In the Bundesliga, touchy-feely trumps old-school | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.11.2010
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In the Bundesliga, touchy-feely trumps old-school

Uli Hoeness' public dressing down of Bayern's coach Louis van Gaal invites comparison with the two young coaches currently ruling the Bundesliga. So can the upstarts teach the veteran a thing or two?

Munich's coach Louis van Gaal congratulates Thomas Mueller

Louis van Gaal's man-management has come under scrutiny

Uli Hoeness waited until Sunday evening to give Germany's football media a top story to start the week. Appearing on TV station Sky with what was apparently a pre-meditated plan, the Bayern Munich president laid into his coach Louis van Gaal in the characteristically truculent style he’d not shown in a while.

"It is difficult to talk to him, because he doesn't accept other people's opinions," he said of the Dutchman who, lest we forget, took Bayern to a league-and-cup double, and the final of the Champions League in his first season.

"A club is not a one-man-show anymore. He should have more consideration when he has people with so much experience around him, as he has with us."

And there was even a note of weary resignation from Bayern's bullish top dog. "He'll take note of the criticism, but he won't accept it," he said.

Oddly, the tirade came two days after Bayern's assured 4-2 league win over Freiburg on Friday. After an unacceptably shaky start, and still trailing leaders Dortmund by 10 points, Bayern are showing signs of finding their accustomed authority on the pitch, and the defending champions are likely to have a say in the current Bundesliga season yet - even if few think they can still win it.

On top of this, Bayern are on the brink of sailing into the knock-out stages of the Champions League this week, having notched up three wins out of three.

Bayern Munich's Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Hoeness reckons Tymoshchuk can still contribute to Bayern's campaign

Keeping players happy

But that is not what has got Hoeness' back up. It's van Gaal's man-management, and the Freiburg game was his primary evidence. "I'm sitting in the stands and I'm seeing three goals from people who could've gone a while ago," Hoeness said.

Hoeness was referring to Martin Demichelis, Mario Gomez and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who have all been sidelined by van Gaal recently, and struggled with confidence at the start of the season. "Tymoshchuk, for example, was the best man on the field in the second half," said Hoeness. "We have four or five players who have been wrongly assessed."

Hoeness thinks these players have been made to wait for too long for their place in the starting line-up. "The players from the second string have not been supported for too long," he said. "We could have boosted their confidence. The board has now said: enough. All 20 of our players have to be kept happy. One or two of them have been treated unfairly."

The public outburst, delivered in a cool, measured manner from a seasoned media-manipulator, will clearly put pressure on the stubborn Dutchman, who is reported to have been none too pleased when informed of the criticism.

Generation gap

But it also invites a contrast with the two young coaches currently guiding the Bundesliga's top sides, Borussia Dortmund's Juergen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel of Mainz.

Klopp and Tuchel (43 and 37) are not much older than their oldest players, and crucially Tuchel is very much seen as a man coming out of Klopp's mold. The two have never actually worked together, but the present Dortmund coach served at Mainz for 18 years - as a player and then coach - so his management style is very much seen as the model on the Bruchweg.

Thomas Tuchel, left, and Juergen Klopp

Tuchel and Klopp have been much compared

Sunday's face-off between the two teams (a 2-0 victory for Dortmund, which meant the two swapped places at the top of the table) was cast as a duel between the old hand and the young pretender - Tuchel challenged to prove he can fill Klopp's boots, and that Mainz can actually back up their unexpected charge to the top of table against the more seasoned rival club.

There is plenty of similarity between the two young, emotionally fired-up coaches, as many a media outlet has noted. The newspaper Die Welt even went so far as to describe Buchel as a Klopp “clone”.

Klopp himself reacts to the comparisons in a fairly relaxed manner: "That we play similar football - that's true. That we both celebrate excessively - true. That we're young coaches - bull's eye, true! That we look alike - if you say so, although I have few more gray hairs," he told the Bild newspaper.

Management as therapy

But what really unites the two upstarts is their faith in unproven youngsters - both teams have made top players of a host of 22-and-unders. (For Mainz, these include Lewis Holtby, Andre Schuerrle and Adam Szalai, for Dortmund, there's Neven Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels and Nuri Sahin.)

And as mentioned, they both cut a more emotional figure at the side of the pitch than their Bayern counterpart, and they often appear dressed in a more casual style - tracksuits, not business suits.

But their hang-loose personae belie a serious discipline on the training pitch. Accounts of their practices suggest short, intense sessions where every detail of play is controlled with ultra-modern technological methods. Extensive files are kept on each player, including video clips of their play, which they are encouraged to check.

Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp

Klopp's encouragement keeps his players happy and improving

In Klopp's case, training includes something called 'Life Kinetics,' a peculiar type of juggling-based training, meant to improve coordination and concentration by actually working on eye reaction. Tuchel, meanwhile, is partial to intricate team exercises, such as one where the attacking third is split into six sectors, and the team in possession is not allowed to shoot until they’ve played the ball into all of them.

Klopp also takes an almost fatherly approach to preparing his players psychologically. "The fundamental pedagogical approach is not to criticize weaknesses at first, but to support the strengths," he recently said in an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit. "We don't say, 'You can't do this, you can't do that.' If I trust a player to improve himself, and if I can then show him how he can develop, first he'll believe me, and then he'll believe in himself."

It suggests a stark contrast to what Uli Hoeness is says at the austere regime at Bayern. Perhaps the Bayern president wishes he could send van Gaal to Klopp for some advice. Not that he would take it.

Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Matt Hermann

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