Dutch manager Jos Luhukay is one of the most low-profile managers currently active in the German Bundesliga. The modest Dutchman doesn’t enjoy the media-attention his job attracts, he just wants to work with the squad.
Today, his Borussia Mönchengladbach face off for the first Rhein Derby of the season against arch rivals 1.FC Köln. If “Die Fohlen” lose this match, it will probably have been Luhukay's last game in charge.
Gladbach have had a disastrous start to the season. The team managed to beat title contestants Werder Bremen 3-2, but all the other matches were lost. The team is at the bottom of the league table, a mere three points from six games, five goals scored and thirteen conceded.
Their cup campaign wasn’t much of a success either, as Gladbach went down 3-0 Energie Cottbus.
The pressure is mounting on Gladbach's coach, as the fans expected more of their return to the Bundesliga. Last season, Gladbach won the title in the 2.Bundesliga, but the team seems to have been surpassed by the other teams that won promotion last season, 1899 Hoffenheim and—ironically enough—arch rivals 1.FC Köln.
German boulevard-newspapers such as Bild and Express are already demanding Luhukay's dismissal, but the Dutch manager remains calm:
“We’ve been unlucky as well. Last week, we lost 1-0 away to HSV. The newspapers criticized my tactics. In the dying seconds of the game however, we missed a sitter. Had that gone in, they wouldn’t have criticized my decisions. Instead, they would’ve praised my tactics and the teams discipline. Managing a German Bundesliga team is like being in a snake-pit, but I’m a survivor.”
Survivor or not, Luhukay and Gladbach both desperately need the three points. The outcome of the 76th edition of the Rhein Derby may very well decide Luhukays fate at the Traditionsverein (traditional top-club) he joined as an assistant to Jupp Heynckes three years ago. The fans have dubbed this game “das Spiel des Jahres” (Game of the Year), and they demand a win.
Winning will be difficult for Gladbach, as the squad is very inexperienced. The team has a few experienced players in former international Oliver Neuville, seasoned goalkeeper Uwe Gospodarek, winger Sacha Rösler, French defender Sébastien Jaures, and Dutchman Patrick Paauwe, but most players are inexperienced at playing on such a level.
I’m not saying that the squad is without talent. Marko Marin and Alexander Baumjohann are touted as some of the hottest German talents. Marin has already made his debut for the national side and Baumjohann has been one of Gladbach's most consistent players so far.
American midfielder Michael Bradley and Israeli Gal Alberman are also decent talents.
Player for player, their squad isn’t worse than that of say…FC Köln. Gladbach has a fairly young squad however and morale is poor. The team has lost five out of six league matches and the young squad isn’t sure how to deal with this.
They’re losing confidence and they’re basically underperforming. The main question is, will Luhukay be able to turn the team around or will he be sacked, should Gladbach lose the Rhein Derby today?