FEATURE | Augsburg appointing Enrico Maaßen leaves Borussia Dortmund with a coaching headache

When it comes to top coaches, Borussia Dortmund is a top destination and the academy and BVB II are no exception. Hannes Wolf, David Wagner, Daniel Farke, Jan Siewert and most recently Enno Maaßen are just some of the coaches to take over at the Stadion Rote Erde, the home of Dortmund’s second-string side.

The progression of the former head coaches underlines just how big a destination BVB’s U23s are; Wolf is now head coach of the Germany U19 team and progressed from BVB II to being the first-team coach of Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen and Stuttgart. US-German Wagner was recruited by Huddersfield Town and coached ‘The Terriers’ to promotion to the Premier League and then went on to the top job at Schalke 04 and most recently BSC Young Boys of the Swiss top tier. 

Farke is now head coach of Borussia Mönchengladbach, after departing his job at Krasnodar due to the Ukraine war and coached Norwich City to two promotions to the Premier League. Siewert took over from Wagner at Huddersfield Town, and was most recently head coach of Mainz 05 preceded by Mainz 05 academy. Mike Tullberg, after one season in charge of BVB II, has just renewed his contract as head coach of BVB’s U19s after leading the team to the Deutsche Meister championship title in June, the 10th title for Borussia Dortmund, a joint-record holder with VfB Stuttgart at U19 level.  

Between them, the successes of the recent coaches of ‘Die Amas’ add up to an impressive list of achievements and Maaßen’s achievements are by no means an exception. Appointed in the summer of 2019 after leading outsiders SV Rödinghausen to the Regionalliga-West (fourth tier) title he secured promotion to the 3. Liga with Borussia in 2020/21 and a ninth-place finish in 21/22. Altogether impressive enough to secure a huge leap into the Bundesliga, signing a contract with Augsburg until 2025.

Borussia Dortmund’s U23 team BVB II consistently prove themselves to be quite a launchpad for young coaches but its Maaßen’s own talents and achievements that have earned him the accolade of coaching the ambitious ‘Die Fuggerstädter’ into their eleventh season successive in the top tier. 

Back-to-back titles and a 9th place finish 

In 20/21, Maaßen led Borussia Dortmund U23s to the Regionalliga-West title and promotion to 3. Liga in 21/22, most impressively straight off the bat from winning the same title with an unfancied SV Rödinghausen side in 19/20. 

What made the achievement all the more impressive was the way the ‘Black and Yellows’ second-string side achieved the feat. BVB finished the season with an impressive 93 points, scoring 94 goals and conceding just 31 and suffering just one defeat all season beating even the previous league record of 83 held by Sportfreunde Lotte in season 15/16 – and that by 10 points. 

BVB look back at season 21/22 with a ninth-place finish with 49 points which certainly is an over-achievement in contrast to the side’s stated aim ‘to hold the class’ in their first season at this level in one of Europe’s most ferociously competitive third tiers. 

The difficulty of Germany’s third tier cannot be underestimated. Clubs in the 20 team division include some of the most well-known clubs in German football history, who have 10 German top tier titles between them including Eintracht Braunschweig, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, 1860 Munich, Hallescher FC, 1. FC Magdeburg and FSV Zwickau.

In summary, Maaßen’s team achieved a very respectable finish in a league faced with historically established clubs and intense, high-impact football in which the young team matched their skills against the best young talent outside of the top two tiers.

An impressive finish despite a season of the loss of key players to the first team and injuries

What also won’t have gone unnoticed by those observing Maaßen during 21/22 is how he managed the additional pressure on his side caused by the enormous injury crisis faced by BVB’s first team and the draining effect it has on the U23s. Players from the U23s have been called up time and time again during the past season, defensive players like Antonios Papadopoulos and Lennard Maloney, Steffen Tigges a striker who was permanently promoted, winger Ansgar Knauff who went on to win the Europa League whilst on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt and midfielder Tobias Raschl who following promotion to BVB’s first team earned a three contact with SpVgg Greuther Fürth.

Borussia Dortmund’s third division team has also not been spared injuries. Marco Pasalic, Immanuel Pherai and Luca Unbehaun in particular faced difficult injury-plagued seasons. 

Quizzed by Reviersport in February Maaßen commented: “Basically due to the injuries and the pull of players into the first team everything has been insanely tight, our players are young, I think it’s a combination of a lack of experience and nerves.” 

The first team’s injuries in 21/22 read like a ‘who’s who’ of the select best Raphael Guerreiro, Nico Schulz and Mateu Morey, Emre Can, Gio Reyna, Erling Haaland, Mahmoud Dahoud and Marius Wolf all had longer injury periods during the past season, it is easy to see how the need to provide cover could, especially with BVB hit by €70m in debt and subject to spending caps, could impact the second team. 

Massive crowds and inexperienced players Enrico’s strategy

A second factor that affected the young BVB II team, which has an average age of 22 was simply nerves or a lack of experience. In the Regionalliga-West the average gate was 2300, half of that if you take 1955 German Champions RW Essen out of the equation. In the 3 Liga, gates at former Bundesliga clubs like 1. FC Kaiserslautern who currently average 13,000 have been up to 10 times bigger than what the BVB reserve team are used to in the Regionalliga a pressure the team have managed admirably in the past season including in April winning 3-1 at promoted Kaiserslautern in front of a league record 48,416 spectators.

But what strategy did Maaßen implement to tackle the challenge on the pitch? In conversation with Reviersport, the 37-year-old coach highlighted, in particular, the defensive challenges: “The issue has been that we have conceded too many goals, there has not been enough clarity at the back.” For that BVB II needed all its defensive options and the 48 goals conceded are proof of the sheer size of the challenge in the past season. 

However, BVB II’s coach’s key focus and reasons for the impressive improvement in form in the second half of the season has been one of the coach’s key strengths; his focus on the team’s mental game: “Of course, we have aimed to be more combative at this level, my aim is for the team to fight more and go in harder, especially for second balls, I want the team to win every one on one, that’s what is needed determination.”

A stark improvement in the second half of the season 

Borussia Dortmund II rose from the bottom third of the table in terms of goals to a top ten finish winning 7 of the last eleven matches, an impressive turnaround for a team that was in the bottom third during the winter break. Impressive enough to gain the thirty-eight-year-old Maaßen the opportunity to take over from Markus Weinzierl, who resigned after the last game of the 2021/22 season at FC Augsburg. 

BVB in contrast now faces coaching challenges on two fronts having also lost their U17 coach Sebastian Geppert, who is now assistant to Edin Terzic. However new sporting director Sebastian Kehl underlined the club’s support for Maaßen’s move: “We didn’t want to deny Enno the opportunity to become a Bundesliga coach, It fills us with pride that another young BVB coach has leapt to the professional level.”

In an interview with Kicker, Augsburg’s managing director former Dortmund star Stefan Reuter underlined the club’s enthusiasm for the new coach: “We have followed Enrico Maaßen’s development with great interest over the past few years because he is a young coach who is hungry for success and wants to develop himself and those around him. He works very intensively with young players and has proven that he can successfully promote them.” Reuter continued: “In the wide-ranging and impressive talks, he presented clear visions of modern football that suit FCA and our team.”

Dortmund’s outgoing U23 team coach thanked Reuter and FC Augsburg in what has to seasoned observed been noticed as his characteristically humble manner that surely will earn Maaßen, who never got beyond the fourth tier, the Regionalliga as a player, more accolades: “I’m very grateful that Borussia Dortmund is now giving me this chance in Augsburg and I look forward to the challenge at this great club.” 

Candidates for succession at BVB II

In terms of succession, Reviersport report that Borussia Dortmund may look to either Patrick Glöckner or Guerino Capretti to succeed Maaßen. 

Glöckner who did not renew his contract at SV Waldhof Mannheim after two good years – averaging 1.68 points per game is currently on the market. Reviersport reports him as already having ‘held talks with BVB’. He is a 45-year-old football coach who is very familiar with the 3. Liga having worked with Mannheim and Chemnitzer FC, as well as FC Viktoria Köln in the Regionalliga, importantly he also brings experience from youth development at an elite level having worked for Eintracht Frankfurt’s U23 as co-trainer and video analyst. 

Guerino Capretti led SC Verl to promotion to the 3. Liga in 2019/2020 and a respectable seventh place in 2020/2021. He joined Dynamo Dresden in 21/22 and despite the team’s relegation to the third tier following the relegation playoffs with 1. FC Kaiserslautern demonstrated enough ability, especially on an interpersonal level which was underlined by Dynamo sporting director Ralf Becker in an interview with MDR at the end of May: “Guerino gave everything as a coach for us to achieve our sporting objectives, I am impressed by his qualities especially as a motivator, despite us missing our target Guerino has great potential as a coach and I wish him well.” His first season in the 2. Bundesliga with an injury-hit Dresden side in the past season was enough to gain the attention of Ingo Preuß, BVB II’s team manager.

Meanwhile BVB U16 coach Karsten Gorges is rumoured by club insiders to be in the mix for the U17 position but no confirmation of this could be obtained at the time of publishing.

Ben McFadyean

More European Football News