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Bundesliga Review – Week 30

Things have happened in the footballing world of Germany. Teams have more or less been relegated and promoted. Paderborn and Magdeburg took further steps towards 2. Bundesliga, Karlsruhe missed their chance. Hamburg missed another chance to close their gap in the bottom of the table, but instead look likely to be relegated following Mainz’ win on Monday night.

However, one thing that has transpired has driven me personally mad: Bayern Munich and Niko Kovac, the very probable love story that we all had predicted. In this week’s review, I, an avid Eintracht fan, will bring you my unfiltered thoughts on Kovac.

Like many fans, I’ve been one of those heartbroken souls that have had to restrict themselves. We’ve been trying to keep our potent mouths shut, because we don’t want to be affected, at least not in public, by the fact that Kovac is leaving. But we are heartbroken, we are mad, we are angry, and we are sad. It’s a sad day for us all, for all the passionate fans of Eintracht Frankfurt. And the strange thing is that we’re all kind of happy for Kovac. We all think he’s deserved this one shot at fame and tactical freedom at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

The unanimous mantra we’ve been convincing ourselves with is in fact true. “Think about where we were two years ago,” has become the go-to phrase for angered fans and to honour the future and past of Kovac, we must repeat this phrase again, thus convincing ourselves of our own well-being.

But we are not well, we do not want to wish him good luck. We want to hate him, but can’t. We just painfully can’t. For we must remember where we were two years ago. Eintracht had been left for dead by Armin Veh, a dinosaurian flop at a modern football side. The international Eintracht Frankfurt was taken over by a Berlin-born Croatian with more international experience than Donald Trump’s new foreign secretary and with more charisma than a nuclear plant. Kovac brought his brother and they, together, formed what looked like the beginning of a long-lasting dynasty that would propel Eintracht Frankfurt into the top shelves of German football. We believed this ourselves, made ourselves think and hope. But then, it just crumbled. And we must once again face the bitter reality – We’re not a big club. Not yet.

It is a bit like the common “Moment 22”– scenario. Bundesliga teams need that special player or manager to take them to the top. But when this person emerges, he is quickly picked up by a bigger club, which in many cases brings the club back to earth and steady ground. Eintracht have benefitted lots by Kovac’s time at the club however, they are now much better equipped, financially and on the field than they were under Veh. Eintracht can now afford one or two luxury players, they can afford to have good squad depth and they can afford good scouting. This is what makes a team work and what makes a club develop. The structural positivism at Eintracht came with Kovac and that might be his legacy at the club. For this, we thank and salute him.

Then again, he did lie. Apparently, this deal has been discussed for about two weeks, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. This would mean that Kovac did in fact lie to the fans when asked about the Bayern job the week before last. He was asked and famously answered that there is no reason to doubt him staying at Frankfurt. This was a lie, it seems and this was his biggest mistake. For now, he has lost the trust of the fans. He has possibly lost the trust of his dear friend Fredi Bobic and might just have lost the support of his staff and players. This lie is but just one of many odd happenings and tweaks. This story has been going on since Thursday and it has mutated into different shapes since then. According to Uli Hoeneß, Bayern did not leak the information to Sport BILD’s Christian Falk (Who broke the news). Hoeneß also reacted to Bobic’s comments about Bayern’s behaviour in this situation. Bobic called Bayern unprofessional, Hoeneß subsequently calls Bobic rude. The Bayern president also states that they did have no contact with Kovac until last Wednesday. This does seem highly unlikely. Lothar Matthäus wrote in his column for Sky Sports that these deals take time. It must’ve taken more than one evening.

This situation has been made worse by the fact that Eintracht’s fans firmly believe that Kovac and Bayern are lying. I believe that too, I must say, and here is why:

Bayern are in many ways very Machiavellian. They will do what they can do to protect their own and will gladly trample on their opposition if its needed. Kovac on the other hand has simply acted off. The often very warm and honest man has become cold and secretive, like he is hiding something he’s desperate for people not to find out. This is strange behaviour and points towards a lie from his part. But would a lie really mean anything? For the fans, yes. We would have a proper and documented reason to our hate, instead of just guesses and rumours. We would feel vindicated in our anger and could deal with our emotions instead of not knowing what they are and if they are legitimate. Some clarity would help us to move on.

The ins and outs of this situation makes it blurry. We don’t know, the media doesn’t know and the clubs don’t know some things either. But the general ‘Summa Summarum’ is that Eintrachtlers feel a desperate need for hate. We want to despise Kovac. But we cannot do it, for we know how thankful we should be. In the end, nobody wants to be a turncoat. There’s a general emotional conundrum in the city. The big question is how this will affect the remaining games.

Now, when the season is over Eintracht will have to find a new coach. I think most Eintrachtlers have consoled themselves and are fine with that. We also have the utmost confidence in our board and we know that Bobic and Bruno Hübner will make the right call. Whoever comes in next will have been rigorously scouted and coveted. Things are still well am Mainestrand. The club is bigger than one man, no matter how influential that man has been. We will survive. We always do. And we all look forward to the blissful DFB-Pokal game versus Schalke on Wednesday.

1 | Coach of the year deserves to go to Schalke’s Domenico Tedesco. There’s no doubt about it. The 32-year-old masterminded a 2-0 victory Ruhr rivals, Borussia Dortmund in a dominating performance. Schalke look to return to Champions League football once again under the tutelage of the Italian, who now sit four points ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, occupying the runners-up spot behind Bayern Munich.

For Peter Stöger? Well, reports on Monday night emerged in Bild suggesting that Borussia Dortmund won’t be extending the contract of the Austrian. He did only sign a contract until June 2018 but there had been murmurs of an extension following a decent start. However, poor performances followed with elimination from the Europa League and a defeat against Schalke has resulted in fans growing increasingly concerned.

2 | Starting 2018 with two draws and two defeats, it looked as though Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim may have been dropping down the table. However, their 2-0 win over Hamburg on Saturday means they have now gone seven games without a defeat (four wins, three draws). Tipped for the Borussia Dortmund job, Nagelsmann has done a remarkable job to turn their season round with European football once again looking like a real possibility.

This comes after RB Leipzig’s 1-1 draw against Werder Bremen on Sunday, with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side winning just two of their last eight Bundesliga fixtures. Perhaps their involvement in this season’s Europa League has taken the sting out of them, following a defeat to Olympique Marseille. MD31’s meeting of RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim could well determine who gets European football, with Eintract Frankfurt lurking just one point behind.

3 | The fate of 1. FC Köln and Hamburg looks settled. The duo lost to Hoffenheim and Hertha BSC respectively, with the bottom club now nine points off the relegation play-off, which certainly doesn’t guarantee safety given the fight in the 2. Bundesliga.

In the Monday night fixture, 1. FSV Mainz 05 moved outside of that relegation play-off under rather dubious circumstances. A boring game by MD30 standards, this fixture was marred with events which neither team had a control of. The final play of the first-half resulted in Marc-Oliver Kempf handling the ball but at the time, no action was taken. The teams headed down the tunnel. Back in their dressing room, the referee called them back out after consulting VAR, awarding a penalty to Mainz that Pablo De Blasis tucked away, with the half-time whistle then being blown for the second time. Mainz then held on for a 2-0 victory.

Axel Falk with Daniel Pinder.

 

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