Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann said Wednesday’s win over Paris Saint-Germain showed his side’s potential if they remember to bring the necessary “emotion and greed”.
With former Stoke City striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting up front, an ageing Thomas Mueller pulling the strings and a Yann Sommer, bought to stand in for the injured Manuel Neuer, in goal, Nagelsmann may not have the tools of previous Bayern sides at his disposal.
But the manager said his side could “achieve anything”, even matching the trophy hauls of the great Bayern sides of 2013 and 2020, if they could find the right blend of quality, passion and hunger.
Bayern’s 2-0 win in Munich, thanks to second-half goals from Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry, gave the Bundesliga champions a 3-0 win on aggregate and a place in the quarter-finals.
The win continued Bayern’s stunning run in the Champions League this season.
Despite taking on the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern have won eight from eight in Europe this season, scoring 21 times and conceding just twice.
– ‘We can do anything’ –
“When we perform, I’ve said it 20 times, if we pair the maximum greed, and emotion with the quality that we have, then we can achieve anything,” the manager told German broadcaster DAZN on Wednesday night.
Nagelsmann’s post-match statements may have sounded like the usual praise doled out by managers after an important win, but they were laced with an element of criticism targeted at his players.
Bayern’s form on the European stage has not been mirrored domestically this season.
Usually by March, the 32-time German league champions have a double-digit lead and are coasting to another Bundesliga title.
This year Bayern have dropped points at home and away against struggling sides and lead Borussia Dortmund on goal difference.
Despite lacking the quality of the European elite, Nagelsmann is well aware his side boasts far and away the best squad in the Bundesliga, but sometimes does not bring the attitude to domestic matches.
The manager said Bayern’s status in Germany means teams step up the passion and the determination in the hope of snaring a point or more against the Bavarian behemoths.
While in the past Bayern could count on a quick flurry of Robert Lewandowski goals or a shutout from sweeper keeper Neuer to take them past plucky opponents, now the Bavarians need to match passion with passion.
“There are still a lot of teams in the Bundesliga that can hurt us, because every team brings that emotion against Bayern.
“Unfortunately, we always have to bring it. If we pair those things together, then we are incredibly good.
“If we don’t, then we have to play a certain amount of shaky football, which really isn’t necessary.”
– ‘When he’s focused’ –
Speaking about central defender Dayot Upamecano, who kept France teammate Kylian Mbappe quiet on Wednesday night, Nagelsmann’s statements reflected his assessment of his club’s fortunes.
Saying Upamecano “can be one of the two or three best defenders in the world”, Nagelsmann again dabbled in backhanded compliments by adding a qualifier.
“I find that when he’s focused and when he focuses on simple things, he’s incredible.
“Two years ago, he might have been a bit impatient in situations. He played well with the ball and found simple solutions.”
Bayern’s next match is on Saturday, at home against Bavarian neighbours Augsburg, who sit 13th, just three rungs above the relegation play-off spot.
The fixture is not only the type of match that has tripped Bayern up this year, it already has.
Augsburg fought out a narrow 1-0 win at home in September, which dropped Bayern to fifth — the lowest the reigning champions have been this season.
For Bayern to “achieve everything” as the coach has forecast, perhaps even emulating the treble-winning sides of the past decade, they will need to recognise the quality of the squad alone will not be enough.