Bundesliga MatchDay 26 again proved that our favorite league is wildly unpredictable. On Friday, FC Koln continued their winning ways at home by shutting down Hannover 96 4-0. Saturday saw Bayern Munich rebound from three consecutive defeats with a resounding 6-0 win over Hamburg SV. Also on Saturday, 1899 Hoffenheim upset league leaders Borussia Dortmund by a 1-0 score on a goal by Vedad Ibisevic, while slumping 1. FC Kaiserslautern were victorious over slumping SC Freiburg, 2-1. 1. FC Nurnberg continued their unbeaten streak in 2011 with a last-minute goal to down VfL Wolfsburg 2-1, while FC Schalke 04 withstood Eintracht Frankfurt’s first goal of 2011 and won 2-1. Last-place Borussia Monchengladbach shared points with Werder Bremen on a last gasp goal by Dante, as the two teams drew 1-1.
On Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz, both looking for European play next year, struggled to gain an advantage. Finally, an alert play by Renato Augusto to strip the ball from Mainz defender Bo Svensson gave Leverkusen the victory as Augusto blasted a shot past Christian Wetklo for the win. In the final match of the weekend, VfB Stuttgart got three points on the road as they dropped St. Pauli 2-1. What did we learn from MatchDay 26?
Hamburg SV: The Rot of Mediocrity
But the rot of mediocrity extends deep into the club. Veh probably deserved his dismissal, but the players and team management certainly share in the problem. While Hamburg are the only team since the forming of the Bundesliga in 1963 to never been relegated, they have spiraled downward into a chaotic numbness of mediocrity. Yes, Hamburg currently sit in 8th place in the table and are within distance of a Europa League berth for next year. But they are a huge club from an affluent city, and their fans deserve better. Their lack of trophies and absence from European play belie the fact that they are truly a big club anymore.
While there are ten clubs below Hamburg in the standings that would gladly swap berths, Hamburg have been singularly uninspiring this season. Yes, teams such as Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Freiburg have slumped badly since winter break, but at least they gave their fans much to be cheerful about in the Hinrunde. Meanwhile, teams such as FC Koln, VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Monchengladbach have rebounded from poor beginnings to give solace and comfort to their supporters. But Hamburg are stuck in mediocrity. Even though they have won 11 games, does one get a sense of teamwork, tactical superiority or even joy when they capture three points? I don’t. It seems that Hamburg’s victories this season are merely a result of a certain level of talent, and they exude none of the joy and team spirit that are apparent in Dortmund, Hannover and other cities.
I wish Michael Oenning well in his debut as the club’s trainer, but until the players shed their selfishness and club management gets their act together, I’m afraid Hamburg’s mediocrity will continue, and they will remain perhaps the most boring team in the Bundesliga. I mean no disrespect to the history of the Hamburg club and its fans, but team management need to look in the mirror and see how their failings are depriving Hamburg fans of exciting football. Firing Armin Veh will not, in itself, solve the problem.
Kaiserslautern won for the first time in league play in 2011 Saturday with their 2-1 defeat of SC Freiburg. The game was dramatically rescued by Napoli loanee Erwin Hoffer, as the Austrian international scored two minutes into added time to put smiles on the K-Town fans at Fritz-Walter-Stadion.
Kaiserslautern ended their erratic Hinrunde in the 12th position in the Bundesliga, not bad for a newly promoted club. And although one win in nine 2011 league matches is poor, the Red Devils have drawn four times in the new year and have lost one match by only one goal. Though the club is currently in 14th place and only five points above last-place Borussia Monchengladbach, there is a saving grace for the club. That is, they have already played almost all of the Bundesliga clubs in the top half of the table , already in 2011 — Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Hannover, Freiburg, Hamburg and Hoffenheim, and have always already met one of the hottest clubs of the new year, FC Koln.
Kaiserslautern take on Borussia Monchengladbach on MatchDay 26 and follow up at home against Bayer Leverkusen. Their final six matchday opponents include Stuttgart, Nurnberg, Schalke, St. Pauli, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen, and except for Der Club and the Royal Blues, all teams that are in the same relegation-zone boat as the Red Devils. One would think that Coach Marco Kurz can take points from many of the remaining teams on Kaiserslautern’s schedule. If so, the newly promoted team may have another year in the top tier of German football. And while the current club is not reminiscent of the glory days in Kaiserslautern, to stay up another season will be a solid accomplishment.