As the dust settles on the Borussia Mönchengladbach managerial fall-out, we look ahead to 2017 and wonder who will be next to lose their job.
Seven Bundesliga clubs have sacked their manager since the start of the campaign, a record for this stage of the season and already more than were sacked in the entire 2015-16 season. Some of these were less surprising: Viktor Skrypnyk at Werder Bremen was doing a less than inspiring job even at the end of last season, whilst the manager's seat at Hamburg is almost permanently hot, sadly for Bruno Labbadia. Dieter Hecking was arguably a victim of his own success at VfL Wolfsburg, Andre Schubert was understandably released from a disappointed Gladbach and Norbert Meier looked somewhat out of his depth at Darmstadt. Ditto Markus Kauczinski at FC Ingolstadt. Dirk Schuster will be particularly frustrated at his dismissal from FC Augsburg, as the club cited his playing style as the reason for his departure despite his side looking reasonably comfortable in mid-table.
So that's where the sackings have already happened, but what next for the Bundesliga? As Axel and I discussed on the Christmas podcast (link below) the majority of the remaining managers are very good at their jobs and on solid ground going into the New Year. Julian Nagelsmann, Peter Stöger and Pal Dardai are arguably still overachieving, with Hoffenheim still undefeated, Cologne in the hunt for a European place and Hertha Berlin sitting pretty in third. Niko Kovac has done an incredible job at Eintracht Frankfurt, taking them from relegation play-off trouble to fourth place at Christmas in just over six months. Carlo Ancelloti and Thomas Tuchel need have no fear of the sack, despite question marks over Bayern's 4-3-3 formation (totally unjustified) and Dortmund's inconstistency (needs to improve but no cause for concern). Ralph Hasenhüttl at RB Leipzig is sitting pretty with his side in second place over the winter break and will be delighted with the way his side have adapted to the Bundesliga, as will SC Freiburg boss Christian Streich.
And then there were three. Roger Schmidt at Bayer Leverkusen must have been glad Wendell could grab an equaliser against Cologne on the final matchday before Christmas, as his side have seriously underperformed so far this season and defeat against their local rivals would have left them seven points off the European places. As it is, ninth place behind SC Freiburg is still a disappointment given the calibre of some of the players in the squad, but a successful Champions League campaign has taken the domestic pressure off of Schmidt. Bayer are one of my favourite teams to watch when at their best and I believe they will come good in the second half of the season, but Schmidt will be aware of the mounting pressure.
His namesake, Martin Schmidt, has been doing a reasonable job at Mainz 05, keeping things ticking over and ensuring they are comfortable in mid-table. With their elimination from the Europa League comes greater responsibility to play well in the Bundesliga, but with their European hangovers causing them the most misery this season that will probaby work in their favour. They could push for the Europa League again by May. Schalke's boss Markus Weinzierl will certainly not be totally satisfied with the way his first half season as Königsblau boss has gone, but with the rampant injury crisis, lack of a striker and a sense that he's still working out his best team he has earnt more time. Boss Christian Heidel isn't quick with the trigger finger either, so expect Weinzierl to have at least another transfer window in the summer before the pressure starts threatening his job.
So where does that leave the Bundesliga? Realistically the next manager to be sacked would come from a club that hasn't yet sacked their manager, but most are looking pretty secure in their jobs and bringing success to the fans. Roger Schmidt will have to watch his back if Leverkusen haven't improved by the time they face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, but for now he appears to be safe. Weinzierl is one to keep an eye on but I expect him to be Schalke boss until at least the end of the season. So that leaves....?
Well, Markus Gisdol at Hamburg is almost certainly under scrutiny, although the removal of Beiersdorfer as Director of Football will probably bring increased job security for the man in the dugout, plus his alleged plans to bring in a number of players to strengthen his defence in January sounds shrewd. Darmstadt, Augsburg and Gladbach have only just sacked one coach so it will be a while before the next one comes under pressure (Hecking could be a very good appointment by Gladbach, as a side note). Realistically, Werder Bremen head coach Alexander Nouri will be under the greatest pressure given the lack of improvement under his tenure, the longest of any replacement coach. Without Serge Gnabry Bremen would be sinking very quickly and the young German star will be crucial in the second half of the season. Nouri will need more if he is to avoid the sack and the closer Bremen get to a relegation fight the more unstable his position will become.
Bremen and Bayer have the managers on the hottest seats right now, but the joy of the Bundesliga is how crazy it can be. Stay tuned over the winter break to see what happens...
Have a great Christmas/ winter break/ summer break depending on where you are in the world and see you in the New Year!