dynamic wings of Alphonso Davies and Kingsley Coman.

Gutsy Personel Use

This was a bold move from Julian Nagelsmann. He chose 22-year-old Josip Stanišić to start over Joao Cancelo, who received the FIFA Team of the Year honor days ago. And the Croatian did not disappoint. Compared with Cancelo, he edged on defense, precisely what Bayern needed against Mbappe and PSG. PSG couldn’t make any special attack on Stanišić’s right-hand side, and we barely heard about Mbappe. A mature performance from the young player.

The German coach also opted for Thomas Müller instead of Leroy Sane. Sane’s form is declining, while The Raumdeuter can provide much-needed spacing on the field. But Müller did more than that. He pressed as hard as if he was only in his 20s. In one of those situations, he poked the ball from Marco Verratti for Choupo-Moting’s opening goal. His proper captain performance earned him the Man of the Match award.

Midfield Domination

Only a few teams can compete with Bayern Munich regarding midfield depth. Joshua Kimmich, once again, put up a world-class performance. But the best player against PSG was, by far, Leon Goretzka. He was an absolute powerhouse in his box-to-box role. He did everything from providing excellent recoveries for the defense to pressuring the opponent and advancing the attacks. Number 8 shut down Marco Verratti and even provided an assist.

Goretzka’s high motor enabled Jamal Musiala and Thomas Müller to operate better in the half-space and PSG’s zone 14. Julian Nagelsmann’s midfielders outclassed Christophe Galtier’s midfielders in every way possible. Lionel Messi had to drop back to help Fabian Ruiz and Vitinha, but it was useless.


PSG was unfortunate as Kimpembe, Neymar, and Marquinhos all suffered injuries. But no one can deny the tactical masterpiece of Julian Nagelsmann. That win shatters every doubt from the fans on the young German manager – his most significant victory to date.

Bayern also played without Sadio Mane most of the time. If they can build on this win, Bayern will be a formidable contender for this year’s Champions League.

Also, Bayern Munich is stacked at every position. Good management from the Bayern board.

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