Goals Galore Guaranteed – Thomas Schaaf takes charge of the Eagles

Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Hübner had promised a big name solution to take over for The Eagles departing coach Armin Veh. Roberto Di Matteo and Bernd Schuster were among the candidates mentioned lately by the press. It was one of the first candidates mentioned when it became clear that Veh would leave at the end of the season, however, who got the job in the end.

Former Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf has found a new home after taking a one-year sabbatical from coaching. Schaaf has been at Werder his entire career, spanning 40 years total as a youth player, professional, and coach.

The 53-year-old was let go last season after Werder Bremen struggled for a third consecutive season, a result of the Bremen board finally losing their patience after 14 years of Schaaf serving as head coach of the Green-and-Whites. During his tenure in the Hanseatic city, Schaaf won the DFB cup thrice and the Bundesliga championship once, also taking Werder Bremen to the UEFA Cup final in 2009.

Eintracht Frankfurt’s CEO Heribert Bruchhagen was full of praise for the club’s new coach:

“We are delighted to have brought in a coach in Thomas Schaaf who, we are certain, is a good fit here at Eintracht Frankfurt.”

Sporting director Bruno Hübner added:

“I have had comprehensive talks with all the candidates. It paid off to talk with these candidates. We wanted a coach who stands for success, continuity, (and) for developing young players. Thomas Schaaf fits that profile 100%.”

Schaaf and Eintracht – a good fit?

Following every Bundesliga coach firing during the 2013-14 season, Schaaf’s name immediately was mentioned among the possible candidates to fill the new vacancy. Both Schalke and Hannover were said to be interested in Schaaf’s services. However, both of these clubs come with a particular set of challenges. The Royal Blues have a demanding set of fans, and the job is considered to be fairly high-pressure, while Hannover’s chairman, Martin Kind, has a tendency to get involved in the day-to-day business of how his club is run. If those two jobs ever were actually on offer, there were certainly outside factors which caused Schaaf to wait for the right offer to come along.

Despite the dire form of Werder during his final three years there, it seems strange, that a three-time cup-winning coach with a league championship and six Champions League trips on the bounce would decide to join Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles are certainly on a budget, and it would come as a surprise if their top priority for the coming season wasn’t as humble as to secure 40 points to stave-off relegation.

If one considers this move a bit more closely, however, there are several elements suggesting how this new coach-club union makes sense. Eintracht CEO Bruchhagen has fired only two coaches during his eleven years at the club (Willy Reimann in 2004 and Michael Skibbe in 2011), fitting considering his reputation for backing his coaches in public. Given the hard times Schaaf faced at the end of his time at the Weserstadion, there is little doubt he can appreciate that particular quality. On top of that, Bruchhagen allows his coaches to make their own choices, while Schaaf is renowned for not allowing anyone to tamper with his way of thinking.

But maybe even more importantly, both Hübner and Bruchhagen have continuously stated their commitment to attacking football. When asked about his priorities as a coach during his Werder days, Schaaf usually answered that he wanted his team “to put something special on offer for the audience . . . it’s important to give the audience the feeling that you are trying your utmost, even if things aren’t working out on that particular day.”

During the best of times the 53-year-old’s attacking style saw high-scoring goal-fests, giving Werder Bremen the reputation of being one of the most-entertaining teams in the Bundesliga. Schaaf stated today that he is going to continue in the same way:

“According to my philosophy, it’s more likely to experience a 4-3 rather than a pain-racking 1-0.”

If the way Werder Bremen were set up during Schaaf’s time at the club is anything to go by, this is certainly no hollow sentiment, rather a promise of high-scoring matches and many a heart attack moment for the Eagles’ faithful. The former Werder coach also praised the recent progress of his new employer:

“Frankfurt have undergone a great development. The club is in a healthy condition. This team is brave and wants to play attacking football. I like that and I demand it as well.”

Squad Planning

Thomas Schaaf stated during today’s press conference that he’ll take a closer look at all the players he has at hand before thinking about possible transfers. However, Schaaf and those who have followed Eintracht closely are bound to be aware that the team is going to need some restructuring ahead of next season. Midfield dynamo Sebastian Rode has signed a contract at Bayern. Team captain Primin Schwegler off to Hoffenheim, and Joselu is apparently ready to leave. Further, reports of a transfer of Sebastian Jung to VfL Wolfsburg seem to be all but confirmed.

Bruchhagen stated earlier that the Eagles had spent more money than they had earned during Armin Veh’s tenure at the club. Considering the aforementioned losses, there is certainly a need for new players joining the team, but Schaaf may have to be more dependent on in-house solutions than Armin Veh was ever forced to be. Eintracht are working to retain Joselu and are also in talks to secure the signature of Augsburg’s Kevin Vogt, according to several reports in the German press. Former Schaaf pupil and Werder player Aleksandar Ignjoveski has already signed for the club, in the hopes of getting to play in a midfield position.

Given the circumstances, Schaaf might be forced to give youngsters like Marc Stendera and Sonny Kittel more playing time than his predecessor did. The moves Eintracht Frankfurt will make during the summer transfer window are unlikely to be spectacular, but Hübner has shown he can make astute signings while keeping transfer fees in check . . .  not unlike Schaaf’s former Bremen colleague Klaus Allofs.

Header image courtesy of dpa.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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