The last-placed team in the Bundesliga, Kaiserslautern, has dismissed coach Marco Kurz after 16 games without a win - equaling a low-point established in the 1960s. But the move may not help Lautern's attacking woes.
FC Kaiserslautern announced on Tuesday afternoon that club coach Marco Kurz has been put on a leave of absence. Lautern are rock bottom of the league with the least productive attack in the Bundesliga, and have gone 16 games without a win - drawing level with the club's previous record for poor performance set in the 1967/8 season.
"In order to have really explored every possible avenue towards remaining in the top division, we have to take this path," club chairman Stefan Kuntz said at a press conference in Kaiserslautern. "After the 4-1 defeat to Schalke and many intensive discussions, we have come to the unanimous conclusion that this is a necessary step."
Kaiserslautern's 4-1 loss at their Betzenberg stadium was hardly a shock against front-runners Schalke, but it was one of the first embarrassing defeats Lautern had suffered all season. The Red Devils have the worst attack in the Bundesliga by a long way, but they looked rock solid at the back for most of the season - still boasting the best defense in the bottom half of the table. Kuntz had described Sunday's blowout, a new kind of failure for the struggling club, as the "low-point" of an already difficult season.
"We have tried out many different measures in the past weeks and months, aiming to put the team on a winning path. Sadly, we haven't managed it," Kuntz said on Tuesday, adding that the decision to dismiss Kurz was "very difficult."
Kurz and Kuntz were said to enjoy a positive, amicable working relationship, with the 42-year-old coach also popular with the players.
Do or die in Freiburg
Kaiserslautern sit a full six points adrift of safety, last in the Bundesliga table. The team travels to fellow strugglers Freiburg on Saturday for what is effectively a must-win match. Freiburg, however, have not lost in their last three games, appearing to have hit a rich vein of form in their bid to escape the drop zone. With just eight rounds of fixtures left in the Bundesliga season, time is running out for sides like Freiburg and Lautern.
Kaiserslautern did not immediately announce who will stand on the sidelines in Freiburg. Initial reports from German sports news agency SID linked Franco Foda with the post. A former German national team player, albeit with just two caps, Foda was a product of the Kaiserslautern youth academy. The coach of Austrian side Sturm Graz had announced his intention to leave the club in the summer, but told TV station Sport 1 that he did not intend to duck out early to take a new job.
Mass-circulation daily Bild later reported on its Internet homepage that Krassmir Balakov, a former Bundesliga star, Hungarian international and the current coach of Hajduk Split in Croatia, would be tasked with saving Lautern from relegation.
Whoever takes the reigns, they will inherit a club that has appeared impotent in attack throughout the season. No Kaiserslautern player has more than three goals to his name, the club has only scored four since the winter break, and with the transfer windows long shut, seeking fresh blood up front is not an option as the side bids to stay in the Bundesliga.
Kurz on Tuesday became the seventh Bundesliga coach to leave his post this season. Hertha Berlin, just one place above Lautern and in a tailspin of their own, have parted ways with both Markus Babbel and Michael Skibbe. Freiburg dismissed Marcus Sorg while Hamburg lost patience in Michael Oenning and Hoffenheim sacked Holger Stanislawski. Ralf Rangnick, meanwhile, stepped down from his post at Schalke early in the season because of burn-out.
msh/acb (dpa, SID)