Traveling to Manchester has not been a happy affair for Thomas Tuchel during his time as coach at FC Bayern. The first time, in April of this year, he had just started work in Munich when he had to explain a 3-0 defeat in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final at Manchester City. He tried hard to present the result in a good light: he explained at the time that he had “shocked” fallen in love with his team. But only a few people at FC Bayern were in love with each other, Sadio Mané and Leroy Sané had a little fight in the dressing room and the disaster that characterized the club last season began.
Well, on his second visit, this time to their city neighbors Manchester United, everything could have been so beautiful. A few days ago it was thought that Tuchel would travel to England almost without a care in the world, as coach of a solid team that has long been top of the group and a participant in the round of 16 in the Champions League. But since last Saturday, the last group game this Tuesday has had a different title: compensation for Frankfurt.
“We thought we had already moved on and were disabused, in a very brutal way,” he said on the eve of the game at the press conference at Old Trafford stadium, called the “Theater of Dreams”. The game against United is the “opportunity to show a reaction on one of the biggest stages in world football”.
As well as the season has gone so far, with the exception of the elimination in the DFB Cup at the third division team Saarbrücken, the old questions are back after the 1:5 in Frankfurt and since the first and very heavy Bundesliga defeat at FC Bayern: Is one enough? Defense that makes such a festival of mistakes against strikers like Eric Ebimbe and Omar Marmoush compared to the club’s ambitions? Do we need one more defensive-minded player in midfield? Perhaps one of the German football experts’ favorite debates is missing the leading players who prevent such a failure with their influence on their colleagues? Is it because of the attitude of the team? If not, then how could such a debacle happen? And what does that have to do with the coach?
Tuchel said in Frankfurt that he needed a “video analysis to understand what exactly was wrong.” In Manchester he was prepared and had brought answers with him in the form of numbers: “We had 22 critical turnovers at the end”, i.e. those in which “five or more players” then ran after them, he explained. According to our own requirements, a single-digit number of such ball losses is mandatory. So there were at least 13 too many. “An absurdly high number.”
“The second point,” Tuchel continued, “is that none of these errors directly led to a goal.” Instead, there was always an opportunity to salvage the situation; in the first four goals conceded in Frankfurt, the Munich team actually had the majority. This meant: “The reaction after the errors was far, far, far below the standard we expect of ourselves.”
Is there a lack of leadership within the team? “I think that’s one of the fundamental points,” says Tuchel
So much for the inventory, but how could this come about? Was it due to a possibly lax approach on the part of the players, as sports director Christoph Freund suggested on Sunday on Sport1 (“basically an attitude issue”)? “If it was like that, and it looked like that, I definitely can’t explain it,” said Tuchel. He also did not contradict the argument that there was a lack of leadership within the team in Frankfurt. “I think that’s one of the fundamental points,” he said. Leon Goretzka, a possible candidate for the role, had already criticized himself on Saturday evening for not living up to his standards.
The role of trainer remained. In Frankfurt, Tuchel indicated that he may have overloaded the team with tactical instructions immediately before the game. He repeated that on Monday and added: “If you have nine days to prepare as a coach with a team and that’s the result, then I’m on board.”
The preparation time for the game in England was now just two days. The truth is that regardless of the result against a struggling Manchester United team, it will remain uncomfortable for the Munich team. The squad has become a little smaller for the time being, Serge Gnabry will be out for “at least eight weeks plus” with a hamstring injury he suffered in Frankfurt, said Tuchel. And making amends includes at least the game next Sunday, when VfB Stuttgart is a guest at the arena, currently probably the Bundesliga team in the best form.