In news we’ve been waiting to report for a while, Louis van Gaal has been relieved of his duties as FC Bayern Munich’s manager, effective immediately. The experienced, low-key assistant Andries Jonker takes over for the last 5 matches, at which point Jupp Heynckes will arrive permanently.
The last month has been a textbook case of why you never fire a guy “effective after this year is over.” If the team is under-performing, and the poor performance is the result of bad coaching, how is the situation going to get better by firing the manager but allowing him to coach the last 3 months of the season? This is especially true when the problem seems to result from a lack of communication with the players, and the resultant problems with motivation and respect. If the club is tired of hearing the manager and starting to tune out everything he says, the problem can only get worse (likely much worse) when they know he’s going to be gone at the end of the year.
For the last few weeks, the team has pretty much been on auto-pilot, with Lahm and Schweinsteiger providing whatever leadership there is. It’s unclear what Jonker is going to do tactically, but even removing van Gaal and most of his assistants has to be a major plus in the dressing room.
The part of the story that surprised me a little was Uli’s statement that “It all started getting messy when he (Van Gaal) dropped Hans-Jorg Butt and replaced him with Thomas Kraft.” While I’m on record as saying that replacing Kraft is the proper move, I don’t think our entire bad season can be blamed on him. I distinctly remember blowing several matches against inferior competition with Hans-J in goal early this season. After allowing a soft goal through a bad mistake on Saturday, Kraft makes an easy scape-goat, but keep in mind he has made some very good saves this year, including stuffing penalty shots against Wolfsburg and Freiburg that have kept us half-way alive in the CL hunt.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether Jonker feel like he has to replace Kraft for the stretch run. Obviously the goal is to get Neuer, and several of my readers assure me that’s as good as done. But if we miss CL qualification and Neuer decides to stay with Schalke, it appears we’ll be looking elsewhere anyway. Should be an interesting summer.
In other news, Robben has been banned for the next two games. As we discussed, this weekend’s match vs. Leverkusen is absolutely vital, so I guess we’ll see what Altintop can bring to the table. Check back in tomorrow for a look ahead and some updated CL qualification math. Thanks for reading.