Five Conclusions from Matchday 25By: Jan | March 12th, 2012
Markus Babbel is a welcome guest in Munich. Markus Babbel is a young promising Bundesliga coach, who has done reasonably well at his clubs so far. That is, as long as he doesn’t have to pay a visit to his former club. His Hertha side conceded three goals in 13 minutes earlier this season. Now with Hoffenheim, he slightly modified his naive tactics, resulting in Bayern needing a full 18 minutes to score the third goal. Progress. This small victory was eventually undone by the rather unflattering final scoreline. Bayern were in no mood to take it easy. With a tricky Champions League game against Basel coming up, they gladly took any confidence boost they could get. Hopefully for the Bundesliga’s chances in Europe, that did the trick. Otherwise, this game will reflect even worse on Hoffenheim, than it already does. Oh, and while at it. Borussia Dortmund’s unbeaten run continued, but their winning streak ended. Five points. Not yet a race, but looking slightly more interesting than last week.
In Cologne sparks fly on and off the pitch. On the pitch we could witness all the thrills of a proper relegation battle between Cologne and Berlin. Intense football. Intense atmosphere. Some controversial refereeing. Just about the right result for the billy goats. Lukas Podolski got his first red card in the Bundesliga, unjustly so, meaning there’s not much left to check off on his Bundesliga to-do list, before joining Arsenal. A move, that will hand Cologne a bit of money to build a new, less one-sided team. A move, that eventually escalated brewing conflicts between sporting director Volker Finke and coach Stale Solbakken, and possibly Lukas Podolski and quite a few other Cologne personnel. Whether that makes Finke the easy to pinpoint bad guy in the story is hard to say. He wasn’t quite the team player for sure though, as the questionable signing of Chong Tese, without consulting Solbakken, demonstrated. And if I had to choose between Finke and Solbakken, I’d always side with the Norwegian. A coach that deserves a professional management structure and a cooperative and competent sporting director. Whether he can really get that at a carnival club like Cologne, remains to be seen.
Hamburg are too dumb for the Europa League. I like the young team Frank Arnesen is assembling. Thorsten Fink’s tactics have yet to stand the long term Bundesliga test, but he is a very promising coach overall. I had some hopes, that a Rückrunde push for the Europa League could speed up the development of this team. That looks more than unlikely now. Hamburg are probably the team that suffers the most from individual errors, black outs and plain stupidity. This includes two questionable penalties against Stuttgart and Schalke, where Hamburg players happily invited players to draw the foul and win a soft penalty. The game against Schalke on Sunday was well played to the extent that Huub Stevens declared Hamburg the better team, but inefficiency at the top and the usual easy mistakes at the back, turned it into an easy Schalke win. Too bad, as their run-in, on paper, would have had some top third of the table finish potential.
Forget what I wrote about Leverkusen. That thing about Leverkusen going into the right direction. About Dutt settling in. After falling apart against Barcelona, and gladly blaming it all on a certain Lionel Messi, they defended just as naively against Magath’s marginally less talented Wolfsburg side. Michael Ballack put himself back in the headlines, with an appearance on a German football talkshow. The Champions League places are out of reach again. Everything back to normal at Leverkusen.
Augsburg can teach the rest of the league something about realistic ambitions and patience. Maybe it’s simply the luxury of nobody expecting anything more than dead last from Augsburg. But the Bundesliga newbies are doing a lot of things right at the moment. They didn’t take any risks or overspent on the transfer market. They didn’t heave unrealistic expectations on Jos Luhukay’s shoulders. In fact the management declared, he could just as well lose all 34 games and still be Augsburg, at the beginning of the season. And while all this added up to one of the two direct relegation spots for most of the Hinrunde, the team has now visibly adapted to the rough environments of Germany’s top league. It’ll still be a long hard fight to stay up, but it’ll be far less, than the foregone conclusion people predicted ahead of the season.