FEATURE | Arminia Bielefeld to focus on youth development with appointment of Frank Kramer

Uwe Neuhaus was dismissed from his head coach role at Arminia Bielefeld on Monday evening and from the outside looking in, it seemed a baffling decision. Neuhaus had brought short term success to the club and they were playing great football. Now with Frank Kramer taking over at the helm, Arminia are clearly focusing their efforts down a youth development pathway with potential for a positive change in the club’s future, but not many feel this change is warranted.

Neuhaus brought success back to the Schüco Arena providing Arminia another crack at the top flight in Germany for the first time since the 2008/09 season. An early 2000s Bundesliga regular then spent the following six years tumbling down the divisions and found themselves finishing as low as 13th place in the 3. Liga in 2011/12. Former trainer Jeff Saibene eventually lifted Arminia fourth in the 2. Bundesliga during the 2017/18 season, their highest overall finish in nine years.

Saibene unfortunately quickly found himself in the firing line in December 2018 with the club sat 14th following the previous successful season and Uwe Neuhaus was appointed as his replacement. Neuhaus resurrected the season and guided the side to a seventh place finish. The following year, they ran away with the Bundesliga ahead of Stuttgart and Hamburger SV and secured promotion as champions.

Arminia on pitch were approaching some stability under Neuhaus in his third year in charge. Stability is something the club has really lacked in its history. The club are now on their 14th head coach since 2000. No head coach has lasted longer than three years in charge since the Bundesliga began. With Neuhaus now out and Kramer in, a different view in their current development strategy could be the main reason for change but they have to be making this with a long term plan in place.

Fans of Bielefeld and German football alike were shocked when the news broke that they would be parting ways with a well-respected manager, who hasn’t completely failed in their current Bundesliga campaign. The old phrase of ‘no loyalty in football anymore’ comes to play here. As soon as an option to change something that isn’t entirely broken arises, clubs will grab the opportunity with both hands no matter the oncoming consequences. Twelve games are left in the Bundesliga season, one point away from the relegation zone. Bielefeld wouldn’t have exactly needed a miracle to survive under Neuhaus which makes the decision all that more questionable.

Taking a closer look at Kramer, the club must now be looking at a youth development era at Arminia. A short stint at Fortuna Düsseldorf followed a two year stay at current 2. Bundesliga title challengers Greuther Fürth. Kramer though has spent most of his coaching time in the youth squads for the German national team. The 48 year old trainer will no doubt have the extensive knowledge on how to develop and nurture young talent into first time players but with little experience and not much success, why change now?

Overall it looks like an interesting move and perhaps the removal of Neuhaus won’t be as shocking if we see a bright and youthful future in Bielefeld. Kramer has a contract until 2023. He has 12 games to keep Arminia Bielefeld a Bundesliga side and we can look to judge the appointment again come May. Whether he has achieved survival or faltered to relegation, the club have taken a big decision here and the big question is, could it cost them their Bundesliga status?

By Roy Campbell.

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