Werder’s bankruptcy in Leipzig was not unexpected, the descent is closer than ever. Coach Kohfeldt no longer seems to be able to turn the tide. But the chance for change has already been missed, says Janek Speight.
Florian Kohfeldt’s behavior at the final whistle has hardly changed in the past few months. Desolate, isolated, a piece of chewing gum in his mouth to calm the nerves. The coach has been far too far from living up to the reputation he has built during his incredible debut season at Werder Bremen, which almost ended in European qualification. This season, in which Bremen is currently in 17th place in the table, Kohfeldt’s time has clearly run out.
But the club management missed the chance to stop the dramatic crash with a change of coach. Loyalty has cost them precious time and now they are almost in the second division with one foot. In view of the upcoming difficult encounters, changing coaches no longer makes sense. But the club holds on to Kohfeldt and there is hardly any chance of stopping the downward spiral. That is the dilemma.
Kohfeldt’s season is best illustrated by numbers. Eight losses in the last nine games, 51 goals conceded throughout the season and 17 goals alone according to standard situations. The 0: 3 defeat on Saturday against RB Leipzig was the fifth time that the team in a match three or more goals have conceded.
There have been numerous occasions in the past few months where a change of coach would have been more than justified.
On December 17, there was a 0: 5 swatter at home against relegation candidate Mainz 05. Only four days later, 1. FC Köln was lost 0-1 at the basement child. Or after the less inspiring appearances against Hoffenheim, Augsburg or Union Berlin in the last three weeks. In each case, there was a defeat and each would have been reason enough for a change on the coaching bench.
Managing Director Frank Baumann has shown admirable reluctance and confidence towards the former coach of the reserve team, but that could backfire with the first relegation in almost exactly 40 years.
Too late for a change
Bremen will face Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen, and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the next six games. A new face on the sidelines for such difficult games is unlikely to greatly improve the chances of success. Management missed this opportunity.
The team appears to have no drive and no ideas. The players lack creativity and focus in defense. There are no signs of improvement yet. The coach has no tactical answers, and the team’s inability to focus on the basics of the game questions its ability to motivate.
This can happen to the best managers if the results are no longer correct. The reasons for the dramatic slump this season are varied and complicated. Kohfeldt remains a talented and promising young German trainer who is sure to get another chance. He could still use it in Bremen, be it in the Bundesliga or maybe even league two.
Loyalty or ignorance?
“We believe in Florian’s work,” said Baumann after the defeat in Leipzig on the sky microphone. “We are convinced that Florian is the right coach for this team and this club, even in this difficult situation. I see how he works with the team every day.” The club management is behind Kohfeldt. “We have to make sure that we deliver results, and we are convinced that we can achieve this with Florian. Then the mood will not completely change.”
The club seems determined to stick with the 37-year-old Kohfeldt, even if the worst comes to the worst. But if the coach is not to blame, the Bremen team must find the reasons elsewhere. The descent from a European hopeful to a relegation candidate is no accident. Loyalty is an admirable quality. But failing to identify the real reasons for the club’s crash could ultimately lead to the second division.