In this column last week I wrote of how there is rarely a dull moment where the Bundesliga is concerned. This week though, Germany’s top flight has outdone itself. On Wednesday the football world was left shocked by the timing, if not necessarily the announcement of Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund deciding to go their separate ways at the end of the season. The drama did not end there though, with other managerial changes taking place, before Bayern Munich were humbled in the Champions League by Porto. All in all, a rather uneventful day. Of course this was before all the action took place over the weekend, with the relegation battle looking increasingly likely to go down to the final day. And if that wasn’t enough, there were more managerial appointments, as well as rumoured departures. And breathe.
Thomas Tuchel – Arguably the biggest winner this week in the Bundesliga has been Thomas Tuchel, who will return to the dugout with Borussia Dortmund, after taking a year-long sabbatical. Confirmation by Dortmund on Sunday established what most had known all along, that Tuchel was always their number one target to succeed Klopp. Remarkably, in his absence, the 41-year-old’s prestige has grown and there will certainly be great expectation for the former Mainz manager to hit the ground running at Dortmund. There are no questions over his capabilities and there is a reason that Tuchel was one of the most sought after managers across Europe this season. His innovation, style and no doubt exciting plans for Dortmund, make the prospect of watching BvB next season an enticing prospect.
Jurgen Klopp/Borussia Dortmund – Often in football, too many clubs and individuals allow sentiment to get the better of them, leading to poor decisions and unsatisfactory outcomes. Thankfully, for all concerned, Borussia Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp have come to a very sensible decision this week regarding the future of the club. In not allowing emotions to cloud their decisions, Klopp and Dortmund have left their relationship and history completely untarnished, irrespective of what happens to the club at the end of this season. Where many would attempt one more season to right some wrongs, Klopp has realised he is no longer the man to take Dortmund forward. An emotional decision certainly, but also one that is in the best interests of both the club, and Jurgen Klopp.
Dortmund’s under pressure stars – Of course, Klopp’s imminent departure means a number of players are now playing for their futures. Many will be desperate to prove their worth to the incoming Thomas Tuchel, looking to ensure that they are in his thoughts when he takes the reigns. There were certainly signs of this in Saturday’s victory over Paderborn. There were goals for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shinji Kagawa who have both endured inconsistent campaigns, while Dortmund’s shaky defence looked much more stable than it had done in the last few months. Yes the standard of opposition must be taken into account, but this was a promising game for a team full of struggling individuals. It was also a win which takes Dortmund to within one point of seventh placed Hoffenheim, a position that may well secure a European spot for next season.
Pep Guardiola – Wednesday’s humbling defeat to Porto was a disaster for Bayern Munich. They were out pressed and fortunate to escape with just a 3-1 defeat, a result which makes qualification a very difficult, rather than impossible task. But amidst all the disappointment, there was a silver lining for Pep Guardiola. The departure of club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt brings to an end a dispute and power struggle between the manager and doctor, which had threatened to boil over on several occasions. There had been a growing list of disagreements between the two over the best course of action for injured players, while there were certainly hints that the manager was growing increasingly frustrated with the presence and power of the 72-year-old. The resignation of Muller-Wohlfahrt has closed this chapter, and arguably leaves Guardiola in a much stronger position at the club.
Roger Schmidt – While every suggestion indicated to Thomas Tuchel being appointed the next manager of Borussia Dortmund, Roger Schmidt’s name was also being quietly touted as a suitable, if unlikely replacement for Jurgen Klopp. Such suggestions are indicative of the job the 48-year-old is doing at Bayer Leverkusen. Saturday’s 4-0 win over Hannover 96 means it is now seven consecutive wins for Leverkusen, while they have only conceded twice in that time. In recent months Schmidt has really begun to stamp his mark on a Leverkusen side who are impressing more and more on a weekly basis. This weekend’s win has taken them to third in the table, and if they can end the campaign in the same manner, there is no reason why Leverkusen can’t be one of those chasing Bayern next season.
The sides at the bottom – Last week’s wins for Paderborn and Stuttgart were meant to be the beginning of new dawns for the two relegation-threatened sides. But they were brought crashing back down to earth this weekend with defeats against Borussia Dortmund and Augsburg respectively. Alarm bells will not be ringing over the defeats, since they were against better sides, but the inability to build on the previous week’s victories will have been a source of disappointment. They will, though, have been buoyed by the defeats experienced by Hannover 96 (again) and Freiburg, which mean there are now four points between the bottom five in the Bundesliga. It was a bad weekend for those threatened by relegation, but a good weekend for the neutral, with the scrap for survival looking likely to go right down to the wire.
Tayfun Korkut – Only Hamburg have been quite so dreadful as Hannover 96 since the winter break, with the thread holding Tayfun Korkut to a job getting thinner and thinner as the weeks pass. Saturday’s demolition job by Bayer Leverkusen leaves Korkut’s side without a win in 14 league games, unquestionably the form of a side likely to be relegated, and the Hannover coach was indeed sacked on Monday, with a replacement to be named by the time of this weekend’s match with Hoffenheim. With the exception of a couple of draws, there has been nothing about Hannover recently that suggests that they will escape relegation on their own doing.
Wolfsburg – Such has been their blistering and scintillating football since the turn of the year, it never seemed likely that The Wolves would be considered as having endured a disappointing week. But Thursday well and truly burst the bubble. Many had earmarked Dieter Hecking’s men as the side to watch in the Europa League, but perhaps the favourites tag overwhelmed them as they were torn apart by Napoli. Their 4-1 defeat at home to the Italians means progression to the semi-finals is now very unlikely, leaving their hopes of crowning an impressive season solely on lifting the DFB-Pokal trophy.
Hamburg’s attacking players – It is perhaps a little kind to say it has been a ‘bad week’ for Hamburg’s forwards, because in truth it has been an awful couple of months for them. It is coming up to nearly ten hours since a Hamburg player found the net, while since their last goal, the side have changed manager twice – with no coach able to galvanise the forwards. It is of course nearly impossible for a side to stay up if they can not score between now and the end of the season, especially when the standard of Hamburg’s defence is considered too. All things taken into account, it has been a disaster for Hamburg of late. Matters need to be addressed immediately, otherwise it will be too late, and Hamburg will be doomed.
Bundesliga – Supporters of Borussia Dortmund may be feeling like the real losers of this week, but in truth the whole of the Bundesliga will be a poorer place for the absence of Jurgen Klopp. Likely to join a Premier League side, it will be England rather than Germany experiencing the enigma that is ‘Kloppo’ next year. It has been a tremendous seven years with Klopp in the hot-seat, full of bonkers quotes, stories and some of the most entertaining football in Europe. The Bundesliga will dearly miss his entertainment value next season.
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