Monday, 28 February 2011

Borghi Handed Tough Job To Emulate Bielsa

Argentinian coach Marcelo "madman" Bielsa was something of an unknown quantity to most armchair football fans before he led the Chilean National Side to the 2010 World Cup but their impressive qualifying campaign combined with very attacking football has made him a candidate for a number of top jobs in Europe.

For those with a strong interest in South American football then Bielsa would have been a familiar name after some big jobs in the region such as Club America in Mexico, Newell's Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield in Argentina and the Argentinian national team itself for a 6-year period. Bielsa was appointed head coach of the Chilean national team in 2007 and has guided Chile through one of its most successful spells on the international stage.

Chile's terrific qualifying campaign saw them finish second in the South American standings, just a point behind Brazil, and having scored just one goal less than the Samba stars during the 18 matches. The most impressive thing about Chile during Bielsa's reign was the fast-tracking of so many talented young stars who went on to grace the World Cup platform in June last year.

Bielsa's attacking style was great on the eye but the system employed by the Argentine would have raised a few eyebrows before the tournament kicked-off. Some outlets said 4-2-3-1, some said 4-3-3, and probably most accurate was that of the superb Zonal Marking site, which showed Chile in a 3-3-1-3 formation.

'Loco Bielsa' resigned in February after a spat with FA President Jorge Segovia leaving the Chilean FA the almost impossible job to replace a coach that has knitted together one of the finest young squads in International football.

Their replacement was another Argentine who has been involved in some of the top jobs like his predecessor. 46-year-old Claudio Borghi takes over the reigns from Bielsa after a terrible short spell as coach of Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors. Borghi has coached some of Argentina's big clubs like Boca, Independiente and Argentinos Juniors, where he led Argentinos to their first domestic championship in 25 years.

Despite his failed stint at La Bombonera, Borghi seems the sensible appointment for the Chilean FA as he has a wealth of coaching experience in South America, and a hugely successful spell with Colo-Colo in Chile where he was involved in coaching some of the current crop of Chilean Internationals such as Matias Fernandez, Jorge Valdivia, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Humberto Suazo. Borghi won four Chilean league championships (Apertura/Clausura) and his Colo-Colo side reached the 2006 Copa Sudamericana final where they lost to Mexican side Pachuca.

Borghi has agreed a deal until the 2014 World Cup play-offs which has the option to be extended if Chile qualify for the competition in Brazil. The former Boca coach will have less than four months to prepare his side for the 2011 Copa America in Argentina which starts in July.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Clock Ticking On Thomas Schaaf?

There are not many 'one-club men' around in football and certainly not many who could match the dedication that Thomas Schaaf has shown to Werder Bremen.

Schaaf joined Bremen as a 10-year-old and has been with the club since 1972. After over 280 appearances for the first-team, Schaaf took over as Assistant manager following short spells as a youth coach at Bremen while he was still playing in the first-team. His big break came in 1999 when he took over first-team duties from Felix Magath and was thrown right into a relegation dogfight which saw Bremen surviving by the skin of their teeth on the final day.

His twelve years so far as Bremen manager have been very successful with a number of trophies heading to the Weserstadion. Since Schaaf replaced Magath in 99, Bremen have won three German Cups, the German League Cup in 2006 and the Bundesliga in 2004.

Not bad I suppose?

But questions are being asked of Schaaf and Bremen after what has been a fairly abysmal Bundesliga season so far. Werder Bremen sit in 14th position and are just 1 point away from the relegation positions. The team has struggled throughout the season and the sale of Mesut Ozil in the summer could have had a huge impact in Bremen's downfall. Ozil was a huge part of Bremen's side last season as he used his exceptional talent to link the midfield to a very strong attack.

The Bremen fans have became accustomed to the club cashing in on the best players at the club like Diego, Borowski, Klose and Klasnic who were all sold on in the past 4 or 5 years. The sale of Mesut Ozil may just be one step too far.

Thomas Schaaf does like to implement a very attacking strategy and the mentality usually revolves around just scoring one more than the opposition. Defensively, Bremen are just as brittle with Mertesacker and Silvestre not covering themselves in much glory this season.

However, the attacking prowess has dried up this season and the likes of Pizarro and Marin have not been able to replicate the form of last season. Bremen also sold Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida in January which has made the position Pizarro's regardless of performances. Ozil's departure has been a huge blow for Bremen and the German international was fantastic at switching and linking the play between Aaron Hunt and Marko Marin last season.

It is certainly not a recipe for success when your losing goals and not scoring them. So far this season, Bremen have lost 44 goals and have scored just the 28.

Werder Bremen have only ever been relegated once from the Bundesliga and their form this season would suggest that 2011 could be a dull and emotional roller coaster for Bremen and Thomas Schaaf. The board at the Weserstadion have a massive decision to make - stick with Schaaf or abruptly change the management team to get a reaction from an under-performing squad?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Dortmund Rue Missed Chances

Bundesliga league-leaders Borussia Dortmund will be wondering how they did not see off rivals Schalke in this evening's Ruhrpott derby at Signal Iduna Park.

After Dortmund's 3-0 win Schalke earlier in the season, Felix Magath and Schalke would have been eager to regain some pride but it was always going to be difficult with BVB in superb form this campaign. Jurgen Klopp's young side were hoping to increase their 11-point gap over Bayer Leverkusen and their opponents were looking to pull away from the 7 teams seperated by just 4 points in mid-table.

Even thought it was 0-0, it was a game full of chances and excellent football which was appreciated by the 80,000 fanatical followers inside the stadium. Dortmund started with a fluent 4-2-3-1 formation and their high tempo was rattling their rivals early on. The hosts had two excellent chances in the first 5 minutes with Schalke's Manuel Neuer alert as ever to Dortmund's potent attack.

Teenage sensation Mario Gotze should have done much better with his oppertunity on 3 mintues when his low finish was saved by the feet of Neuer. Polish wide-player Jakub Blasczykowski found space in behind Schmitz but when up against Neuer, the German number one came out on top with a fine block. Mats Hummels was next to test Neuer from close range and even a second attempt from Blasczykowski could not beat Neuer who was in sensational form this evening.

The young Dortmund side tonight had an average age of 23 and were very impressive again tonight. Klopp stuck with his 4-2-3-1 formation which was much more fluent than first expected. Dortmund created great width through Schmelzer and Piszczek when on the ball with their starting wide-players Gro├čkreutz and Blasczykowski happy to drift inside which allowed Gotze to almost play like a second-striker at times.

18-year-old Gotze was excellent and the German international is quickly filling the void of Shinji Kagawa who will be out for the rest of the season. It boasts well for the German national team when youngsters like Gotze look as if they have played the game for decades with such intelligence on and off the ball.

Captain Nuri Sahin was crucial to the tempo of the game. Sahin was capable of increasing the tempo in the early stages with some excellent short passing between him, Gotze and Kuba creating enough space to make oppertunities. After the first 20 minutes, Sahin was more of a deep playmaker and dropped deep enough to take the ball from Hummels and Santana before moving it on to Bender or Gotze in more advanced positions.

The home side's domination continued in the second-half with Paraguyan striker Lucas Barrios striking the post on 55 minutes and the visitors almost punished Dortmund's poor finishing with Jefferson Farfan firing over the bar just a minute later. Manuel Neuer was involved again with a stunning piece of goalkeeping when he ran out to 35 yards from his goal to clear the danger and he quickly got back to his line to comfortably save Gotze's attempt from the halfway line.

A small glimpse of goal for Jurado could not open the scoring as Dortmund struggled to maintain the pace of the first-half. However, Gotze had the best chance of the match when he rounded Neuer with some neat footwork and his effort hit the post when it looked easier to score. Lewandowski came on as a late substitute and his shot was just past the right-hand post.

Even the teenage sensation of Schalke Julien Draxler could not make a late impact in the game following a dream debut in the Cup victory last week.

On another day, it could have been a night for Felix Magath and Schalke to forget ...