Part 2: The New Manager Check-in
The likes of Sadio Mané, Nico Schlotterbeck, and David Raum may have stolen headlines with their moves in the transfer window, but this off-season hasn’t been without in the managerial dugout either.
In total, 7 of the 18 sides in the Bundesliga have a new manager on the touchline.
It’s the most off-season change in any of the major European leagues, and just 4 Bundesliga sides now have a head-coach who has been with a club for over 2 years.
With so much change over the past two seasons, it’s easy to lose track of who is patrolling the touchline across the various Bundesliga stadiums, so to get fans up to speed, this week’s issue focuses on some of the new faces.
If you want access to last week’s newsletter where we detail the remaining 4 managers, make sure to become a premium subscriber today!
Daniel Farke - Borussia M’gladbach
While this may be Daniel Farke’s very first stint in the Bundesliga, the 45-year old manager is far from an unfamiliar face in German football.
After an unremarkable career as a lower-league striker, Farke took over SV Lippstadt 08 in 2009, earning two successive promotions to end up in the Regionalliga West (Germany’s regional 4th-tier).
Thereafter followed Farke’s first eye-catching appointment, following in the footsteps of David Wagner to become Borussia Dortmund II coach.
Two successive top four finishes in the Regionalliga West were impressive, but it was Farke’s bold football and development focus which caught the eye in England.
Norwich City, a club regularly yo-yoing between the Premier League and Championship, were looking to bring in a manager that could instil an identity back into a club which fired 4 managers in two years.
Farke’s first season in the second-tier was largely unsuccessful, finishing in Norwich’s worst league position in almost a decade, but The Canaries were ultimately repaid for their faith with a league title the following year.
A lack of investment meant a true push to remain in the Premier League proved futile, but nevertheless Norwich once again mastered the Championship the following year with a club-record 97 points.
By the time Farke was relieved of his duties last November, the German head-coach held the second longest managerial spell in Norwich's 120-year history, and was generally well-received amongst a fanbase who had come to worship his lower-league success.
Daniel Farke stands for possession football.
Despite being relegated dead last in the 19-20 Premier League, Norwich held the 9th most possession, and the following year they led the EFL Championship with over 60% average possession.
Though there’s clear arguments for and against a possession-heavy style, it’s an aspect which many have been missing at the Borussia-Park.
Under former RB Salzburg coaches Marco Rose and Adi Hütter, Die Fohlen made significant steps towards becoming quicker and more direct on the ball, but it never really proved fruitful in a Gladbach squad whose strengths don’t translate to a frantic free-for-all football.
Key leadership figures like Christopher Kramer, Florian Neuhaus, and Jonas Hofmann are all most effective in controlled phases of possession, with Hofmann even praising the changes under Farke during his recent contract extension,
"It's going back in the direction that Borussia has always excelled at. We play football that the team embodies... good combination football. It will take time for everything to bear fruit, but we are on a very good path"
Why it will fit
Daniel Farke’s ability to prioritise long-term success and unite a club behind one common goal will be at the crux of his appointment at Borussia M’gladbach.
With key players, and iconic sporting-director Max Eberl leaving last season, Borussia M’gladbach are bracing for major change over the coming years, and appointing a "big-picture" manager like Farke is precisely what they need to master this delicate situation.
Why it won’t fit
Daniel Farke has never been successful in top flight football.
Norwich City may have been promoted as complete outsiders, but the fact that in 49 Premier League matches Farke has only won 6 shows that there may be limits to the German’s ball-oriented game at the highest level.
André Breitenreiter - TSG Hoffenheim
André Breitenreiter is a name which doesn’t carry a lot of weight in Germany, but it’s hard to understand why given his more than respectable CV.
At SC Paderborn he was, and still is, a cult-figure, taking a provincial outfit who were prime candidates for second-tier relegation to the dizzying heights of the Bundesliga.
An even greater legacy arguably follows him in the Swiss capital.
There, Breitenreiter took over FC Zürich in 2021, and within a year brought the side from within one spot of the relegation zone to first place. It ended a 13-year wait for a league title, and a wild pitch invasion highlighted Breitenreiter’s transformative effect on the club’s fortunes.
Even at the madhouse of Schalke 04 there are still strong reviews in his favour.
After finishing a respectable 5th place in 2015/16, Breitenreiter surely had done enough to keep his job, but soon-to-be sporting director Christian Heidel had other ideas and promptly fired him over the phone a day before the season was due to end.
Thus, really the only job one could call a failure would be at Hannover 96 between Spring 2017 and early 2019, but even there his ultimate downfall began with a tremendous start.
Taking over the club in March 2017, Breitenreiter would go undefeated in the 9 remaining matches of the Zweite Liga season to comfortably return the “Rothemden” back to the Bundesliga.
The following topflight season would even see Hannover stay up, but a lack of investment over the summer and a poor start to the campaign ultimately cost Breitenreiter his job in January.
With André Breitenreiter the Bundesliga has gained another manager who lives and breathes the motto quick & vertical.
His latest spell in FC Zürich is perhaps the best example.
Breitenreiter dominated the Swiss Super League with a 14-point gap to second place, but won the title with just 46.5% avg. possession.
Rarely, if ever, have we seen a side dominate a division with such a reactive style.
Every single champion in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season held at least 55% possession, whilst the only other side we can remember to accomplish a similar feat would have been Leicester City in 2014-15 - winning the Premier League with 43.7% avg. possession.
Another important aspect which defines André Breitenreiter is his tactical fluidity.
In Zürich Breitenreiter would largely stick to a 3-4-1-2, but previous jobs have regularly seen him fluctuate between 4 or 5 different setups.
Schalke is a particularly interesting case-study.
In the first half of the season Breitenreiter largely stuck to a 4–2-2-2 to get the most out of the creative talents of Julian Draxler, but following the German international’s January departure, Breitenreiter easily changed the system to a more balanced 4-2-3-1.
Regardless of the personnel or tactical outlook, Breitenreiter’s quick, vertical, philosophy stands at the centre, and all the other pieces can easily slot in around it.
Why it Will Fit
André Breitenreiter has a proven track record at clubs with a similar stature to TSG Hoffenheim, and his footballing identity fits the young and talented squad Alexander Rosen has formed.
Furthermore, even with a key departure in the form of David Raum, Breitenreiter should be able to adapt given his history of forming a tactical setup that is not overly dependent on individual pieces to perform.
Why it Won’t Fit
One of the biggest issues at Hoffenheim last season was their defence.
Only 3 sides in the division conceded more often, and one needs to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time Hoffenheim conceded more than 60 goals in a topflight campaign.
Breitenreiter is by no means an issue in this respect, but he is also not a solution.
At Schalke 04 Breitenreiter conceded the second most goals of any side which finished in the top half of the table, and in his final 58 league matches for Hannover 96 the “Rothemden” kept a clean sheet on just one occasion.
Edin Terzić - Borussia Dortmund
Edin Terzić is far from a new face at Borussia Dortmund.
Since childhood he’s been a fan of Die Schwarz-Gelben, since 2010 he has been working on and off for the club, and in 2020 he even stepped in as interim manager.
That final point is arguably the biggest reason why he’s been permanently recalled to the touchline.
Coming into an underperforming squad in December 2020, Terzić turned the tide at the Westfalenstadion to salvage a campaign spiralling out of control.
Not only did he scrape a 6th consecutive Champions League qualification, but Terzić crowned his success with victory in the DFB-Pokal - BVB’s first title since 2017.
With Marco Rose joining from Borussia M’gladbach for €5m last summer, Terzić returned to a backroom role, but an underwhelming year that included premature exits in both cup competitions meant Terzić was the ideal man to return to the dugout when the job became available this off-season.
The Tactical Fit
After Lucien Favre’s 2 ½ uninspiring seasons of slow possession-football, BVB made a conscious decision last summer to electrify the fanbase with a system that put more honice on gegenpressing and transition moments.
Marco Rose was entrusted to steer this development, but given his failure, the burden now falls on the shoulders of Edin Terzić. The 39-year old may only have 25 Bundesliga matches under his belt, but it’s clear to see in his short coaching career a clear appreciation for fast-paced football.
Only FC Bayern made more tackles in the attacking third than Borussia Dortmund in the 2020-21 Bundesliga, while two matches into the current season Terzić’s aggressive pressing identity is even more pronounced.
Beyond any on-field tactics though, one of the biggest aspects behind Terzić’s appointment will have been his impressive man-management skills.
Coming into a demoralised squad, Terzić helped turn the tide by raising individual performances throughout the squad.
Mo Dahoud, a peripheral figure throughout his first 3 seasons in Dortmund, was suddenly indispensable in central midfield. Mateu Morey, just 20-years old at the time, looked like a veteran at right back, and Jadon Sancho, goalless in his first 11 matches under Favre, ended the season with 8 goals and 4 assists under Terzić.
This expert ability to handle various personalities and help players overcome form-dips will be crucial in a tough season ahead.
Why it Will Fit
After a season of uninspiring football, Edin Terzić is precisely the emotional figurehead who can launch a cultural reboot and reignite the strong bond between team and fans.
His unique man-management skills, and history of success, should form a strong backbone for him to immediately gain the respect of a squad he is largely familiar with, and his emotional pull could prove crucial in getting over any inferiority complexes that may keep BVB from challenging for the Bundesliga next season.
Why it won’t fit
In late 2020, Edin Terzić came into a BVB squad that needed emotional guidance, and powerful leadership, to get out of an early season slump under Lucien Favre.
After some initial difficulties Terzić did a solid job, but altogether different demands await him in his second spell on the sidelines.
Joining ahead of the season, the German-Croatian inherits a largely new-look squad, with multiple established stars, and significant expectations to compete for the Meisterschale.
Though Terzić may know the club inside and out, his inexperience in a head-coach role may be found out in the biggest tests that will ultimately make or break BVB’s domestic and European campaigns.