Bundesliga Coach Power Poll: Let’s Toast the Debut Edition

All sorts of ideas pop into one’s head when given an extra week away from league competition.

Hence is born the “Bundesliga Coach Power Poll.”

And, by “poll,” I am referring to a polling of one; me

Clumped into groups for ease of explanation to my reasoning, I rank the coaches of the top tier of German football from “think about getting your c.v. in order” to “practically bulletproof.”

Feel free to argue or support in the comments below. I may even consider them next time we (okay, I) do this.

Without further ado…

Sing for your supper:

 18. Roger Prinzen – 1. FC Nürnberg (10 days in position)

Congratulations, Herr Prinzen, on your new interim gig. Theoretically, the worst you can do here is be sent back to your prior job of leading the second team through the Regionalliga Bayern.

Though your predecessor, Michael Wiesinger, might argue that the REAL worst thing that might happen is you get moved from the second team to the first and do well enough to be given the job, only to be saddled with expectations a little bit above what might be reasonable for the roster you’re given and then fired about ten months from now.

He might even argue that a bit bitterly and then wish you well.

Still under warranty:

17. Bert van Marwijk – Hamburger SV (22 days)

16. Thomas Schneider – VfB Stuttgart (52 days)

The van Marwijk era is all sunshine and rainbows at the moment with four points from two away matches, but it IS only two matches old, putting it firmly in the post-coaching-change-bounce zone. Right now, “not Thorsten Fink” is as much the coach of HSV as is van Marwijk.

Schneider’s reign in Stuttgart may have moved out of the PCCB zone with the 1:1 at home to Werder Bremen a disappointing result from a match the home side otherwise dominated. Schneider even had a real veteran manager’s “pissed at my team right now” look on his face when the final whistle blew.

“Yikes! How are we not winning?!” (photo courtesy stuttgarter-zeitung.de)


Nobody’s fate is yet in the balance when these two clubs under new management meet Sunday, but points in Hamburg for VfB Stuttgart could be a start to deciding whether Schneider is “the guy” or just another “the next guy” before the next coaching search takes place.

Well, it’s been fun and thanks for your help, but don’t forget we’re a little crazy:

15. Markus Gisdol – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (198 days)

It’s a shame to have Gisdol this low, but one tradition at Hoffenheim, a club often charged by fans of other clubs of having a lack of tradition, is an utter lack of patience with their managers, with Gisdol being the seventh coach to wander the Hoffenheim coaching box since the start of 2011.

Were the world, and TSG Hoffenheim, a more fair place, Gisdol would have a lot more room for error that I cannot help but suspect. He overtook managerial duties in April with Hoffenheim on a clear path to relegation. He quickly did some relegation of his own, kicking several high-salary/low-performance players out of the rotation and launching a dedication to playing the game “the right way,” which was good enough to achieve a leap over Fortuna Düsseldorf in the dying minutes of the 2012-13 season and a fending-off of FC Kaiserslautern in the relegation playoff to retain top-league status.

Considering a direct relegation was all but expected, Gisdol was lauded as a hero.

Considering his team has scored 20 goals in eight matches just one season after scoring but 42 in 34, Gisdol should be hailed as the genius who solved the riddle of why Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland were not eating opposition alive.

Yet, considering his employer’s track record, scoring goals at a rate of 2.5 per match is only a strong case for endorsement if you’re not also conceding at that same break-neck pace.

And, MAN, can Hoffenheim concede goals in a hurry. A 2:0 lead in Mainz evaporated in the last ten minutes of the match, with the equalizer assisted by corner headed onto goal by FSV keeper Heinz Müller.

Could happen to anyone, eh?

Well, so could getting fired as Hoffenheim manager. Sorry, Gisdol, but recent history tells us it’s not a matter of “whether” down there in Sinsheim, rather a matter of “when.”

If you worked for Hoffenheim, you might already have been sacked:

14. Jens Keller – FC Schalke 04 (305 days)

13. Dieter Hecking – Vfl Wolfsburg (289 days)

12. Robin Dutt – SV Werder Bremen (138 days)

Though Keller would technically reach his one-year anniversary in charge at Gelsenkirchen before Christmas, the word “interim” was only removed from his title late last season after a thorough search for someone, ANYONE with a bigger name and resume and a rumors of heavy flirtation between Schalke boss Horst Heldt and Eintracht Frankfurt coach Armin Veh.

“Really, guys? A little help would be nice.” (photo courtesy schalke04.de)

Currently just one point outside a Europe spot and only two behind last year’s fourth-place finish, as well as qualification for the group stage of Champions League, things would look okay for Keller so far this year.

But this was a team picked to play at a much higher level this season after a busy summer of transfer work ended with Kevin-Prince Boateng making the shock arrival shortly after Schalke crept past PAOK into the Champions League. Despite all that is within the reach of the Royal Blues, they needed a direct red card to Ragnar Klavan to turn around their home match against FC Augsburg, in which they were down 1:0 early and thoroughly outplayed for the first fifteen minutes. The three points and 4:1 final obscures the fact that the team simply has yet to play well. With such a talent-laden roster, the blame will eventually fall on Keller should things not improve.

I dropped Hecking in here almost exclusively due to the 0:2 home loss to Eintracht Braunschweig. Even with the elevated emotion of the derby and the inspiration drawn from the support of a coach faced with self-doubt, Braunschweig had already proven themselves to be clear relegation fodder, managing only one point in their first seven matches. You have to think a team losing so clearly at home to such a struggling side might be facing demons of their own.

My sense is, however, that Klaus Allofs made his decision to hire Hecking quite carefully, and, considering his long-term relationship with Thomas Schaaf while at Werder Bremen, tends to want to give his coach plenty of time to develop the club.

Then again, Schaaf is available…

Dutt is another one I’d say is probably a bit safer than the early results would indicate.

Simply, Dutt may keep the job a while just because a club that has the same man in charge for 14 years isn’t likely to turn that job over again after four or five months.

For his part, though, Dutt had likely find better results soon or it may turn out the new leadership in Bremen is not quite as understanding as was Allofs.

Two victories to start the season was a pleasant surprise for Bremen followers after a summertime dotted with friendly losses to inferior clubs was capped with a 3:1 first-round exit from the DFB Pokal at the hands of 3-Liga FC Saarbrücken. The lone points since that start have all come against the three teams who’ve already made coaching changes this season. Only Braunschweig has scored fewer goals than Bremen, though, in fairness, four other teams also currently have only nine to their credit.

As I said, it’s too early to really be thinking a change might be on the near horizon, but a lot of eyebrows have been raised already at Bremen’s early performance.

I’m as shocked as you:

11. Jos Luhukay – Hertha BSC (473 days)

10. Thomas Tuchel – FSV Mainz (1530 days)

Let’s just say that semi-recent talk about whether Luhukay was the right man for Hertha BSC was so much nonsense. I’ve no idea whether club leadership was among those panicking during the two-match losing streak that apparently cast a shadow over the fast start, but I still find it unfathomable that anyone would have brought it up at all.

For my money (I have no money, but still…), Luhukay has been one of the best managers around while in Berlin and should be given a fairly wide berth. I personally admire a guy who is willing to bench his best player for disciplinary reasons and still get production out of him by using him as a substitute.

Heck, Luhukay for mayor of Berlin!

And Tuchel for mayor of Mainz!

I would think it more likely Tuchel would pull a Holger Stanislawski and just announce his departure at a press conference with a bewildered look on his face than ever being fired from Mainz. He’s consistently had FSV playing at a high level. Who can forget the seven victories at the beginning of  the 2010-11 season that made Mainz the toast of the league for a while and had everyone singing Tuchel’s praises for his direction of the “boy band” scoring attack led by Lewis Holtby, André Schürrle, Sami Allagui, and Adam Szalai?

Can it really be THAT bad, coach? (photo courtesty kicker.de)

Well, if you saw Tuchel’s demeanor on the sidelines during Mainz’s match with Hoffenheim, you saw a man who appeared to have forgotten all happiness, even in the midst of the dramatic comeback to grab a point through two goals in the last ten minutes. It took midfielder Niki Zimling’s grabbing Tuchel by the lapels after the match and shaking his coach as if to say, “Wake up, man! We just did something worth a smile!” to get even the smallest grin from what otherwise appeared to be a broken man.

I like Tuchel, so I hope something nice happened to him during the break. Maybe a pleasant dinner at a nice restaurant? Unexpected delivery of some balloons from fans? Anything. He has a long-standing case of the Mondays.

What have you done for me lately?:

9. Mirko Slomka – Hannover 96 (1367 days)

8. Armin Veh – Eintracht Frankfurt (839 days)

7. Lucien Favre – Borussia Mönchengladbach (976 days)

These three coaches all have some solid semi-recent accomplishments with their current clubs on the resume. The second acts of each of them, however, has been less inspired.

Slomka took over at Hannover with the Reds firmly in the relegation zone in January 2010. Nothing changed immediately, as the club lost their first six matches under Slomka, but managed an escape to 15th place with victories in the final two match days.

The next season saw a leap into a European spot and all appearances that Hannover was a rejuvenated club, but the 2012-13 campaign showed Hannover’s lack of depth and preparedness to fight on two separate fronts, dropping to the middle of the table, though also achieving the knockout stages of the Europa League.

So far this year, the puzzle for Slomka would seem to be solving an inability to score away from HDI-Arena, having been blanked in all three away matches so far this season. Even so, the Reds currently are playing well enough at home to sit fifth in the table, though the loss of Didier Ya Konan to injury for a few months could further test Hannover’s scoring capabilities, at least until a return of Mame Diouf, who has played in just one match since the end of August.

Lack of scoring is also at issue in Frankfurt. After blasting out to fourth place with 33 goals in the first half of their first season after promotion, the lights went out at Eintracht, with only 16 goals in the Rückrunde. Frankfurt managed to hold onto a European spot, if only barely.

“The goal is right there! THERE!”

Scoring is up slightly so far this year, in compare to last year’s finish, but not by much, as Frankfurt lingers in the table’s bottom third. Veh remains in favorable position for having gone from second-league to Europe in just one season, as well as for having chosen to stay in Frankfurt when other suitors came calling. The talent to score is there, but the goals have not always been. Even Veh is likely sick of that.

Favre has a similar tale, though it was a late-season avoidance of relegation, rather than a return from the second league, which preceded a storming into a Champions League-qualifier spot in the 2010-11 season and made the man with the Swiss accent the toast of Mönchengladbach.

Die Fohlen seemed to bulk their roster in the summer of 2011 for the coming double duty, though with the loss of Marco Reus to Borussia Dortmund, the ledger was maybe balanced at best. You can’t replace one great player even with a handful of good players.

Disappointingly, Borussia Mönchengladbach failed to qualify for Champions League. A decent showing in Europa League and a mid-table finish were all well and good, but not quite what fans may have expected after a precipitous rise in fortune under Favre.

Mönchengladbach have been among the stronger sides thus far in Bundesliga play, though the first-round DFB Pokal loss to SV Darmstadt stung a bit. Only one point has been earned on the road in four matches away from Borussia-Park, but some of that hangs on a brutal early away schedule, with trips to FC Bayern München and Bayer Leverkusen out of the way after match day three. Conditions are favorable for a long-term stay in the table’s top four for Favre and the ponies.

I love you, man!:

6. Torsten Lieberknecht – Eintracht Braunschweig (1984 days)

5. Markus Weinzierl – FC Augsburg (473 days)

You have to appreciate the situation in Braunschweig. Lieberknecht helped build BTSV into a club capable of earning promotion over the course of a few years, but was overwhelmed by how completely his squad was overwhelmed by the rise in competitive level upon their arrival in the top league. At his deepest moment of public self-doubt, fans of the club rallied around the man who had earned but one point in seven Bundesliga matches, offering a public sign of support at the Braunschweig training grounds, boosting the overall morale of the coach in the week leading up to the 0:2 derby victory at Wolfsburg.

BTSV seems to know their place in the world, never seeming to waver in their support of Lieberknecht. It may be enough to keep their man in place as long as he’s not poached by someone with bigger plans and a bigger budget, but unlikely to be enough to remain in the top league.

Then again, who saw last weekend coming? I sure didn’t!

Weinzierl has a much more-pronounced cult status as a manager right now. Just a year-point-five removed from nearly leaping out of his denims upon achieving the promotion to 2. Bundeliga of Jahn Regensburg, Weinzierl somehow managed to guide FCA away from what appeared to be a sure relegation campaign last season and into a solid start this season, with more points earned in eight matches than in the entire Hinrunde last year.

Weinzierl hardly has the same length of tenure at Augsburg as what Lieberknecht has at Braunschweig, which maybe will make his being hired away by another club sting a little bit less when it ultimately happens.

And I believe it will ultimately happen. Weinzierl, at just 38 years of age, is a rising star in the coaching ranks.

With great power comes great responsibility:

4. Pep Guardiola – FC Bayern München (108 days)

“No, I’m not nervous. Why would I be nervous? Do I look nervous?” (photo courtesy skysports.com)

Easily among the most-anticipated and then most-celebrated hires in all of football this summer, Pep Guardiola already has to have felt the pressing weight of the lofty expectations at his new club.

I’m not sure what it would take for Bayern to sack Guardiola, but I doubt we’ll find out. Despite some early questions as to whether it was appearing to have been wise to tinker so much with a team coming off a historic treble, the club with the new Lederhosen-looking kits are starting to look a bit like a python in Lederhosen, slowly constricting and squeezing the life out of the hopes of almost all would-be challengers.

Of course, those who have complained about Pep are those who expected Bayern to start winning every match instantly by 8:0 margins.

Or, as I like to call those people, “crazies.”

Pep will be in Munich as long as he cares to stay, I feel somewhat certain of that.

But he’d best beat Dortmund.

What a pleasant surprise!:

3. Sami Hyypiä – Bayer Leverkusen (564 days…108 without a co-coach)

Somehow, Hyypiä had me convinced that it was Sascha Lewandowski pulling the strings at Leverkusen last season. While the big Finnish defender sat quietly on the bench, observing his team, it was his co-manager on his feet shouting instruction to the team.

Yet, it was Lewandowski who went back to other coaching duties within the club when it was determined that a one-man approach was the better way to handle leadership responsibilities.

And Hyypiä continues to quietly watch the matches with no reason to stand up and yell.

Whoa! Easy with all the excitement, boss!

A loss at Schalke and a draw at home to Bayern are the only dropped points this season so far, making for a great start for die Werkself. Unfortunately, that’s still only go0d enough for third place, which has been the recent ceiling for a club aching for something more. Achieving the knockout stages of Champions League would be a good start. A winnable DFB Pokal match at Freiburg would get Leverkusen into the quarterfinals of the cup tournament, which would also match last year’s achievements, but for Hyypiä’s squad to get the RESPEKT! they crave, they’re going to have to push into second place, make the cup semi-finals, and win their first knockout battle in Champions League.

Will Hyypiä even crack a smile? Let’s wait and see.

Can you have co-Godfathers?:

2. Christian Streich – SC Freiburg (655 days)

1. Jürgen Klopp – Borussia Dortmund (1934 days)

One sits two from the bottom, the other two from the top.

Yet, will anyone dispute these are the two “Teflon Dons” among Bundesliga coaches? How many current Bundesliga clubs would not fire the man they have right now if either of these guys called and said, “I’m yours for the asking”?

It’s not zero, probably, but it’s pretty close to it.

Streich is a master of developing talent, making the most out of what he was given at SC Freiburg.

Unfortunately, raiding parties on his talent has left the cupboard somewhat thin and led Streich to have to reassemble his club. As of now, avoiding relegation would appear to be legitimate stretch goal for a club also playing in Europa League.

Has a club ever been relegated the same season it was playing in Europe? If I had a stats department, I’d be able to tell you.

I’m pulling for Streich, so maybe I have an out-sized idea of his esteem in Germany, but I don’t believe anyone would blame the “0” in the win column for SCF on Streich.

Kloppo is simply Kloppo. Not only can you credit him for Dortmund’s recent dominance of the Bundesliga and last year’s run to the Champions League final, but you should blame all his success for inspiring FC Bayern to open their wallets yet further to assure they’d finally return to the top of the Bundesliga and, why not, all of Europe.

“How can I be more like Kloppo?” (photo courtesy süddeutsche.de)

Even with Bayern fishing in Dortmund’s pond, luring away Mario Götze and, apparently, Robert Lewandowski, Dortmund lingers in the shadows as Bayern’s potential boogeyman. As long as Klopp remains in Dortmund, it’ll be hard to count them out of the picture.

How long will he stay? It seems likely he’s been approached by some of Europe’s bigger clubs in times of coaching needs and will continue to do so. Yet, he’s not budged, preferring to make a run at transforming Dortmund into a European power for the long-term.

That’s it! That’s the list!

We’ll revisit this at some point, maybe even with some new names on it and some movement among the members.

Until then…

Header photo courtesy of bayer04.de

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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