Bayern Munich are making a mistake by keeping lame duck Thomas Tuchel

Football

There are basic conventions when it comes to running not just a football club, but any sort of sports team — heck, any kind of business. Namely, when you choose to fire the guy in charge, you strip him of responsibility and hand the reins to somebody else, even if only on a caretaker basis. Bayern Munich, in announcing that Thomas Tuchel will leave at the end of the 2023-24 season, just drove a fleet of Audis right through them.

The decision to move on from Tuchel isn’t surprising. He’s steered this team to being eight points behind Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga title race, he’s had run-ins with senior players, he wasn’t liked by the vast commentariat of former Bayern stars-turned-media talking heads, he lost three games on the bounce — including the round-of-16 first leg against Lazio in the Champions League — and his team has generally played turgid football. Which, after nearly a year at the helm and after the addition of Harry Kane for €95 million ($102.6m) in the summer, is hugely disappointing.

What is surprising — or counterintuitive, if you want to give Bayern the benefit of the doubt, or demented, if you don’t — is announcing to the world you’re done with him and still having him stick around until the end of the campaign. Bayern are effectively saying that Tuchel is part of the problem — and, implicitly, is not part of the solution — and yet they want him to stay and coach this group of men for the rest of the year.

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How is that supposed to work? If Tuchel couldn’t get the players to listen to him and perform when he was the big boss with a deal through June 2025, how is he supposed to do that now when they all know his days are counted? If the club higher-ups no longer believe in him, what makes you think the players will?

It’s a recipe for lame duck soup, and while you could swallow it if the season was shot with nothing left to play for, that’s not where Bayern are right now. Yeah, they were poor against Lazio in the Champions League, but this is Lazio, who are eighth in Serie A for a reason — overturning that 1-0 away deficit doesn’t seem like a heavy lift. And yes, the gap with Bayer Leverkusen is big, but it’s not insurmountable with 12 games to go.

Plus, the gap is largely big not because Bayern haven’t gained points at a sufficient rate — they’re on pace for 77, which is the average of the Bundesliga winners over the past five seasons — but rather because Leverkusen have been road-grading everybody in sight. (Xabi Alonso’s side is on pace for 90 points, which would be just one shy of the record.) It’s not unreasonable to expect some regression to the mean from Leverkusen, given that this is a team with an inexperienced manager in charge of a club that have never won the league and whose last (well, only) trophy dates back to the early 1990s.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect Bayer Leverkusen to collapse and Bayern to surge to their 12th straight Bundesliga title, but whatever slim chances existed are surely slimmer now.

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Marcotti: Tuchel has become the ultimate lame duck at Bayern Munich

Gab Marcotti reacts to the news that Thomas Tuchel will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and asks whether this decision could hinder the club this season.

Bayern have shown over the years that they’re comfortable firing coaches midstream. In fact, four of their past five permanent managers — Carlo Ancelotti, Niko Kovac, Julian Nagelsmann and now Tuchel — were booted during the campaign … and Bayern still won the league. (That probably says more about the Bundesliga and the imbalance of resources than anything else.) But in each of those cases, once the decision was made, the coach was out of there — sometimes with a permanent replacement, sometimes with an interim boss.

It’s a cliché, but there’s evidently some validity to the idea of freshening things up, giving the squad a jolt or even simply showing up to training and being confronted by somebody other than Tuchel, with his frayed nerves and frayed baggage. Instead, Bayern players will get more of the same, albeit with (inevitably) less authority, since they know they’re listening to a guy who won’t be around in a few months’ time because their employer doesn’t think he’s the right guy to lead them.

Logic, eh?

What good can possibly come of this? Even the very best-case scenario — imagine (hard to do, I know) that there’s some weird cosmic alignment, the plan works and Tuchel goes on to lead Bayern to the Champions League and/or Bundesliga crowns — will boomerang against them. If that happens, they’ll look silly for booting Tuchel, which will only undermine their credibility even further.

The club will now hit the reset button and start the process of finding a new coach for 2024-25. “A new footballing direction” is what club CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen, fluent in corporate-speak, called it. In the meantime, they’ll stick to the “old footballing direction,” only with less enthusiasm and belief than before.

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