VfL Wolfsburg have announced the appointment of 1 FC Nürnberg coach Dieter Hecking as team manager. Hecking, 48, had coached Der Club since December, 2009, amassing a 42-23-47 record. The native of Castrop-Rauxel, in the Ruhr Valley area, began his coaching career in 2000 with SC Verl following a 17 year playing career, and also managed VfB Lübeck, Alemannia Aachen and Hannover before taking over in Nürnberg.
The phrase “never go back” is something that can now be applied to Felix Magath. A hero after guiding Wolfsburg to the 2008-09 Bundesliga title; his second spell at the club was far less successful, with him being sacked after only being able to muster five points from eight games. His disciplinarian ways saw him disliked by the Wolfsburg squad, with captain Diego Benaglio the only player to back Magath when the chairman asked six Wolfsburg players whether Magath should stay or go. After Magath’s departure, the first thing the players did was to put a stereo into the changing room: this may seem minor, but it represents the new-found freedom the players had.
Lorenz-Günther Köstner, manager of Wolfsburg’s reserves, was appointed as caretaker manager until the Hindrunde, and possibly beyond. This was a role he had fulfilled before, with him being caretaker for the first six months of 2010, in which he won ten of his 21 matches in charge.
As affirmed to earlier, Köstner gave the side more freedom to express themselves on the pitch. Egotistical talents like Diego and Naldo started to show their true qualities, whilst summer signings such as Bas Dost and Fagner were starting to adapt to Bundesliga life. When he was appointed caretaker, Die Wolfe were adrift at the bottom of the league. Now they are in 15th place, which represents mass underachievement from initial expectations, but a vast improvement on their early form. In his nine Bundesliga games in charge, Köstner won four, drew two and lost three, as well as taking them to the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal.
Some may feel Lorenz-Günther Köstner should have been given the job on a permanent basis after the good job he did in steadying the ship. With the appointment of Klaus Allofs as managing director, it looked like a change of emphasis was possible. Thomas Schaaf, Allofs’ long-time companion at Werder Bremen was mentioned, as well former Real Madrid manager Bernd Schuster and Nuremberg’s Dieter Hecking. It was the latter who secured the job on a contract until 2016.
On the whole, Hecking’s spell at Nuremberg was a success. When he first joined the club at the start of the 2009-10 season, they were a club with a reputation for yo-yoing between the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga. After helping them to survive via the relegation play-offs, he led them to a brilliant 6th place finish in the 2010-11 season and to 10th the following season. He helped to stabilise Nuremberg into a mid-table Bundesliga side, and did a good job on the limited budget at his disposal.
This season, though, Hecking has warranted criticism from the Nuremberg faithful. A defensive style of football may have seen them concede the fifth-least amount of goals in the Bundesliga so far, but they suffer from impotency up-front. The point is epitomised by the fact that striker Sebastian Polter is their top-scorer with only three goals. Going into the Hindrunde, Nuremberg lie in the 14th position, both one place and point above Hecking’s new employees Wolfsburg.
So what should Hecking do at Wolfsburg? The first thing would be to trim the squad and help to develop the team-spirit: the club currently have 37 players on their books, with a further 10 out on-loan. He also needs to try to relieve the pressure of Bas Dost, who has scored 41% of Wolfsburg’s goal this season, by adding a further attacking edge to the side. From a club point of view, Hecking should look to guide the Volkswagen-owned club to a top-half finish, and even challenge for a Europa League place.
Hecking’s appointment represents one of both surprise and ambition. He did an admirable job at Nuremberg, where he gained notoriety for building a stringent defence and having an eye for cheap talent. If he can put these skills into practice at Nuremberg, as well as adding potency to the attack, he could become a success at Wolfsburg.
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