Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Bundesliga Show Episode 38 – An evening at the Zeitgeist

Jon found himself in London this week. So what better way to take advantage of his sojourn to the UK capital than by decamping to the Zeitgeist pub in South London for an evening of beer, schnitzel, DFB Pokal and podcasting.

Joining us for the evening was Kyle Barber. Together, the three of us discussed the last weekend’s Bundesliga results, look ahead to the weekend’s action and there is even time to review the DFB Pokal second round results.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 38: An evening at the Zeitgeist by soundoffootball

The Bundesliga Show Episode 37 – Can anyone stop Bayern in the Bundesliga?

This week is a Champions League free zone on The Bundesliga Show, but Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley chat over Matchday 9 and look forward to a very exciting next weekend in the Bundesliga. The game of the week for Matchday 10 – Hannover versus Bayern Munich.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 37 – Can anyone stop Bayern in the Bundesliga? by soundoffootball

Dutt-Struck Luck This Time

In the interest of full disclosure, the following words come from a bitter Bayer Leverkusen fan. Jon & Terry neither endorse this sort of knee-jerk analysis nor ascribe to the slightly deranged opinions mentioned below. Or they could–I just didn’t ask them. 

Bayer 04 should give those three points back to Valencia and someone should tie a knot in Robin Dutt’s scarf out of spite. Yes, Leverkusen rallied to nip three points off the Spaniards in a crucial Champions League tie at BayArena, but honestly, the victory does not feel deserved. The more important points, though, were matters of an ongoing nature, and the final outcome–which finds Werkself sitting on 6 points and 2nd in the group–glosses over these concerns like whitewash on a dirty and rotted wooden fence.Perhaps this is being overly critical of the club and its trainer only a few matches into the Bundesliga season and the alternate legs of European fixtures still to come, so take this with a grain of salt.

There are three points to the bad that can be taken from that Valencia match, and they are unlikely to be addressed before Bayer 04 take on Los Che at the Mestalla nor in the preceding Bundesliga matches against Schalke 04 (massive) and Freiburg. That realisation is more frustrating than what transpired against the Vampire-Bats, or whatever it is Los Che means.

To begin, what purpose did Michael Ballack serve on the pitch? Yes, this is a pinched nerve with Leverkusen supporters, but overall he was dreadful against Valencia. Having read the Bild story about how “Captain Ballack” dragged the club back with a brilliant 190 seconds of work, one would get the impression he had a good match. Isolating on him, though, it appeared he played most of the match at a trot slower than a farm horse with a broken back and couldn’t be too bothered about tracking back defensively, or moving beyond the speed of a submarine turning around in the water.

About the only thing that was right about the Bild story was he pretended to be a part of the match for a little over three minutes.

With Ballack in a more advanced position and doing virtually nothing other than looking for his Valencia defender and sticking close to him in case he had a snack or something, Ballack deprived both the attack and the defense throughout the match. At several points during both halves, Stefan Kießling was to be found having to track back considerably to assist on defending out wide–perhaps where “El Capitan” should have been. Further, there are too many times when Kießling was seen actually running past a lethargic Ballack far too deep in the midfield from his striker’s position to pressure an opponent on the ball or streaking in for a loose ball, then having to turn back to goal and dribble in to restart the attack.Isn’t that what Ballack should have been doing the whole time, with Stefan positioned somewhat more dangerously?

The trickle-down effect–Reaganomics works people!–was that Simon Rolfes was made largely irrelevant where he was positioned. Ballack was occupying an area of the pitch Rolfes could have made some contribution out of in terms of being able to better link the midfield and the forwards, but instead he played a bit further back defensively in the 4-2-3-1 formation, which was of no help to anyone else wearing red and black on the evening. While there are some who will question his true worth, it is a certainty Rolfes would have done more playing in the more advanced CAM Dutt had Ballack occupy.

In actuality, Rolfes did little more than get in Lars Bender’s way and quite often forced him to perform the lion’s share of the dirty work on a night when at least two of Leverkusen’s elder statesmen couldn’t be bothered. Judging by the number of times Bender committed to a tackle or slid to sneak an errant pass from Valencia’s midfielder, perhaps Rolfes was concerned that, given his age and injury history, he’d crack a hip doing the same thing.

And he probably would have, which begs the question: why was Rolfes one of your holding midfielders while Ballack played up top Herr Dutt? Surely he spotted this same comedy of errors taking place and adjusted accordingly, right? Nein. Instead, the incongruity was allowed to continue, and in truth, the two goals where created mainly through the quality of Schürrle and Sam. Andre’s shot was a thunderbolt that punished Los Che for not moving out of their own penalty area quickly enough whereas the second came about because Sidney had the speed to get to that lazy pass from Ballack faster than his defender. Other than those moments, the remainder of the match was like a flaming bag of dog poo placed on the front porch by those meddling kids.

It is the season for tricks and treats, after all. For Leverkusen fans, let’s hope Dutt’s got new tricks available soon, because there will not be too many more treats such as the one given Wednesday evening either in Champions League or Bundesliga.

Thorsten Fink – The New Boy at Big School

When Thorsten Fink was appointed at Hamburg recently, it finally put to bed the speculation about who will be the new coach at the club, but it unfortunately left far too many questions unanswered about the future of HSV.

By the time the former FC Basel coach finally started his tenure at Hamburg, it was just shy of a month since the departure of Michael Oenning from the post. But why did it take so long to fill what should be an extremely coveted position, that many coaches around Europe should have been clamoring to take? Was it purely the case that the club wanted to make sure that they got their man? Or was it that they didn’t know the kind of guy they needed or wanted? Either way, it was probably another case of poor planning at the Volkspark Stadium that has dogged Hamburg for many a moon. Let us not forget that with the arrival of Fink it took the number of HSV coaches (including interim appointments) in the last decade to 13 (since Frank Pagelsdorf). And of those ‘permanent’ coaches, only one managed to win over 50% of his games at the club (Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf has 50.75% over the last 12-years), and that was Martin Jol. The Dutchman has been a bit of an exception to the rule of late in Hamburg, a manager who left rather than was fired and chose to go to Ajax. Yes Ajax are a big club, and he is Dutch, but when you look at the size and potential of both clubs it could be argued that Hamburg would have been an equally good fit…perhaps even better. This doesn’t paint a good picture for what is going on behind the scenes at Hamburg, as it seems that coaches are either fired or they choose to leave even when the going on the pitch is not too bad.

Last week, Hamburg Sporting Director Frank Arnesen, stated that Fink was his first choice to be Oenning’s replacement but the history of the move doesn’t exactly suggest that. There was the reported attempt to get Huub Stevens into the role, but this didn’t happen and the club were left to search again. There were big names and up and coming names flying around in the speculation. Everyone from Marco van Basten to Morten Olsen were linked with the job, and even the likes of Louis van Gaal and even Gus Hiddink was reportedly in the frame…but the man who got the job was Fink.

But is this going to be a good choice for Fink and HSV? As we know, the club expects results and when they don’t get them the manager at the time usually gets the boot. The fans expect as well, after-all, (as is so often banded around) HSV are the only constant in the history of the Bundesliga and are three time winners of the title – and this loads pressure on Fink from the off. But the good thing is that unlike his predecessor Oenning, this young manager is twice winner of the Swiss Super League and also has a Swiss Cup to his name as well. This of course is no guarantee of success at HSV. Armin Veh won the Bundesliga title with Stuttgart, but has not gone on to great things at Hamburg or anywhere else for that matter. One thing that Fink has in his favour is the fact that he has been working with a side that has had to blend youth and experience, something that at Hamburg is a must. He promoted several of Basel’s members of the Swiss under-21 squad, and blended them with veterans like former Dortmund striker Alexander Frei. This bending of youth and experience is certainly the philosophy that has been employed at HSV (even if a little rapidly), but there is no doubt that Fink if can do the same good job with Hamburg’s youthful talent and the veterans, then this will be a successful time at the club.

He is unfortunately faced with the problem of trying to get the best out of the squad quickly, which could be especially after they have seen so much of upheaval already this season. He needs to galvanise a the team, tactically and mentally and keep it up as just around the corner is the winter break. The winter break, far from being a time of rest and relaxation is crucial to a teams season, and dealing with the second half of the season preparation is key…HSV aren’t in the position to get that wrong.

Being coach of HSV has in recent time had its serious pitfalls but for Thorsten Fink, it could pay off…but then again, this hasn’t been the way for so many before him at the Bundesliga Dinosaur.

The Sound of One Hand Hitting Another

Most would consider that a positive sound, as in the sound of clapping at something pleasing to the eyes or ears. Now, we were recently made aware that the noise of flesh striking flesh means something entirely different to Bayern Munich fans bored at a match, but that’s not where this is going (or is it?) but let’s focus instead on the less embarrassing connotations. Much like its pessimistic cousin the audible “Boo” immediately suggests immense displeasure at whatever a spectator is witnessing, clapping brings with it a feeling of acceptance, whether begrudgingly polite or enthusiastic, along with a sense that whatever has just transpired was something good to behold. In football, it can be derived from such a simple thing as an outlet pass, or it can be the outward expression of emotions and events wrapped up in so many other complex matters taking place off the pitch. In any analysis, clapping in football is surrounded by that warm, fuzzy feeling we still get when fresh baked cookies are about to be served.

So, did you hear clapping when Kaiserslautern extended the contract of trainer Marco Kurz, or where you too busy munching on those chocolate chips?

If you didn’t, most likely it was because the announcement was made almost as an aside during a week when most football observers were still stuck in transition from following the final group play matches of Euro 2012 qualification to the weekend’s league games. Or possibly, as 1.FCK do not often find themselves headlining the news when there’s so much to discuss about how incredibly awesome Bayern Munich is or how Borussia Dortmund are faring thus far following last season’s glorious run, events at the Fritz Walter Stadion are just out of earshot. Jon and Terry highlighted Kurz receiving an extension to his contract on the Bundesliga Show, and while they were not heard clapping–which might not come across very well on podcasts anyway–you could certainly hear the positive tones in their voices when discussing this decision by Die roten Tuefel. It would seem incredibly odd, though, to suggest applause at the move to keep Kurz at the Betzenberg even longer, considering he has managed Kaiserslautern into the relegation mixer thus far this Bundesliga campaign.

After all, when their club is looking up the table and sees so many more clubs above them than below them, this is the moment when supporters start calling for the manager’s head, right? And why should fans of other Bundesliga clubs care enough about this to even give 1.FCK a perfunctory clap of approval?

In a league where club management demonstrates a lack of fear over throwing the baby out with the bath water before the temperature in the tub is even cool when it comes to Bundesliga trainers, this decision should be applauded both for the simple and the complex issues it represents. At the most basic level, giving Kurz a longer contract indicates something more substantial than the oft-heard “vote of confidence” from a club’s board that precedes a sacking once a side’s form does not improve. While the Red Devils are not where they want to be on the table for now, Kurz has been shown that the club does truly believe he will manage them away from a relegation spot come season’s end, and he is being provided additional time–calculated in euros rather than in empty words–to see out his vision for Kaiserslautern.

Further, make no mistake that extending Kurz for an additional year could also be considered a hollow gesture from chairperson Stefan Kuntz to spur on a bit of confidence for the team. Kuntz is acutely aware ‘Lautern are not an organisation that can be casual with commitments of its finances, either on player wages or coaches’ salaries. This season’s squad reflects that harsh reality, with the offseason losses of important players such as Ivo Iličević and Srdjan Lakic to bigger sides, as well as an inability to make permanent signings of lads like Jan Morávek and Erwin Hoffer, who played significant minutes for 1.FCK on their way to finishing 7th in the 2010/11 campaign. Quite simply, this is not the Kaiserslautern of the 1990s that could win a 1.Bundesliga title, get relegated, then fund its way back to an unprecedented double by winning the 2nd division one year and claiming the top flight the following year.

Rather, this is a Kaiserslautern that nearly went bust at the close of the past decade, narrowly escaped relegation to the hinterlands of Germany’s third division, and are still recovering from those lows.

From the more complicated view, rewarding Kurtz now despite his club’s slow start to the season serves as a reminder that during this time in top European football, when even the slightest poor run of form elicits the baying for blood from impatient, gloryhunting fans–apologies if you qualify, but doubt you are if you’re reading this anyway–and swift sackings by club boards, there still exists such a concept as rational patience. The established study of managerial terminations specific to the Dutch leagues from 1986-2004 demonstrated there was little change in a club’s fortunes when firing a manager during the season, and quite often his successor compiled a similar record of misery. Also, the only positive gain for a club happened during the first three matches of the new trainer’s reign, thus quantifying the idea of a “new manager bounce.” Now, within that study, effects specific to Bundesliga were analysed as well using 2000/01 season data, with the only difference being the German league sees more forced resignations from its club trainers rather than outright terminations.

Other than this, the data indicated Bundesliga clubs performed roughly the same as their Dutch counterparts, suggesting in-season managerial upheaval in the German top flight held true to the Shakespearean quote on tales told by idiots. Thus what Kuntz and Kaiserslautern’s board have recognised is that the expectant knee-jerk response–to publicly bemoan the club’s position and place Kurz on notice he is managing on borrowed time–would likely increase their short-term success by only a couple matches and posturing for an immediate future without Kurz in charge could possibly do more damage to the club’s chances should they be unable to avoid the drop at season’s end. Kurz has been with the club during most recent lower league days, managed them to promotion, and could be well placed to repeat the feat should 2011/12 be less than optimal. Perhaps the board also acknowledges with this extension that Kurz has been given a less talented bunch of apples in this season’s Bundesliga basket to bake his apple pie, and he should be afforded a longer period to be the head chef should financial fortunes improve later for the club to buy higher quality ingredients at the transfer shop the next go round.

What this also speaks to is the clear division between the big and the small in Bundesliga. Finding themselves also at the wrong end of the table early in the season, Hamburg SV chose the predictable action in sacking Michael Oenning. While there was a time of uncertainty as caretaker boss Rodolfo Cardoso was denied a chance to prolong his tenure without the necessary licensing and Sporting Director Frank Arnesen even called his own name were the club able to find a suitable replacement soon, the dinosaur of the league was able to shower FC Basle with enough money to part with their promising young manager Thorsten Fink. Hamburg look to have settled their form woes through the usual path, as this is a club expected to compete regularly for Bundesliga titles and play in Europe rather than in relegation scraps. The northern club is a massive one with the financial base to recruit top coaches and top talent, and legions of Rothosen supporters demand the club’s board utilise these resources to fulfill aspirations of trophy-laden seasons.

They have the ability to buy a brown sack for Oenning while picking up new clothes for another emperor simultaneously while 1.FC Kaiserslautern pull out a needle and thread with Kurz to stitch up their 2011/12 campaign.

How about a round of applause then, for 1.FCK for making a sensible decision? When the next club in crisis emerges this season–which will inevitably occur–perhaps that club’s board will look upon what is happening on the Betzenberg and be slower to draw their axes. Not every season ends in glory, no campaign should be looked upon as a zero-sum game, and patience is a virtue to be admired rather than scorned these days. Otherwise, you might find yourself arrested for having sex in the stands of a match you’ve lost patience for watching.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 36 – HSV get their man & lets talk 2.Bundesliga

**Podcast announcement – This pod was recorded just hours before HSV appointed Thorsten Fink as new manager **

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen chat over the protracted search for a new coach at Hamburg and Thorsten Fink’s suitability for the job.

Also in the show an interview with Richard Montague from Football Radar about what has been happening in the 2.Bundesliga so far this season.


The Bundesliga Show Episode 36 – HSV get their man & lets talk 2.Bundesliga by soundoffootball

The Bundesliga Show Episode 35 – Matchday 8 and the Northern Entertainers

A short but sweet Bundesliga Show this week, where Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley talk over Matchday 8, Bayern’s draw, Derdyok’s wonder goal and the Northern Derby cracker between Hannover and Bremen.

Also in the show, a chat with Tim Röhn from Bild about the never boring boys from Bremen.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 35 – Matchday 8 and the Northern Entertainers by soundoffootball