Ater spending big in the summer, Hamburg were expecting a lot more from coach Bruno Labbadia and his players.
1. Ciao Bruno
A mere five rounds into the new Bundesliga campaign and already two coaches have bitten the dust. Last week, Viktor Skripnik at Bremen. Now Hamburg’s Bruno Labbadia, who was fired shortly after the 1-0 home loss on Saturday to league leaders, Bayern Munich, his job security whittled away by four consecutive losses and just one point from a possible 15.
Labbadia’s side certainly did not disgrace themselves against the Bavarian All Stars, their brave resistance only broken two minutes from time, when Joshua Kimmich prodded in following excellent work on the left by Franck Ribery. But the fact remains that the northerners have spent most of this year fumbling in the dark, desperately short of attacking punch and defensive rigour.
Sources close to the HSV camp believe Labbadia’s fate sealed the moment the club’s principal investor, Klaus-Michael Kühne, latterly went public with his doubts regarding the leadership of the team. Kühne personally bankrolled Hamburg’s 33 million euro recruitment drive this summer – the new boys including Serb winger, Filip Kostic, Brazilian left-back, Douglas Santos and Croat dribbler, Alen Halilovic – and up to now the businessman must be wondering why he bothered.
Hamburg chairman of the board, Dietmar Beiersdorfer, is becoming quite a specialist in ditching key personnel, having seen off two sporting directors and four coaches in 24 months.
Ex-Hoffenheim boss, Markus Gisdol is to be Labbadia’s successor.
2. Schalke revise their priorities: survival not Champions League
Schalke’s newly-installed power couple of director of sport, Christian Heidel and coach, Markus Weinzierl, need to find answers fast if their side’s catastrophic pointless start to the season is not to lead to a typically bloody Gelsenkirchen palace revolution.
Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Hoffenheim was they Royal Blues’ fifth straight loss of 2016-17 and should the boys in blue carry on playing with so little endeavour and focus, the mood in this part of the Ruhr will turn ugly indeed. Although fans at the Veltins-Arena do not necessarily expect silverware, they do demand grit and fighting spirit, commodities conspicuous by their absence this term.
“Some of the players clearly don’t realise the position we find ourselves in,” lamented Heidel post-match. “I know how difficult a relegation battle can be. This team doesn’t. They’ve never been involved in one. It can’t go on like this. We have to pull together and make this a turning point.”
3. The chaos club gets itself a plan
Sitting pretty in third-place in the Bundesliga following a 1-1 draw at home to RB Leipzig, the undefeated Kölner are proving to be the surprise packets of the season.
Once a by-word for chronic instability – five top-flight relegations since 1998 and no fewer than 19 coaches in that time – the Billy Goats now prefer competence and economic common sense to flights of fancy and knee-jerk reactions and it’s no coincidence that everything in the Müngersdorfer garden seems to be rosy at the moment.
Their finances are looking good (breaking the 100 million euro turnover barrier last season and slashing debts to below 20 million for the first time in years); the fans are in buoyant mood and ever since Austrian coach Peter Stöger led them back into the Bundesliga in 2014, the team has improved steadily, especially in its tactical discipline, teamwork and chance-taking .
Their not-so secret weapon? French striker, Anthony Modeste, the complete centre-forward package of speed, physicality, guile and goals
4. Draxler breaks his silence
In the wake of his unsuccessful attempt this summer to force his way out of Wolfsburg and join Arsenal or Paris Saint-Germain, Germany attacking midfielder, Julian Draxler has kept his own counsel.
However finally decided to open up during a Wolfsburg fan event at the weekend.
“The club and I had our differences of opinion,” said the 23-year-old. “The club made its position clear and from September 1 we could only go in one direction. I’ll play here until next summer and want to concentrate only on that. There probably will be more speculation in January. But it won’t be provoked by me.”
Insisting that his working relationship with Wolves CEO, Klaus Allofs and coach Dieter Hecking remained professional, Draxler also took the opportunity to hit out at Der Spiegel magazine, who claimed in August that he had describes his favourite part of Wolfsburg as the road to Berlin.
“That was completely misreported,” he said. “I’ve nothing against the town of Wolfsburg or the club.”
Without a goal or an assist this season, Draxler’s obviously wants to draw a line under this messy affair. The question is – will the VW club’s fans let him ?
5. Russ raring to go again
Everyone connected with Eintracht Frankfurt will have been delighted to hear the news that centre-back, Marco Russ, is making a good recovery from testicular cancer and aims to be back in the first team fold early next year.
Quite a comeback for someone who only was diagnosed with the illness in May.
“My main goal is to travel with the team for their winter training camp, ” the 31-year-old told Welt am the Sonntag newspaper. “I hope I’ll be available for the Spring Championship, that I can be option for the coach and for Eintracht.”
Proof that the football business does have a heart, Frankfurt recently extended Russ’ contract until 2019.
“I’m really lucky I have Eintracht behind me, ” declared the defender.