Here We Go Again ⋆ An Old International

Here We Go Again

This season was, at the beginning, one for dusting off and preparing for promotion to Bundesliga 2 in a few years’ time. Ten months, a pandemic and 31 games later, this season has turned into a nightmare. Magdeburg have hired and fired two coaches this season, making the club resemble its former incarnation between 1995 and 2004 where stability was a quality lacking.

Rebuilding

When relegation after just one season in division two was confirmed last year in April, it was clear for everyone involved that this was too good an experience to miss out on and the club vowed to get back within the next three years. There has been a huge clearout of players, understandably. The players who gained promotion in 2018 were good but as a team lacked cleverness and bloody mindedness to manage to stay up. Had this been the case, this post may have looked very differently.

However, writing history or commenting on recent events is not about using the subjunctive and stick to speculations; it is all about looking at the facts and the narratives. The facts are clear: Magdeburg are not good enough this season to play in the upper half of the table. Period. This is not due to the lack of good and very good players. They are a good mix of youngsters and seasoned pros to provide a serious challenge to any team facing them. Yet, as a team they have not gelled on the pitch. For large parts of the season the play was piecemeal. A coach as expierenced as Stefan Krämer could not turn the squad into a team; he had to go just before Christmas.

The statistics for Magdeburg with Krämer are not that bad: 1,36 points per game makes him the second best behind Jens Härtel whose 1,78 put him ahead of the four head coaches Magdeburg have had since spring 2018, including Michael Oenning (1,05) and Claus-Dieter Wollitz (0,91). The latter’s fate was decided yesterday, 9 June 2020. Magdeburg played away at Rostock, where Härtel is now in charge and were beaten 3:1. Wollitz lasted eleven games, managed two wins, 4 draws and five defeats. Before the winter break Magdeburg were sitting safely in the upper half within reach of the top three places. With no apparent reason, Krämer was fired and Wollitz presented just a day later. The desired effect did not come forth; in fact quite the opposite happened and the situation worsened by the week. The final straw was the away defeat at Hansa Rostock. Some twitteratis described the game as shambolic, while the MDR match report credited Magdeburg at least with some fighting, though not enough and too late.

The Narrative

The aim of this season was to gather strength and assemble a squad capable of pushing for promotion in 2022. However, the reality looked quite different. From the off, it was clear that the team and the club looked disbalanced. Whatever went on behind the curtains, it was serious enough to almost derail the season. From the relative safety of a mid-table existence the club has nose dived since January; no coach and no bank account in this division could amend that. The easiest thing to do in such a situation is to release the head coach of his duties, bring in a replacement, ideally one with a track record for such a difficult situation and hope for the best. This is a narrative quite different from the one the club direction and the supporters had hoped for. The only thing that seems to be balanced is the bank account, everything else is heavily in disorder. Besides Wollitz, the sporting director, Maik Franz, has not been fired but at least degraded. His attempt to assemble a competitive squad failed, twice in two years. Additionally, he was responsible for the last three coaches, none of them was a fit. While it is difficult to find a character to fill the boots of Jens Härtel, hiring and firing three coaches since November 2018 does not reassure the supporters that Franz has the nous to get out of this situation without being taken down a peg or two. This is exactly what many have demanded and what has happened. Mario Kallnik will take over until the end of the season while Thomas Hoßmang, so far responsible for the academy, will take the reigns for the senior squad.

The Way Things Are

There are still seven matches to be played, 21 points to be won. Magdeburg could turn it around. The next two matches are against Viktoria Köln and Halle, two rivals against relegation. It will not get easier and the preconditions were not ideal, to say the least. At the end of the day however, Magdeburg are a professional soccer club and they have to take it on the chin, that things are the way they are right now.

On July 4 (what a fateful date to end a season!) we will know more. We will have bitten off our fingernails and slept badly for a few nights but all shall be good.

It is three and a half weeks until the end of the season, the club need at least ten points from seven matches, Magdeburg have a squad in disarray and the sun is shining. Hit it!

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