Bundesliga MatchDay 28: Who Dat? at Ingolstadt … and other thoughts

Ok, I missed watching the Sunday Bundesliga matches live, listened a bit to both on Bundesliga Audio, but wanted to get home to watch FC Ingolstadt-SV Darmstadt 98, a match of the two table cellar dwellers that turned out to be a fine competitive match.

Got home a few hours after that match ended, and wanted to tweet some props out to FC Ingolstadt’s first-ever three match winning streak in 62 first-division matches as they fight doggedly to escape the Bundesliga’s automatic relegation spot when I realized that, I don’t know who FCI’s coach is.  Who Dat?  Couldn’t have come up with his last name if you spotted W-A-L-P-U-R-G-I… No offense intended, but the ginger-haired, blue-jean clad 43-year-old Maik Walpurgis roaming Die Schanzer’s sidelines has only a one-line biography on Wikipedia, so maybe I’m not so dim-witted anyway.

Maik Walpurgis (born 9 October 1973) is a German football coach currently managing FC Ingolstadt.

Herr Walpurgis certainly deserves more cred than what Wiki affords.  Appointed as FCI’s coach in November of last year, the native of Herford, Germany has been in charge of the Audi club for 18 matches.  His predecessor, Markus Kauczinski, led Die Schanzer to exactly TWO points in 10 matches…Walpurgis has earned the club 26 points in 18 matches. That alone shows that Walpurgis, who coached VfL Osnabrück in 88 games and Sportfreunde Lotte in 188, has an idea of what he is doing.  Whether FCI survives or not, they are making FC Augsburg and 1.FSV Mainz 05 fans sweat profusely, and there are worried looks in Wolfsburg now that the low-scoring Schanzer are asserting themselves.  That Walpurgis has done this with exactly the same squad as his predecessor (FCI basically did nothing during the winter transfer window) further underlines the new coach’s accomplishment.

Firemen Need Not Apply

February and March are usually when the desperate calls from struggling Bundesliga clubs go out to veteran coaches to come and save their side from relegation.  They are referred to us ‘firemen’ — individuals who’ve had success in the league — Huub Stevens, Armin Veh, Felix Magath — were often on the receiving end of those cries for help, even if often they were sitting by their phones because they hadn’t had success in the most recent coaching stints.  While that trio is aging, many of us were a bit surprised that a younger fireman, 51 year-old Bruno Labbadia, who helped save VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV in recent seasons, was not hired (don’t know if he was called).

That trend of hiring a veteran coach to right a sinking ship is over in Germany’s top division, at least for now.  While the trend to hiring younger coaches from within the club’s ranks (the reserve team coach) didn’t begin with Julian Nagelsmann, his tremendous success at Hoffenheim has put the ‘fireman’ hire to bed.  We see the success that Alexander Nouri has had at Werder Bremen (although during a winter Werder slump it looked like HE might not really be the answer to Bremen’s problems), as fans of the green-whites are discussing Europa League more often than relegation nowadays.  Nagelsmann’s winning ways with a previously awful Hoffenheim verifies the old adage that success breeds imitation, and we shouldn’t expect to see many veteran Bundesliga coaches being recycled often in the near future.  And it’s a change for the better …

Because?  Because the constant changeover in coaches at a club stunts player development, and clubs that have so little faith in their own decisions that they have to hire a fireman to save themselves FROM themselves is a bad, bad sign. It’s an understandable and safe choice to hire the grizzled veteran coach who won the league 20 years ago, e, in that relegation is so costly nowadays, and often it’s so difficult to make it back to the top division (hello 1.FC Kaiserslautern,  hello 1,FC Nürnberg). But, the cost is great…

The most obvious example is Timo Werner.  Only 21, Werner began his career with VfB Stuttgart’s senior squad in August, 2013, before transferring to RB Leipzig this past summer.  Always considered one of Germany’s top young talents, Werner played under six coaches in his three seasons with the Swabians.  Think all the change hurt his development?  Consider that Werner has scored 15 times in 25 matches with RBL this season compared to 13 times in almost 100 matches for Stuttgart.  When with Stuttgart, Werner could dazzle, but was a very poor finisher– he’d make a brilliant run only to look completely flustered when it was time to finish.  And now Werner is a German international, while Stuttgart is in the second division (and their second coach since the talented youngster left).  It’s difficult for a youngster to feel comfortable and grow when his club can’t even figure out who his coach should be. So for the forseeable future. it appears the Bundesliga clubs in danger won’t call the firehouse — they’ll look at the big picture more closely and go for a coach that may be the longterm solution.

All Timo Werner needed was to escape the chaos known as VfB Stuttgart

A Country for Old Men

The Bundesliga is becoming more and more a young man’s league — so many teenagers are playing key roles for their clubs.  But on MatchDay 28, Bundesliga fans saw that the old-timers can still take care of business.

The much-hyped Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund really was for from a classic Saturday, unless you are a Bayern fan.  Carlo Ancelotti’s old-timers –Franck Ribéry (34, a goal and assist), Arjen Robben (33, a goal, 8 shots taken), Xabi Alonso (35, 92% passing accuracy, 121 touches) and Philipp Lahm (33, an assist, 90% passing accuracy) — showed their class and experience as the Bavarians’ toyed with Thomas Tuchel’s side.

And those four weren’t the only Bundesliga graybeards to have fun this weekend.  Mario Gomez is scoring goals like he did years ago at Stuttgart and Bayern under new Wolfsburg coach Andries Jonker, and although the Wolves suffered defeat, Gomez continued his streak of scoring at least one goal in every one of the six matches the Dutchman has coached with the Volkswagen club.  Gomez, 31, was in a downward spiral when he was considered expendable by Pep Guardiola and couldn’t find himself at Fiorentina, scoring only 7 times in 29 Serie A matches over two seasons.  He got his groove back in Turkey last year, but after being signed late in the summer transfer window by Wolfsburg, looked too slow and unfit to be effective at the Bundesliga level of play during much of Hinrunde.  Now he’s regained his spot on the national team and is keeping the Wolves’ above water in their fight for survival.  So while the Bundesliga teenagers intrigue us with their performance and potential for growth, the Bundesliga also proves that German is a country for old men, too.

MatchDay 28 Quickies

  • RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg assist Saturday gives him 14 assists in 24 league matches so far this season to lead the league in providing.  No one else in Europe’s five top leagues has more than 11. Impressive
  • Anthony Modeste continues to be the most important Bundesliga goalscorer to his club.  The Billy Goat has 23 goals, third best in the league, and those account for 56% of 1.FC Köln’s scoring output this season.  Super Mario Gomez’ 13 league goals accounts for 46% of Wolfsburg’s paltry total of 28 goals.
  • Hold onto your hat — FC Ingolstadt’s three-game winning streak is the Bundesliga’s longest right now.
  • Eintracht Frankfurt’s Oscar Mascarell leads the league with 13 yellow cards.  Mainz offseason signing Jean-Phillippe Gbamin leads the league with three red cards.  Poor Gbamin…Granit Xhaka is no longer in the Bundesliga to give him some competition.  Frankfurt and Mainz are the league’s two most undisciplined clubs.
  • It was great for BSC fans to see Hertha beat FC Augsburg 2-0 Sunday in Berlin.  Unfortunately, Pal Dardai’s side haven’t earned one point in their last seven road matches.
  • SC Paderborn 07 were in the Bundesliga two seasons ago.  They’ve suffered two successive demotions, and now are in danger of being demoted from 3.Liga as well, alth0ugh they stay on life support after winning against fellow relegation candidate FSV Frankfurt 3-0 this weekend.
  •  Bayern Munich lead the league in possession, shots per game and passing success.  Surprise.
  • Speaking of Bayern, future Munich man- current Hoffenheim’central defender Niklas Süle won’t turn 22 years old until September 3, but already has 100 Bundesliga appearances under his belt.  Having just earned his first call up to the German national team senior side, he will feature with Bayern after the season.  He’s already a fine player — think about how good he can become learning from Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez…..scary, scary good !!!
The sky is the limit for Niklas Süle


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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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