After an impressive first season with RB Leipzig, which culminated in the DFB Pokal win, the wheels have fallen off at RB Leipzig with the club enduring a torrid start to the season. A 4-0 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend meant they had taken just five points from the first five games and last night’s Champions League debacle against Shakhtar Donetsk made a bad situation even worse. The club have reacted by sacking coach Domenico Tedesco
Back in 2017-18 Tedesco (a relatively novice trainer after coaching Erzgebirge Aue for just 11 matches) led Schalke to second spot in the Bundesliga in his first season only to be fired the following season after a 7-0 Champions League defeat to Manchester City and a run of seven games without a win. History it seems is repeating itself.
In football ‘second season syndrome’ affects teams, players, and managers alike with an impressive first season often followed by a much more difficult second campaign. Schalke’s second place finish to Bayern Munich in 2018 actually saw them 21 points behind the champions and the following year the signs soon became apparent that Tedesco wasn’t the messiah who was going to lead them to the title.
After his sacking Fortuna Düsseldorf trainer Friedhelm Funkel offered his opinion as to what had gone wrong for the young coach. “I think he over-achieved. He played an outstanding first season with Schalke, but then maybe he wanted too much too quickly.
“As a coach, you have to have the dressing room under control. Saying goodbye to Höwedes, giving up Naldo, who was the best player the year before, dismissing Fährmann as captain – If you don’t have players like that to back you up in the dressing room, then you don’t have a chance as a coach anymore. Those are the kind of mistakes you make at a young age because you’re maybe too hyped.”
With Julian Nagelsmann performing wonders at Hoffenheim, there was very much a push amongst some clubs to appoint young, up and coming coaches- Florian Kohfeldt at Werder is another example. The theory that it was a case of too much, too soon holds water for Tedesco at Schalke. It was a massive club, that at first enjoyed success in the trainer’s honeymoon period, but the reality soon bit hard, and Tedesco was found out.
Last season at the Red Bull Arena American trainer Jesse Marsch lasted just four months in the job before being sacked. Leipzig were 11th in the Bundesliga table, having won just five games out of 14. Tedesco was the somewhat surprise choice to succeed him having left his job at Spartak Moscow the previous June.
He turned things around and ultimately guided die Roten Bullen to a fourth-place finish in the league (and Champions League qualification) plus oversaw an historic first trophy beating Freiburg on penalties in the DFB Pokal final.
The current mini crisis at the club raised the spectre that this is a flaw in Tedesco’s ability. The first season high is predictably being followed by a second season low. Tedesco was openly critical of his players after the Frankfurt defeat, but more guarded following the 4-1 home loss to Shakhtar.
Was the job simply too much for the 36-year-old coach? Has he been found out as a coach who can get instant, early results, but not build long-term consistency? Were the players buying into his way of playing? The team did look mentally weak against Shakhtar especially after the Ukrainian side’s second goal right after Simakan had equalised. There was little reaction and urgency- does this stem from the coach?
There are however other underlying factors for Leipzig’s poor showing this season, which cannot be laid at the coach’s door. However, those in charge have decided to act and it’s his head on the chopping block.
CEO Oliver Mintzlaff today announced: “The decision to release Domenico Tedesco was very difficult for us. We played a very successful second half of the season with Domenico last season and qualified for the Champions League. In addition, we won our first major title with the DFB Cup and thus played the most successful season in our young club history.
“We owe him and his coaching team a big thank you for that. Domenico is an excellent coach who will certainly continue to be successful. However, after the moderate start to the Bundesliga season with five points from five games, especially after the most recent games at Eintracht Frankfurt and at home against Shakhtar Donetsk, we lacked the conviction that an immediate turnaround could take place in the current constellation.
“We have overall responsibility for RB Leipzig and want to achieve our goals. Therefore, in the overall assessment, we came to the conclusion that we need a new impetus. We regret that we are now parting ways and would like to expressly thank Domenico Tedesco and his team for the work they have done. We wish Domenico all the best for his sporting and private future.”
A definite case of history repeating itself.