IIf there’s anything more difficult than keeping your upper lip stiff in the event things go wrong, it’s doing it with the addition of often well-meaning but deeply unhelpful bystanders asking you if you realize things are going wrong. Adi Hütter experienced this sensation at his press conference on Thursday, when the media addressed the narrow gap between his Eintracht Frankfurt team’s fourth place and poor performance but chasing Borussia Dortmund in fifth. “We found out,” Hütter said laconically. “It is up to us to do our homework.”
The Swiss coach will have to take advantage of the upcoming fallow weekend, which he plans to give away to his players, to work on that face of poker. Despite the defeat at Bayer Leverkusen, and Dortmund’s 2-0 win at Wolfsburg, which narrowed the gap to just one point, Eintracht still have a chance at an inaugural Champions League qualification in their own hands, with three games pending against Mainz. , Schalke and Freiburg already relegated. With their nerves jingling, however, a visit to Bay-Arena, where they had missed their last seven visits, was the last thing they needed right now. That sequence rarely seemed like it broke on Saturday, even if Leverkusen took until the fourth quarter to open the game.
It is often said that the current staff and players care little about their club’s historical records, but this was a real déjà vu for Hütter, who saw the Champions League dreams of his last great Frankfurt team, headed by the trio of Sébastien Haller, Luka Jović and Ante Rebić – set in exactly the same corner of northwestern Germany two years ago, between the Europa League semi-final matches against Chelsea. Those two matches with Maurizio Sarri’s team could not have cleared up the high ceiling on that side of Eintracht that pushed the Blues to the limit, which made the clash and burns in Leverkusen even more difficult to decipher, even taking into account it counts the fatigue, the injuries, the rotation. and the mental strain of a relentless schedule.
Kai Havertz had opened the scoring in the second minute of that day, but the great escalation of events remains in mind. Eintracht trailed 6-1 after 36 minutes, which ended up being the final score, at the end of a result that is rare in a professional career. Much has changed since then, and Hütter’s construction of another competitive team is laudable, and has been recognized for Borussia Mönchengladbach’s willingness to pay his € 7.5 million buyout clause to make him the replacement for Marco Rose. the next period. However, it felt as though it had all been done three weeks ago, when the late goal from the talisman André Silva sealed a late victory in Dortmund.
However, if a lot has changed in the two years since Eintracht’s last great incarnation fell short, things have evolved at a rapid pace since that gleefully celebrated result in Westfalen. The confirmation of Hütter’s departure to Gladbach is the most important, and the team has been on a two-loss streak in three since his imminent departure was announced (with extensive defeats at Gladbach and now Leverkusen leaving a more lasting impression than the victory over an Augsburg fighting in the middle). Sports director Fredi Bobic, whose upcoming game has also been very public and, in his case, less than straightforward, has since confirmed his next position, at Hertha.
A possible release clause in Silva’s contract has not so mysteriously leaked into the public domain in the meantime, adding to the sense of change at the club. Not to mention, of course, that this season’s stab in the Champions League could be unique for the foreseeable future, with a prolonged period of rebuilding not ruled out. Consequently, the current tension is not due only to fear of wasting an opportunity. It is the fear of losing the only opportunity.
That tension starts at the top, with Hütter pulling out his teacher’s red pen over the Eintracht display and, strangely, in Kevin Trapp’s performance, harshly blaming Leon Bailey’s first goal, of a cross that should never have come. as far as Jamaica International. – at the feet of the goalkeeper. “That shouldn’t happen to him,” reprimanded Hütter, who also acknowledged that Trapp had kept Leverkusen off the scoreboard until the 70th minute with a series of saves. That build up should have bothered him more. Frankfurt was passive and submissive, without the spark that led them to the top four in first place.
“The fact that the lame ducks are sitting on the bench and on the board is not an alibi for poor performance,” wrote Kicker’s Julian Franzke, though it clearly doesn’t help. “The players have to recover. A performance like the last three games will probably not be enough against Mainz. Everyone has to look at themselves now or face the threat that the much-cited historic opportunity will be given lightly. “
Hütter’s legacy in Frankfurt will rest on his team regaining their composure. “All the trump cards remain in the hands of Eintracht,” as Ralf Weitbrecht of Frankfurter Allgemeine wrote. “They can achieve the goal of their dreams on their own.” It may well be easy to clear their minds without the shadow of Leverkusen looming over them.
It’s not just Eintracht that are sweating, with Erling Haaland’s double in Wolfsburg surpassing a Jude Bellingham red card for Dortmund and putting them not just one point behind Hütter’s men, but just two less than their opponents. “You have to take the pressure,” said coach Oliver Glasner. “If we start showing nerves now, then I don’t understand the world anymore.”
On the other side of the coin, there were more brownie points for Leverkusen’s Hannes Wolf, who planned another entrepreneurial display at home against Eintracht. “We had to make up for something after the first half in Munich,” he said after his midweek loss to Bayern, with Die Werkself’s victory even keeping alive a mathematical (albeit unlikely) Champions League possibility.
Bayern were hoping to mathematically seal a ninth consecutive title, but fell sensationally in Mainz, put in the way by an early error by Manuel Neuer that led to Jonathan Burkhardt’s opener. Robert Lewandowski, who looked understandably rusty on his return, scored a last-gasp goal that did not prevent defeat, but did put him back on track to chase Gerd Müller’s record for goals of the season.
By Sunday, defeat was all but forgotten, with widespread reports that Bayern approached Leipzig for Julian Nagelsmann. His price to release him could be up to € 30 million, but everything will change at Red Bull Arena anyway and the club confirmed on Monday that sporting director Markus Krösche is leaving.
Coach changes continue apace, with Augsburg firing Heiko Herrlich and replacing him with former coach Markus Weinzierl, following Friday night’s 3-2 home loss to Köln (in which Ondrej Duda scored perhaps the goal of the season for the visitors). Meanwhile, the Werder Bremen board is discussing Florian Kohfeldt’s future after a seventh loss in a row, this time at Union, with club legend Thomas Schaaf as a possible replacement.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism