September 26, 2017

Make or break time for Viktor Skripnik

This week, Werder Bremen announced that their coach Viktor Skripnik and his coaching team had extended their contracts by one year until 2018. In the aftermath of the botched last season, new sporting director Frank Baumann seems to be eager to create an atmosphere of calm and certainty going forward. After all, the club from the Hanseatic city has been known to make rational decisions and to give its coaches the time they need to form a team.

Baumann and his predecessor Thomas Eichin have been rather quick in assembling their squad for next season. Interesting names like Lennart Thy, Justin Eilers, Thanos Petsos and Niklas Moisander have made it onto the roster and it now seems like the club thinks that they should be in a good shape ahead of next season.

However, the 2015/16 campaign has left a remaining dent in the armour.

Coach Viktor Skripnik barely escaped a firing after the embarrassing 2-1 defeat at home against Augsburg on match day 29. After the match, former sporting director Thomas Eichin asked the players what to do and was told that they didn’t want to be responsible for the firing of the coach, as this move potentially could backfire.

However, despite the happy end to the season and the players’ willingness to work with Skripnik until the end of the season, it hasn’t been a secret that several players at the club have been unhappy with the Ukrainians work. For example, Danish defender Jannik Vestergaard was believed to be one of those players. The tall defender has already left the club, but others like Zlatko Junuzovic (who is believed to be in the same group of disgruntled players) are still at the club.

Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the club didn’t offer Skripnik and his team a long term contract. A one year extension gives the coach somewhat more certain of his future, but it sends a clear signal that he is on probation this season. Should things go as badly as they did last season, however, the Ukrainian and his staff might very well get fired this time around.

There’s little doubt that Werder’s problems last season partly also were a result of Skripnik getting his tactics wrong and the fact that Ukrainian simply was poor at reacting to a change in tactics by the opposition.

At times, Werder could put up good displays against the big boys of the league, at other times teams from the lower half of the table could put them into a serious problems. That inconsistency was almost costly, and Frank Baumann is probably not going to put up with such a pattern for an entire season.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-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 and on the @AufstiegPod.