Tuchel's Bayern in-tray: Make Neuer decision, get Mane firing and find space for Muller

By Sports Desk March 24, 2023

Bayern Munich shocked the Bundesliga by making a dramatic change in the dugout, replacing Julian Nagelsmann with Thomas Tuchel.

The decision came with Borussia Dortmund posing a serious threat to Bayern's hopes of an 11th consecutive league title.

Tuchel arrives with Bayern sitting one point off the Bundesliga summit and through to the Champions League quarter-finals, with the former BVB and Chelsea boss facing several pressing tasks.

Fending off his former club's challenge for domestic glory and plotting a route past Pep Guardiola's Manchester City will be among the immediate concerns, but there are others requiring Tuchel's attention.

From the futures of club stalwarts Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller, to the need to suitably replace Robert Lewandowski, there will be plenty to keep Tuchel occupied until the end of the season and beyond.

Here, Stats Perform looks at five of the most pressing tasks facing Tuchel on his return to Germany.

Fix Bayern's sloppy backline

While Bayern boast the Bundesliga's best defensive record with 27 goals conceded this term, Tuchel – who was successful in making Chelsea tough to beat in his last managerial assignment – will be keen to examine a series of shortcomings at the back.

Having beaten Augsburg 5-3 in Nagelsmann's penultimate game at the helm, Bayern suffered a damaging 2-1 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen last time out, with Benjamin Pavard and Dayot Upamecano clumsily conceding a pair of second-half penalties.

With Nagelsmann known for employing a high defensive line and adopting an aggressive approach, Bayern have often appeared too open this campaign.

Of the Bundesliga-high 13 errors leading to shots made by Bayern players this season, three have resulted in goals, while last year's big-money recruit Matthijs de Ligt is yet to establish himself as a dominant defensive presence.

Tuchel's Chelsea kept five clean sheets in seven Champions League knockout games en route to being crowned European champions in 2021 – he will be confident of having a similar impact in his new job, given the defensive talent at his disposal.

 

Make crucial Neuer decision

The most controversial incident in Bayern's season before the change of coach came in January, when captain Neuer hit out at the club's decision to fire close friend and goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic.

Those comments were met with a furious reaction from the club's hierarchy, throwing Neuer's future in Munich into doubt.

A series of injuries – the latest a broken leg sustained during a skiing holiday – have limited Neuer to 16 appearances across all competitions this term, and with Yann Sommer's arrival giving Bayern two top-class goalkeepers to choose from, Tuchel has a decision to make.

While Neuer boasts a better save percentage (75.44 per cent) than Sommer (64.1) for Bayern this term, the 2014 World Cup winner will be 37 by the time he returns to fitness, and there may not be room for both shot-stoppers in Bayern's long-term plans.

Find Lewandowski's successor

No discussion of Bayern's inconsistent season would be complete without a mention of their failure to find an adequate replacement for goal machine Lewandowski.

Lewandowski left for Barcelona last year, having led the Bundesliga's scoring charts in six of his eight seasons with Bayern (2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21 and 2021–22).

The Poland international hit 35 goals in as many league appearances in his final season with the Bavarian giants. This term, Jamal Musiala is their top Bundesliga marksman with 11 goals, one ahead of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

While having five separate players on double figures across all competitions this term is no bad thing (Choupo-Moting, Musiala, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Sadio Mane), an established successor to Lewandowski is surely required.

 

Solve the Mane conundrum

On a related note, getting the best of last year's marquee arrival Mane will also be high on Tuchel's to-do list, with the Senegal attacker yet to hit the heights he reached at Liverpool.

Injuries and mixed form have meant Mane has started just 14 of Bayern's 25 league games, failing to net in any competition since a 6-2 win over Mainz in October.

Tuchel's previous success with a fluid forward line could bode well for Mane. In his only full Premier League campaign with Chelsea, the Blues were only outscored by Manchester City and Liverpool, with a plethora of players chipping in as the returning Romelu Lukaku fell out of favour.

 

Examine Muller's role

While the acquisition of a centre-forward will surely be at the forefront of Bayern's plans at the end of the season, the Bavarians' chances of short-term success could hinge on finding a regular role for Muller.

Muller, who became Bayern's all-time leading outfield appearance maker in the Bundesliga last month, has started just 14 league games this campaign, but his tally of 11 goal contributions (four goals, seven assists) in just 1,062 minutes demonstrates his lasting quality.

With Nagelsmann alternating between 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2 shapes in recent weeks, Muller has featured in a number 10 role – where he previously thrived under Hansi Flick – and in a front two.

With high-stakes clashes against Dortmund and City on the horizon, Tuchel's first month at the helm could prove decisive, and finding a place for the experienced Muller could help the new boss make a flying start.

 

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