Bayer Leverkusen fires Roger Schmidt amid underachieving season

Monday March 6th, 2017

It had been coming for a while, but when it finally happened it was in some style; Bayer Leverkusen sacked coach Roger Schmidt Sunday morning, after the team lost 6-2 at Borussia Dortmund the previous day.

Dortmund is in excellent form at the moment, and it may only have been the last 13 minutes that did for Schmidt; at that point the score was 3-2 but late strikes from USA rising star Christian Pulisic, Andre Schurrle and Raphael Guerreiro left Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller acting now, as he put it, so “we did not want to lose sight of our goals. ... The first thing we have to do is to get the momentum back under this new direction and finally bring consistency into our performances.”

Leverkusen had lost five of its last seven games and is languishing in 10th in the Bundesliga. Considering Schmidt has reached the Champions League group stage for the last three seasons–and the team is 4-2 down after a first-leg loss to Atletico Madrid in the round of 16–this season has been one of underachievement.

His replacement will inherit a talented squad, even if it’s one likely to lose Javier Hernandez, Hakan Calhanoglu and Julian Brandt in the summer. The decision for Voller is whether he goes for an up-and-coming, young German boss–of which there are many–or an established bigger name in Europe. Leverkusen has seven points to make up on Hertha Berlin for fifth place, so it could yet make it into Europa League places for next season.

The ambition is far loftier at Dortmund, where the mood is confident despite two major injuries this week. First, one of the summer marquee signings, Mario Gotze, was diagnosed with metabolic disorder myopathy, which has resulted in an indefinite break from all football. It certainly explains his form (or lack of it) since returning to Dortmund last summer. Bild newspaper reported that Gotze had trained hard, hired his own physio and kept a food diary but his weight kept fluctuating. His father and advisor told the same paper that his son was awaiting further medical advice, but we can assume his season is over.

Marco Reus, who suffered a hamstring injury, is also ruled out of Dortmund’s Champions League second leg tie against Benfica, against whom it looks to overturn a 1-0 deficit. In Portugal, the visitor created enough chances to win the game, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a penalty. A repeat of the Leverkusen display, though, in which Ousmane Dembele was once again outstanding, should be enough to reach the last eight.

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