For my money, the biggest disappointment is Eintracht Frankfurt. You name it, they’ve done it wrong, and so they deserve what is looking likely to be the fourth relegation in club history. I mean, just look at them: the worst second leg to a season ever and a disastrous attempt at something approaching football against Cologne this weekend – which, needless to say, ended with them losing 0:2.
It’s a far cry from the start of the season, when Frankfurt were still entertaining dreams of the Europa League; in the second half of the season, they only won one game, taking them from seventh down to seventeenth place. Ironically enough, it was directly after their only win in the second leg of the season that chairman of the board Heribert Bruchhagen, usually a calm and collected character, lost his nerve. The quiet and strong leadership with which he had led Frankfurt from the doldrums of the lower second league into the Bundesliga gave way to jumpy reactions, leading him to fire coach Michael Skibbe and hire Christoph Daum. Daum sells himself as a “motivator”, but generally just talks jargon-style nonsense – he is quoted as using lines like “your head should be your third leg” in training sessions. This explains why other teams who swapped trainers did well – VfB Stuttgart with Bruno Labbadia, 1. F.C. Köln with Schäfer, even Mönchengladbach with Lucian Favre – whilst Frankfurt just got worse. The idea was to not get relegated this season and get to the top next time round: but Daum’s record of four losses and three draws speaks for itself.
Now, of course Frankfurt had more than their fair share of bad luck, too. A couple of their most important guys like Chris or Maik Franz were sorely missed – but that’s why there are coaches and chairmen, to plan for that kind of eventuality. They made no effort to broaden their squad during the winter break, leaving defence undermanned and a gaping whole in the strike force where Theofanis Gekas had been. They tried filling in for him with Fenin, Altintop and Amanatidis, all of whom have been putting in poor performances for several seasons now; meanwhile, what young talent they did have was squandered in the form of Cenk Tosun, sold off during the winter break.
As if all that weren’t enough, with Daum they managed to find themselves one of the few coaches who completely refuses to train teams in the Second League. I mean, it’s amazing that this guy can work anywhere with an attitude like that – he’ll certainly have trouble finding a gig come next season. The effect was not to motivate the team, but to give the players looking to leave every excuse to start shoring up their life-rafts rather than patching up the leaks on the good ship Eintracht – the captain of this sinking vessel, by the way, was the first to jump ship, announcing his move to Wolfsburg. The fans are leaving in droves, too, opening up space for the kind of hooligan antics we’ve seen in the last weeks against Mainz and Cologne.
So Frankfurt is imploding, and I simply can’t see the side being able to hold their heads up high like St. Pauli did on the weekend: even after a 1:8 defeat against the colossus Bayern München, the coach and the team left the field with their dignity intact. They can handle relegation, but Eintracht Frankfurt will almost cease to exist: no coach, no team, no revenue – football is fleeing Frankfurt. It’ll get even more dramatic if Frankfurt do manage to make the playoffs to stay in the league, inasmuch as they’ll be up against VfL Bochum: their coach Friedhelm Funkel led Frankfurt up into the Bundesliga in 2005 and kept them there. He could now well be the one to send them back down.
Results Matchday 33:
FC Schalke 04 – 1. FSV Mainz 05 1:3
Werder Bremen – Borussia Dortmund 2:0
Bayer Leverkusen – Hamburger SV 1:1
VfB Stuttgart – Hannover 96 2:1
VfL Wolfsburg – 1. FC Kaiserslautern 1:2
Eintracht Frankfurt – 1. FC Köln 0:2
Borussia Mönchengladbach – SC Freiburg 2:0
1. FC Nürnberg – 1899 Hoffenheim 1:2
FC St. Pauli – Bayern München 1:8
1 Borussia Dortmund 72 P
2 Bayer Leverkusen 65 P
3 Bayern München 62 P
4 Hannover 96 57 P
5 1. FSV Mainz 05 55 P
6 1. FC Nürnberg 47 P
7 Hamburger SV 44 P
8 SC Freiburg 44 P
9 1899 Hoffenheim 43 P
10 1. FC Kaiserslautern 43 P
11 VfB Stuttgart 42 P
12 Werder Bremen 41 P
13 1. FC Köln 41 P
14 FC Schalke 04 40 P
15 VfL Wolfsburg 35 P
16 Borussia Mönchengladbach 35 P
17 Eintracht Frankfurt 34 P
18 FC St. Pauli 29 P