When keeping your extremely valuable place in the Bundesliga at all costs lies at the forefront of so many club’s thinking, it is hardly surprising (and even expected now) that the trainer is the first in the firing line when results start to side. And we’re talking a literal firing line here.
Every season there are clubs, who struggle, hit a poor patch of form/ luck, and take the kneejerk reaction of sacking the coach to save their season and try to turn things around. This season has been no different with seven clubs firing their trainer at some point in the season (Hertha actually parted company with two!).
The theory goes that the incoming coach can inject something different and produce a positive bounce that will lift the club in question out of it’s mire. Was this case in the Bundesliga this season?
The case of Bayern Munich is a unique one when looking at the effect of a new coach. Niko Kovac was dismissed after winning the double the previous season and after just ten league matches this season. Yes the Bavarians made a poor start to the season by their very high standards (5 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats), but it is still very likely that they would have still ended up as champions, albeit not in such impressive fashion.
Kovac had a 1.8 points per game average, whereas Hansi Flick upped that massively to 2.7 in his 24 games in charge. With Bayern it was more a case of style rather than substance. With the players at his disposal, would Niko Kovac really not have won the title? Don’t get me wrong, Hansi Flick has done a fantastic job, but did sacking Kovac really change the destination of this season’s Meisterschale?
It is the teams towards the bottom where the question becomes a little more interesting.
There are those that did sack their trainer (Mainz, Augsburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Köln, Hertha Berlin) and those who kept the faith (Werder Bremen, Schalke, Paderborn).
After Kovac, Achim Beierlorzer was the next to go as Köln’s poor start to the season brought a nightmarish reminder of the 2017-18 relegation season to the fore. After taking just 7 points from their opening 11 matches and sitting in 17th place, Beierlorzer (only in the job since July) was out. A 0.6 points per game average was relegation form and the Geißböcke turned to Markus Gisdol. The desired turnaround was achieved as Köln ended the season in 14th. Gisdol won 25 points in his 27 matches in charge raising the points per game average to just 0.9. With Beierlorzer then leading Mainz to safety, the question needs to be asked as to whether luck changed for Köln or whether Gisdol was indeed the spark.
Sandro Schwarz was sacked by Mainz when in 16 place and they finished the season in 13th. The former coach had a 0.8 points per game average, new trainer Beierlorzer raised it to 1.2 per match. There was an obvious ‘bounce’ under Beierlorzer, who won his first game in charge 5-1 away at Hoffenheim. Survival was achieved at the Opel Arena, but would the Nullfünfer have made the same improvement had Schwarz been given more time?
Over at Hertha Berlin Ante Covic was fired with the capital club in 15th and picking up an average of 0.9 points per game. Jürgen Klinsmann’s nine matches brought it up to 1.3, whereas under Bruno Labbadia hit 1.44 in his nine games at the helm. To be fair, Covic did look out of his depth, Klinsmann did what Klinsmann does, whereas Labbadia looks the perfect fit for Hertha (for now).
At Düsseldorf, the tough decision was taken to sack Friedhelm Funkel, who had led them up from the 2. Bundesliga the season before last. Bottom of the pile with 15 points from 19 games was clearly too much for the bosses at Fortuna to stomach. Uwe Rösler wasn’t able to save them from the drop though, so how much was Funkel to blame and how much was it the players/ luck/ circumstances/ fate?
Augsburg actually went backwards a little under Heiko Herrlich. Martin Schmidt was sacked with the Fuggerstädter in 14th and they finished 15th under Heiko Herrlich (plus you wouldn’t have found Schmidt popping off to the supermarket for some hand cream).
Hoffenheim? Alfred Schreuder’s release had nothing really to do with points or positioning, so we’ll gloss over him.
Keep the faith
The one club, who possibly had more reason than most to sack the coach didn’t. Werder Bremen seriously toyed with a first relegation since 1981 but kept faith in Florian Kohfeldt in the belief that he was the right man for the job. The club even stressed that they would keep him on should the unthinkable relegation come to pass.
In the end, Werder escaped the drop by the skin of their teeth with Kohfeldt’s side squeezing past Heidenheim in the play-off in rather unimpressive style. You can say now in hindsight that Werder’s trust in their young coach was justified on the one hand, but was it Kohfeldt’s fault they were down there in the first place?
David Wagner must have nine lives as many other Schalke coaches down the years have been fired for reasons less valid than overseeing the club’s longest winless streak in the club’s Bundesliga history. His stock gained in the Hinrunde possibly saved him as well as the fact that the club have much deeper problems that just the man in the technical area. Only next season will tell whether he is the right man for the job, but nobody would be at all surprised in the Königsblauen are one of the clubs making a managerial change next year.
Stick or twist?
The decision to sack the coach is an oft taken one as this season once again proves. Was it worth it?
Bayern fans would say ‘yes’ as would Hertha Berlin supporters. Düsseldorf were still relegated so the jury is out there, whereas Mainz, Augsburg, and Köln survived providing just a little justification.
Waking up on Tuesday having overcome Heidenheim, Werder fans will be rejoicing that Florian Kohfeldt (one of their own) was given the chance to deliver salvation.
Just don’t be too surprised to see the same story play out next season as clubs start to hit the panic button in November or April. Does the button even work?