The best of German football from the Bundesliga and beyond
Despite just about every week providing us with a new dainty and delicious treat from Mario Götze, or a meaty main course from Manual Neuer, this year's Bundesliga is starting to feel a little bit like McDonald's. Not many people stay working there for very long.
After Thomas Schaefer last weekend announced his decision to step down as manager of Köln at the end of the season, all but six of this year's Bundesliga teams will have a different man on the bench for the beginning of the 2011/12 than the one who started this term.
Such fickleness is to be expected from a season that has seen a number of the big names struggle. Both Stuttgart and Wolfsburg are on their third coach of the season (Bruno Labbadia and Felix Magath respectively) as they scrabble around at the wrong end of the table, and Frankfurt have brought in the experienced but controversial Christoph Daum to fight their relegation fires.
Bayern left the guillotine dangling over Louis van Gaal's head for months before finally giving him the chop, and Armin Veh's sacking by HSV was just as inevitable for a long time before it actually happened.
This is not to say this managerial merry-go-round is powered solely by rubbish results and unfulfilled expectations. The changes at Bayern created a knock-on effect as Leverkusen's Jupp Heynckes agreed to take control at the Allianz-Arena next season, causing Freiburg's Robin Dutt to get sucked into the Leverkusen managerial vacuum.
Jupp Heynckes will take over at Bayern in the summer
Holger Stanislawski, the St. Pauli coach, did enough to convince Hoffenheim that he's the man for their job next season, although the way Pauli have slumped in recent weeks might be causing a few nervous doubts down in Sinsheim.
Perhaps most bizarrely of all, the reason cited by Köln’s Schaefer for his resignation wasn’t the club’s five defeats in their last seven games, rather personal reasons believed to relate to his religious beliefs and their lack of compatibility with the rough and tumble of Bundesliga life.
Even the league’s longest serving manager, the one thought to be untouchable, doesn’t seem quite as safe as in previous years. Thomas Schaaf’s Werder Bremen have had an extremely poor season, finishing bottom of their Champion’s League group and only over the last few weeks hauling themselves out of the relegation scrimmage.
”If we no longer believe Thomas Schaaf is the right man, we’ll part ways”, said business manager Klaus Allofs. That the club is unbeaten since the indirect threat at the end of February is an indication that the players crave consistency and solidity as much as managers crave it from them.
So why exactly have there been so many changes in this year’s Bundesliga? Well, when Bayern underperform, there are anything up to seven teams that could theoretically consider themselves realistic title challengers. Such tight competition leads to increased expectation, and, in most cases, disappointing underachievement.
In a season like this, Schalke, Stuttgart, HSV and Bremen will be wondering why Dortmund, fifth last season, managed to so comfortably thunder past them to the top of the table, and, consequently, require a scapegoat to whom blame can be attached.
Bremen's Thomas Schaaf has been at Bremen for 39 years
When a managerial vacancy does open up, there’s a tendency to search for a new boss within Germany, with the result that overachieving smaller teams like Freiburg and St. Pauli are always likely to have their bosses swiped by the bigger fish.
Lucien Favre at Monchengladbach is the only non-German coach in the Bundesliga at the moment (barring, of course, Bayern’s caretaker boss Andries Joncker), and, coming from Switzerland and already having Bundesliga experience with Hertha BSC, wouldn’t have been seen as a big risk.
In England, Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s longevity, Chelsea’s desire for high-profile appointments and Liverpool’s recent failed Hodgson experiment mean that managers don’t often get to work their way to the very top like their German equivalents do.
Dortmund’s Jürgen Klopp impressed at Mainz for years before being given time to build a successful team in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Robin Dutt worked his way through the regional leagues before getting his chance at Leverkusen, as did recent title winners Felix Magath, Armin Veh and Ottmar Hitzfeld. David Moyes must be wondering what he has to do to be given such a chance.
So, while the recent managerial changes may seem about as predictable as the weather on a bank holiday weekend, there is a method to the madness. The German spirit requires specific proof of qualification for a post before it is awarded, and being able to cut the mustard a few rungs below is often proof enough.
A route to instant success it certainly isn’t, but perhaps a little more wholesome than the ostentatious importation of a well-known name unfamiliar with the league he is expected to dominate.
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