As we approach the finals stages of the Bundesliga season, delivering under pressure is more important than ever. Most managers will be sitting comfortably, knowing their team is either safe or in the chase for Europe. However, not every manager is sure of their future. Relegation battles, title races and even underachievers, these four managers are feeling the heat, as we reach the business end of the Bundesliga season.
Bundesliga Managers: Who is on the Hot Seat?
Niko Kovač – Bayern Munich
Under pressure since day one, Kovač has slowly settled into his role. A club with massive expectations, Bayern Munich‘s inability to dominate this season had fans demanding change. Nine points behind rivals Borussia Dortmund, the winter break was uncomfortable for Kovač.
Dealing with injuries is a part of football, but the 47-year-old Croat was hit harder than most. Without key players like Arjen Robben, Kingsley Coman, James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso for large chunks of the season, the pressure was on. As the season went on, Bayern recovered and fan appreciation returned. Closing the gap on Dortmund, Bayern sat top of the Bundesliga table after matchday 25.
Now, the team’s recovery is all well and good, but let’s remember, this is Bayern Munich. Getting there is one thing but ultimately, Kovač will be judged on what he delivers. Top of the table, Bayern only lead Dortmund on goal difference. The two teams will meet on April 6th, a game which will likely decide who wins the Meisterschale.
The team will also face Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16. Goalless after the first leg, a win would be huge for Kovač, as he hopes to repair his relationship with the fans. Still capable of winning the treble, Bayern are the favourites to win the DFB-Pokal.
Drawn against 2. Bundesliga side Heidenheim, Bayern have a clear path to the semi-finals. Kovač won this competition with Eintracht Frankfurt last season, beating Bayern in the final.
Dieter Hecking – Borussia Mönchengladbach
One of the Bundesliga’s more inconsistent teams, Gladbach under Hecking are a confusing side to analyse. Under pressure early on this season, Hecking was at risk of losing his job. Sitting sixth after matchday four, Gladbach looked lacklustre on the pitch.
Underperforming, the team’s attitude changed and so too the results. Climbing the table, Hecking and his team found themselves in an unlikely title race. Second behind Borussia Dortmund after matchday eight, Hecking’s Gladbach was taking full advantage of Bayern’s struggles.
The team remained second for seven weeks, leading to a contract extension for Hecking. Fully deserved, Hecking’s team looked set for Europe. However, tougher times were ahead.
Gladbach would stay second until the Ruhr derby, against rivals Dortmund. The team would drop from second to fourth in just eight games. Losing to Dortmund in the derby, Hecking’s side also lost crucial games against Hertha Berlin, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich.
Despite his contract extension, some have begun to question the 54-year-old once again. Out of the DFB-Pokal and on the verge of falling out of the Champions League places, Hecking is under more pressure than ever. Securing European football is a big deal for Gladbach and their fans, Hecking must deliver if he wants to remain in charge long-term.
Domenico Tedesco – Schalke
After an impressive second place finish last season, Tedesco’s second season in charge at Schalke has been a disaster. Finding themselves in a relegation battle, the 33-year-old faces the toughest test of his young career. Once labelled one of the best young managers in Europe, Tedesco is now on the verge of being fired, less than 12 months later.
Falling victim to the club’s absurd transfer policy, he entered the season with less talent and higher expectations. A struggle from the start, Schalke’s form has been abysmal. Losing their opening five games, the team sat rock bottom of the table after matchday four. Conceding nine goals in those five games, Tedesco’s side looked hopeless.
As many expected, the team recovered as the season went on. Moving up to 12th, Schalke’s mini-recovery was considered progress. However, with the team focusing on two other competitions, Tedesco and his struggling squad remained a mid-table team. Sliding back down to 14th, Schalke now finds themselves in a relegation battle.
Just four points ahead of the relegation playoff place, there’s no room for error. Tedesco has kept his job this long because of DFB-Pokal and Champions League success, but just as Hamburg and Köln will tell you, you’re never too big to be relegated in the Bundesliga.
Thomas Doll – Hannover
Hitting rock bottom on matchday six, Hannover has looked doomed for a while. Firing Andre Breitenreiter towards the end of the winter window, the club’s replacement surprised everyone. The team hired former Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Doll, someone who hadn’t managed in the Bundesliga since 2008.
Tasked with saving the club from relegation, Doll took on a team of uninspiring players and a club with a long injury list. Without two key players, Ihlas Bebou and Niclas Füllkrug, the team faces a near impossible task to survive. Now sitting 17th, the team is eight points away from safety.
Since taking over, Doll has picked up just three points in six games. Conceding 17 goals in the process, it’s unlikely we see Hannover or Doll in the Bundesliga next season.
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