Chaos reigns at 1860
1860 München have long been described as a ‘chaos club’ and the past 24 hours are evidence of that. In a make-or-break game for coach Kosta Runjaić he faced Kaiserslautern at the Allianz Arena last night – and again left his top-performer Michael Liendl at home, in favour of his harder-working peers. The ploy failed as Die Löwen could only manage a 1-1 draw, leaving them in 14th-place and just a point above the relegation spots.
Action from the Jordanian investor Hasan Ismaik – who has pumped over €50 million into the club – was swift and brutal. Rumours circled quickly after the match that Runjaić had been shown the door and it was confirmed officially in the morning. What’s more though, kicker report that the decision was reached without consulting sporting director Thomas Eichin!
The role of sporting director in German football is a very important one and at some clubs they are arguably more important than the head coach. It is their job to ensure the long-term vision of the club on the pitch, acting as the main decision-maker on the football side of the business – including the hiring and firing of coaches.
So for Ismaik and 1860 president Peter Cassalette to sack Runjaić and undermine their own sporting director at the same time is crazy and indicative of a full-scale shake-up of the footballing operations at the club. Rumours suggest that Eichin could even go as part of the purge or, at the very least, wield a lot less influence in the future.
1860’s U21s coach Daniel Bierofka has been named as the interim coach and will likely be in charge until at least the winter break. The ex-Lions player is popular amongst the squad after he also took over on a temporary basis at the end of last season after Benno Möhlmann was sacked, and guided the team away from the relegation zone.
With few experienced coaches available at the moment this is a chance for 37-year old Bierofka to audition for the role on a permanent basis. His passionate, pragmatic tactics based on hard running and pressing could be the kick up the backside this 1860 side need – figures from Bild this week revealed that they are the laziest team in the 2. Bundesliga in terms of kilometres ran per game. These statistics do little to dispel the myth of Sechzig being a squad of overpaid under-performing stars.
But would Bierofka really want the job full-time? Since Ismaik took a controlling stake in the club in 2011 there have been no less than eleven managerial changes. Good luck to whoever does take the role – God knows they’ll need it… – Anthony Wood
Kramny off to a flyer at Arminia
In spite of an improved record under interim manager Carsten Rump, with two wins and a loss (to heavyweights Stuttgart) from his three games in charge, Arminia were forced to appoint a new gaffer permanently due to the caretaker’s insufficient qualifications. So it was that Jürgen Kramny made his debut as Bielefeld manager as they hosted promotion hopeful Heidenheim at the Schücoarena on Friday night.
One characteristic of the doomed Rüdiger Rehm reign was a spate of panicked changes after every poor result. In that regard the new man certainly bucked the trend, making just one change, enforced at that, from the XI which lost to Stuttgart. The only slightly raised eyebrow would have possibly been at Steffen Lang, who last featured in Rehm’s catastrophic final match, coming into the side at right back. The selection means that Florian Dick, stalwart of the promotion campaign of 14/15 and also last season, continues to be overlooked by a third successive coach. The experienced full back was notably exiled from the squad completely by Rehm, but perhaps with Kramny having worked with Lang before at Stuttgart, his decision is somewhat more understandable compared to Rehm’s ruthlessness.
Another club veteran to miss out on the match was club captain and striker Fabian Klos. The number 9 is enduring quite a goal drought in recent weeks, with seven league matches played since he last found the net. His absence in this case did little to reassert him as the club’s main man. Although Heidenheim took the lead through Tim Skarke, the hosts were level before half time; and who should be there to find the equaliser but Andreas Voglsammer? The 25 year old has now bagged in three consecutive matches, his first goals for the club after an anonymous half-season following his January transfer this year. Crucially, this puts him level on league goals with Klos for 16/17, and gives Kramny his first big decision when Klos returns from suspension this coming weekend.
The second-half saw Manuel Prietl cap a fine performance with a fortuitous but smartly taken header and the home side held out to earn their new boss with a win on his bow. Once the weekend was over an even greater gift was confirmed as the Blues pulled out of the relegation places for the first time this season. Kramny failed to save Stuttgart from relegation earlier this year, but on the strength of his opening match, redemption could await. –Tom Nuttall-Jones
Ruthenbeck sacked – what went wrong at Fürth?
Another 2. Liga coach to be shown the shown the door over the past couple days is Stefan Ruthenbeck at Greuther Fürth. They were simply overwhelmed away at the league’s in-form side Dynamo Dresden and were fortunate that it only ended 2-1, thanks to another two goals from the mercurial Akaki Gogia.
The latest defeat was the final straw but in truth this parting of ways had been coming for a while. The unflattering statistics show that during Ruthenbeck’s seventeen months in charge he collected 60 points in 47 league games – an average of just 1.28 points per game. This is the club’s worst record in their 2. Liga history and, unsurprisingly, their worst start to a season.
After a stressful 2014/15 season in which Fürth narrowly avoided relegation on the last game of the season, a strong second half of the 2015/16 season saw Ruthenbeck lead them to a top-half finish with relative comfort. So what has gone wrong this season to explain how they have only collected 14 points?
Well, this run of bad form has only served to highlight the huge importance of one key player – Albanian central midfielder Jurgen Gjasula. Ruthenbeck has described him as his ‘quarterback’ and there’s no doubt that on his day he is one of the best players in the league. His ability to control the game from deep, play slide-rule passes to split open midfield and defensive lines, and his knack for getting the weight of a pass just right, have been vital over the past couple of seasons. Unfortunately, due to injury problems he has only been available for three games this season and he was only half-fit in those (but he was still very good).
His absence, combined with the departure of Marco Stiepermann to Bochum over the summer, has left a void of creativity in the middle. There’s no doubting the attacking talents in the Kleeblatt squad, and Ruthenbeck deserves credit for transforming strikers Sebastian Freis and Veron Berisha into accomplished inside forwards, but a lack of service has seen the team score only a dozen goals so far this season.
The team became overly-reliant on Robert Žulj, the Austrian playmaker who is the most naturally talented member of the squad. After a blistering start to the season it’s no coincidence that his form fell off a cliff when Gjasula got injured and his reputation quickly fell from hero to scapegoat. Ruthenbeck turned to youngster Benedikt Kirsch to provide a spark, but he was very disappointing against Dresden, while since signing free agent Damjan Ɖoković the Croatian has been forced to cover defensively rather than boost the midfield.
Fürth have still not adequately replaced the leadership of Goran Sukalo at the base of midfield since he left for 1860 München in January. This has left Andreas Hofmann without support and he’s been exposed as being simply not good enough to screen the defence on his own. The full-backs – Khaled Narey, Niko Gießelmann and Sebastian Heidinger – are naturally more focused on getting forward and are individually weak defensively.
Which is worrying when both centre-backs have had their problems this season. Captain Marco Caligiuiri is prone to having nightmare games, and he was notably lacking for Gogia’s first goal on Sunday, while Marcel Franke’s form seems swing from brilliant to awful from game to game. Despite finishing 9th last season they conceded 55 goals – even more than relegated Duisburg – and it’s remarkable that defensive positions weren’t strengthened over the summer.
Ruthenbeck recently introduced greater fluidity and positional rotation to the team in attempt to stop the rot – most notably to great effect in the win against Bochum a fortnight ago – but it was too little too late. The club’s U19s coach Janos Radoki has replaced the departing manager until the winter break. Much like Bierofka at 1860, he faces a tough ask to steady the ship at Fürth. – AW
Stuttgart earn a respectable point in Berlin, but miss chance to go top
With Braunschweig having dropped points again on Friday night, the onus fell on Stuttgart to affirm themselves as the division’s favourites with a chance to go top on Sunday. They travelled to a typically packed Old Forester to face Union Berlin. One member of the crowd in particular was noteworthy, with Germany manager Joachim Löw taking his place among the 22 or so thousand.
While he had 10 Germans among the 22 starters to glance over, reports suggest that it was Simon Terodde in particular the World Champion coach had come to see. The frontman coasted to the division’s top scorer title last season, and after grabbing a perfect hat-trick in the last match against Arminia, now seemed an equally perfect time to see what the fuss was all about. The man they call “Tor-odde” didn’t make him wait long, less than 3 minutes in fact, before he put the visitors ahead smartly. Stuttgart were ahead and looking very likely to end this weekend top of the 2.Bundesliga.
Union and the Old Forester were not about to give them such an easy day, however. Despite surrendering their undefeated home record recently against Fortuna, the hosts were a year without a loss in Berlin for a reason. It would have been ironic for home defeats to come along “like London buses” for Jens Keller’s side, but in spite of their slumberous start they rallied, matching the visitors for the rest of the half. Before the hour mark, they were level.
This column has mentioned on more than one occasion the danger for Union of relying too much on one player for goals, with Colin Quaner looking like taking up Bobby Wood’s mantle as their lone threat. Quietly though, Steven Skrzbyski is putting those fears to rest, and with his equaliser pulled just one goal behind the striker for total goals this campaign. With 6 strikes already this season, only Akaki Gogia of Dresden is the only player to score more from midfield.
The final 30 minutes of the game shone out as a true advertisement for the league as both sides went for the 3 points. While the final score of 1-1 was not the most glamourous result, it should not prevent this match from going down as one of the best of the season so far. It would have been a shame for either side to lose this one, and while Stuttgart did miss the chance to go top, there should be absolutely no shame in taking a point from Berlin’s fortress in the forest. -TNJ
Derby defeat leaves Karlsruher fans a small and unhappy group
With Karlsruher having conceded 3 goals in defeats in their last two home appearances, the pressure was firmly on them to conjure up some level of improvement against local rivals Sandhausen. The visitors have been in much improved form since Kenan Kocak has settled on a consistent 4-4-2 system, and came into this match having lost just once in their previous 7 league games. In contrast, KSC have won just twice in the same period.
After a quiet first half the hosts were the first to strike through Greek international Diamantakos. The striker has been in and out of the side due to injury so far this season, but looked to make a mockery of his manager’s recent claim that any of his 3 strikers could play to the same standard, showing up both Erwin Hoffer and Florian Kamberi (a goal each this season) with a smart finish, his 3rd of the campaign.
Karlsruher’s recent form though does not lend itself too well to confidence, and they quickly retreated, both into their own half and their shells, in defence of their fragile lead. The meagre congregation of home fans seemed to follow their lead.
While this match is considered a state “derby”, it does pale in significance compared to Karlsruher’s recently revived rivalry with Stuttgart. This was made abundantly clear with the attendance at the less than appropriately named Wildparkstadion, where a muted atmosphere was little surprise considering it was little over one third full. This handicap, combined with the nervous energy following the opener, surely contributed to the subsequent fightback from Sandhausen. The question does need to be asked: with Karlsruher having so excitedly confirmed plans to build on their ground extensively in the near future, what benefit will it be to the club if they can only come close to filling what they have now in only the very biggest games of the season?
For Sandhausen their climb up the table continued as they fought back here. First, Andrew Wooten calmly slotted home a penalty, conceded by the hero-turned-villain Diamantakos. The American quickly added a second before unselfishly forgoing a chance at a hattrick to lay on the third for strike partner Höler in the dying moments. The pair have been the catalyst for SVS’s improvements since September, and Wooten himself has already beaten the tally of goals from last season which brought him to the fringes of the USA national team. Whoever succeeds Jurgen Klinsmann should take note.
Karlsruher now occupy the relegation playoff spot, and while the attendance in the Wildpark was poor, there were still enough fans to convey a clear message to the club’s manager: The future looks distinctly unclear for Tomas Oral. -TNJ
Are Eintracht Braunschweig losing their nerve?
Whisper it quietly… but are Eintracht Braunschweig losing their nerve? After storming to the top of the table with 8 victories from the first 10 games they have now failed to win in the last three. Their lead at the top has been slashed from a peak of five points to just the solitary one, and for a brief while on Sunday they actually dropped to 2nd while Stuttgart were beating Union Berlin.
The most worrying part of this run though is that Braunschweig took the lead in all three games. No, worse than that – they actually squandered two-goal leads against Dynamo Dresden and in the derby against Hannover. In Dresden they were cruising before a blistering 11-minute spell from the home side saw Stefan Kutschke score a hat-trick to complete an improbable comeback. In the Lower Saxony derby the team’s top-scorer, the revitalised Domi Kumbela, missed what was effectively two open goals just minutes before Kenan Karaman made it 2-2 for Hannover.
This weekend away at Bochum was a similar story, but with a surprising twist – Eintracht were outplayed. From the first minute they struggled to get a grip on the game and the home side were relentless in their attacks. Braunschweig had Quirin Moll and Marcel Correia sitting deep in midfield and without the injured Patrick Schönfeld they lacked the box-to-box drive to push forwards.
The league-leaders had keeper Jasmin Fejzić to thank for two absolute stunning stops to deny Tim Hoogland’s header and a flick of his right foot to keep out Felix Bastians’s point-blank shot in the second half. The first was particularly miraculous to claw out a certain goal, although Bochum were left ruing the lack of goal-line technology as there’s a strong argument to say that the whole of the ball was over the line.
Naturally Eintracht took advantage of this extremely good fortune to score against the run of play. The ever-impressive Onel Hernandez turned Hoogland on the halfway line before playing in Kumbela – who had the composure to finish this time. For the third game in a row though they were unable to hold on to the lead, as Joseph Baffo – surprisingly brought in for big Gustav Valsvik at the back – failed to clear a simple header, and Nils Quaschner’s clinical finish saw the game end 1-1.
Sporting director Marc Arnold, who has recently signed a contract extension, did some excellent work in the transfer market over the summer to bring in the likes of Hernandez, Moll and record signing Suleiman Abdullahi, who has unfortunately been out since the start of the season. Despite this though few people really expected to Braunschweig to challenge for the title and their sterling start to the season may have even taken the squad by surprise. It’s understandable that they may be feeling the pressure of being at the front of the pack.
Coach Torsten Lieberknecht will be counting his blessings that his next match is a home game against ‘chaos club’ 1860 München. Facing a team in turmoil is always an unpredictable affair, but Eintracht should have enough to see of any threat of a revival. Two of their other three remaining games before the winter break – against Arminia Bielefeld (H) and Karlsruher (A) – will also be seen as winnable. The real test of their mettle will be away at Union Berlin in early December. – AW
Team of the Week
Fejzic (Braunschweig); Klingmann (Sandhausen), Akpoguma (Fortuna), Gordon (Sandhausen), Schmitz (Fortuna); Gogia (Dresden), Prietl (Arminia), Lumpi (Dresden), Hartherz (Arminia); Wooten (Sandhausen), Terodde (Stuttgart)
Goal of the Week
Zoltan Stieber, Kaiserslautern (vs. 1860 München)