Bundesliga sacks coach, produces surprises at season start
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Only four matches into the season, the Bundesliga is proving eventful with one coach sacked, a couple more under pressure and some positive surprises so far.
One thing remains constant, though: Bayern Munich is already two points clear at the top of the table as the German powerhouse seeks an unprecedented fifth straight title.
Carlo Ancelotti has won all seven matches across all competitions since taking charge, something even his predecessor Pep Guardiola did not manage in three seasons. Ancelotti is now the first Bayern coach to win his first seven matches. His relaxed attitude seems to be appreciated by the players, who enjoy more freedom on the pitch than under the rigid, possession-first style of Guardiola.
Franck Ribery seems to be thriving under Ancelotti and the mercurial French winger has enjoyed a strong start, scoring twice in the first four matches.
The return of the other winger, Arjen Robben, has given Bayern another strong option. Robben needed only seven minutes to find the net after coming off the bench in Bayern’s 3-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Wednesday in his first match since March following two injuries.
Bayern has such depth that Portugal’s young midfield star Renato Sanches has made only two league appearances since joining from Benfiica after some impressive performances at the European Championship.
Here is what is happening elsewhere in the Bundesliga early in the season:
Werder Bremen’s Viktor Skripnik lasted three matches before being sacked. His interim successor Alexander Nouri saw his team go ahead, then lose 2-1 to Mainz and drop to a 0-4 record.
Two other coaches are under pressure. Hamburg’s Bruno Labbadia is living on borrowed time after one point in four matches and facing Bayern coming next. Schalke’s Markus Weinzierl has seen his team’s worst start in over three decades, with one goal scored in four defeats.
Eintracht Frankfurt is one of the positive surprises. Frankfurt barely escaped relegation in the playoff, having signed coach Niko Kovac in March. Frankfurt appears to have shopped wisely and Kovac has found new use for Mexican playmaker Marco Fabian. Fabian has scored once and set up two goals and Frankfurt has three wins.
The ambitious newcomer is still undefeated and stunned Borussia Dortmund in the opener. Backed by the financial clout of industrial magnate Red Bull, no wonder Leipzig’s story resembles the early rise of Hoffenheim. Ralf Rangnick was the coach of promoted Hoffenheim when it sensationally stormed to the top of the Bundesliga in 2006 and he is now Leipzig’s director of sports.
Leipzig appears to have what it takes to stay in the Bundesliga and confidently talks about bigger plans for the future.
Cologne may have only one star, but Anthony Modeste already has four goals and the club is undefeated, two points behind Bayern.
Modeste has 19 goals in 38 matches since joining Cologne from Hoffenheim, where he netted 19 in 55.
Schalke is the biggest disappointment so far. Markus Weinzierl was lured from Augsburg as one of Germany’s most touted young coaches and the club invested heavily into new players, only to score one goal in four straight defeats.
Schalke next travels to Hoffenheim and another loss would put Weinzierl under tremendous pressure.
Several young players are beginning to make their mark.
Ousmane Dembele, the French teenager, has scored his first goal for Dortmund; American striker Bobby Wood has netted twice for Hamburg and is about the only success story at the troubled club.
Werder Bremen is even in deeper trouble, but it has given 19-year-old Ousman Manneh his Bundesliga debut. The refugee from Gambia, who previously drew attention at a small provincial club, was promoted from Werder’s reserve side and came close to scoring in the 2-1 loss to Mainz. When he left the match in the 55th minute, Bremen was still leading.