Following Sundays 3-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, the Fortuna Düsseldorf hierarchy decided to part ways with experienced manager Friedhelm Funkel. In his place, they have appointed Uwe Rösler, who was recently manager of Swedish club Malmö. Despite an impressive first season in the Bundesliga, Fortuna have really struggled to replicate the performances of last season and currently sit bottom of the table. They have scored the fewest goals in the league while conceding the most. Clearly, the powers-that-be at the club have decided that, despite last years heroics, Funkel is not the man to save the club from relegation.
However, the Funkel era at Fortuna Düsseldorf should be remembered fondly by the clubs fans. When Funkel took over, the club was in a mess, having twice narrowly avoided the drop to the third division. The experienced manager saved the club from relegation before providing the team with a promotion and its first piece of silverware in a long time. The dramatic wins at both Dynamo Dresden and Nuremberg in the push for the Bundesliga will live long in the memory.
In the season that followed, many doubted the club’s ability to survive Germany’s top flight. Yet, Funkel was able to guide the club to a mid-table finish. Along the way, the team drew 3-3 away to Bayern Munich and beat Borussia Dortmund at home. It was a remarkable achievement for a club with such a small budget.
Over the following summer, two of Funkel’s key players left the club. Dodi Lukebakio returned to parent club Watford before being sold to Hertha Berlin. Benito Raman was sold to Schalke. Without these two players, who were replaced by players lacking their quality, Funkel struggled to replicate the performances of the prior season. He tried formation changes and different personnel, but none seemed to work. His reliance on experienced players like Bodzek and Fink, who are coming towards the end of their careers, frustrated many. There comes a time when, despite past achievements, it is time to move on. It is hard to argue that Funkel was not given time, as many managers in his position would not have lasted until January.
Uwe Rösler is the man the club has decided will be able to keep the club in the league. While it is refreshing that they haven’t decided to bring in one of the usual suspects, there are reservations about Rösler’s ability to manage in this league. Since his impressive tenure in charge of Brentford, his career has not gone as many expected. A stint in charge of Wigan was ultimately unsuccessful, which led to him being manager of League One side Fleetwood. Over the past two seasons, Rösler has been in charge of Swedish giants Malmö. Despite being one of the biggest and well-financed clubs in the Swedish Allsvenskan, the side never managed to win the league under his management.
In his first season at Malmö, Rösler took over a club struggling in mid-table a month into the season. He managed to get them into second place and secure European qualification by season’s end. This past Allsvenskan season, he had an entire winter to work on the squad for the summer season. Ultimately Malmö only managed to finish third, but were competing in the title race for the majority of the season. While he didn’t deliver a Swedish title, Rösler managed to lead the club into the knockout stages of Europa League. Malmö finished top of a group which included Dynamo Kiev, Copenhagen, and Lugano.
According to Transfermarkt, Rösler’s preferred formation is a 4-4-2. He has also deployed three-at-the-back formations while in charge of Malmö. If Rösler looks to play two upfront, this gives Kownacki a chance at playing his preferred position, while also providing some support to Hennings. Hennings has been isolated in many matches this season and would more than likely welcome such support.
Playing two holding midfielders would concern some Fortuna fans. Many want to see Stöger back in the starting lineup. He is a player who plays his best football in a more-advanced position. If Rösler is determined to play a holding two, Barkok and Sobotka may be better options than the ageing Fink and Bodzek. In his last few games as manager, Funkel went with a Bodzek-Fink-Morales midfield trio, which really struggled against more dynamic midfields. Barkok, while still young, has shown potential and may thrive under a new manager.
Rösler will certainly benefit from new loan signing of Kosovan international Valun Berisha. Lazio are flying high in Serie A which has meant Berisha has had little playing time. At 26 years old, he is clearly looking for more regular football. Lazio paid around 7 million Euros for Berisha back in 2018, which shows he must have talent. Rösler will hope the Kosovan will have an immediate and positive impact on the side. If he manages to do that, Fortuna will more than likely exercise their option to buy in the summer.
While we can agonize over formations and past tactics, one hopes that Rösler will allow what he has to dictate how he will approach matches, rather than shoehorning players into a system that doesn’t suit them. Whatever happens, if Rösler keeps the club in the Bundesliga, it will certainly be his finest achievement to date. If not, then he should be given time over the summer to build a squad that can return to the first division.